Two old large stone logging rail tunnels are perched high about the Guadalupe River and offer stunning views of the box canyon and Jemez Valley.
Northwest of Albuquerque near Jemez Springs, NM
We have spent a lot of time in the Jemez Mountains. We love State Road 4 as it winds its’ way thru Jemez Pueblo, into Jemez Springs and continuing up past the Valles Caldera National Park, and eventually leading to Los Alamos.
If you are interested in seeing more of this beautiful area, there are many mountain roads to explore in the Jemez. A nice alternate route is NM 485/FR376 which offers some spectacular scenery and cuts thru the Jemez Mountains to the west of NM 4, the main route in this area. The road leads you down to the backside of Jemez Pueblo and through the small village of Gilman. It continues uphill through the striking red mesa landscape that the Jemez Mountains are known for. Ascend a little farther up the canyon and you arrive at the top of the mountain pass and encounter the Gilman Tunnels.
The Gilman Tunnels were originally blasted out of the high walls of rock in the 1920’s to make a logging railroad. They were named after William H. Gilman (one-time CEO of the SFNW Rail Road). This roadside attraction offers stunning views, both of the tunnels themselves, and also of the beautiful box canyon and the Guadalupe River, below. Traffic is slow and can be thick through this congested area, but there are different parking areas that you can safely pull over and walk about to take in the spectacular view.
On weekends, it common to see RV’s, trucks with off-road vehicle trailers attached, and lots of dogs traveling with their families to/from the surrounding camping areas coming thru the tunnels. Drivers are generally courteous to pedestrians snapping photos and checking out the beautiful vista, but be careful if you walk onto the road, as some drivers speed thru this area.
Just farther west, past the tunnels, the pavement ends and the road becomes a graded dirt road and turns into FR376. This is a nice loop that will eventually hit the paved NM126 where you can turn left up to Fenton Lake, or turn right and head back to La Cueva. At La Cueva, NM 126 intersects with NM4. Turning left here will take you to Jemez Falls, Valles Caldera National Park, Bandelier National Monument, and Los Alamos. Turning right onto NM4 will loop you back down into Jemez Springs.
Just past the tunnels continuing west, the pavement ends. This stretch of road becomes FR 376 and is open. The next stretch of road meanders up a beautiful valley in the Santa Fe National Forest lined with shaded campsites along the Rio Cebolla. The evergreen and aspen woods here in the Santa Fe National Forest are some of the most beautiful in the state. You can follow this dirt forest road west approximately 17 miles all the way to the paved NM126 (coming out a few miles east of Fenton Lake). You can continue left to Fenton Lake on NM 126 and take NM 126 all the way to Cuba at NM 550. Or you can ride east on NM 126 to the paved NM4 at La Cueva to loop back to Jemez Springs. In La Cueva, there is a small grocery store, Elk Mountain Lodge which offers cabins to rent nightly, and The Ridgeback Café which serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner Fridays-Sundays. There are a few restaurants and a grocery store in Jemez Springs. In Jemez Springs, Los Ojos Bar and Restaurant is open daily until midnight which is really welcoming and super convenient when you want a green chile cheeseburger after a day out on the trail in the Jemez.