Nambé Falls is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the state. It is located on the pueblo of Nambé, in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Nothing can be better on a hot day than to load up the car and head out to this refreshing river adventure. Your kids will thank you for it.
For many years we have driven past the signs for Nambé Falls en route to the El Rancho de Chimayo restaurant where we have had many special family dinners. My desire to find a hike that included a stream led us here. We headed out over Labor Day Weekend. I made sure to call ahead to verify that the pueblo would be open and to find out the hours. The Pueblos in New Mexico often find it necessary to change hours and even close for various reasons including sacred events. We were on this adventure with one of our favorite families. Whenever the desire to explore starts nagging at me, I can ask my girlfriend if she and her family may want to join us. More often than not, they are game. Taking sidetracks with other families is super fun for all of us. Often, we mix up family members in our cars, share snacks, and come back with memories just as special as those trips taken with just the four of us.
When we arrived at the entrance gate, the friendly ranger asked if we would be taking photos and, if so, there would be an additional cost of $5 in addition to the $10 fee per car. I couldn’t imagine visiting a New Mexico waterfall and not snapping away, so the photo fee was definitely worth it. If you like to use your camera, you will take lots and lots of photos on this beautiful hike. We parked and headed for the bridge crossing over the Nambe River. We were not very well prepared for this hike. I called to make sure they were open, packed plenty of snacks and water, and even checked the weather forecast which called for very warm temperatures. But, there was one more crucial item. In my research, I missed the fact that there is an upper trail to view the waterfall as well as a lower trail up river (IN river), to the base of the lower falls. I had missed water shoes. I failed to remember how much kids love playing in the water. We crossed the bridge from the parking lot and ascended the trail to the top where there are beautiful vistas of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and a magnificent waterfall cascading down a mountain side.
Right away, the kids noticed people down below frolicking and swimming in the pool near the very lowest falls. The kids were excited and insisted we trek back down the trail and head that way. The hunt for the “pools” trail began. Back at the parking lot, we took the only other trail head and followed it alongside the river. All was well, until we hit a big boulder jutting out into the river and the trail ended. We spotted others on the trail heading towards us and they were soaked, hips down. Oh dear! Most of us had some sort of sandals or flip flops, but not everyone. Hmm. So as the kids jumped right in the calf-high water (they sure did not mind), the choice facing the parents was to bail or continue. The image of the pools from above was too intriguing, so everyone opted to just go for it. I am glad we did. The kids squealed with the shock of the cold water and from delight as they continued up river like champs. It wasn’t a long trek up the river, but it was full of fun and excitement as the trail weaved onto the land and back into the water.
We saw parents carrying infants and dogs and their owners all making their way up river to reach the pools. The deepest the water reached for us was just above an adult’s knee. The water was cold and refreshing this very hot beginning of September day. We were all smiles. We slowly made our way step-by-step in the river, and the children were getting excited to see the pools. We were not disappointed. The shallow pool of the lower falls was a child’s playground. We played and frolicked for a long time. We also hiked up the hill above the pool to one more fantastic vantage point of Nambé Falls. This last bit was steeper and rocky, and was not a well maintained trail. Though it was steep, our whole group (5 yrs and up) made it with some help, but being very careful. We had to scoot back down some of the way on our behinds to the lower pools. We all felt pretty satisfied and happy after spending the day at Nambé Falls, soggy tennis shoes and all. We ended our sidetrack with pizza at family friendly Upper Crust in Santa Fe.
Northwest of Albuquerque near Pojoaque, NM