Albuquerque to Acoma Pueblo Road Trip

Begin in Albuquerque, a city dating back to 1706, founded as the Spanish colonial outpost. There are so many wonderful places to visit.

Downtown Albuquerque Downtown Albuquerque

The New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, located near Old Town, founded in 1986. The museum offers everything from a great dinosaur exhibit, to an exhibit about space exploration. See Stan the t-rex, and shop in the Patio Market.

Go on a history or ghost tour of Old Town, for fun and to hear the colorful back story about how the town was founded and grew. Tours take about an hour and a half. Make reservations, bring your camera, wear comfortable shoes, and explore this quaint part of the city.

If you are shopping for Native American pottery, jewelry or crafts, there are many options for your shopping pleasure in Old Town. Visit the also very popular, Palms Trading Company, 1504 Lomas Boulevard NW, nearby.

old town gates at Albuquerque

ABQ BioPark features a zoo, aquarium, botanic garden, and more to explore, everything from coal reefs to desert plants, and more than 250 species of exotic and native animals. There is also Tingley Beach, a fishing lake, with picnic areas, a narrow gauge railroad, and walking paths.

Petroglyph National Monument is one of the largest petroglyph sites in North America, with symbols and designs carved in the volcanic rocks by Native Americans and Spanish settlers, dating from 400 to 700 years ago. Try one of the four hour hiking trails that lead to some amazing petroglyphs. Boca Negro Canyon is the shortest and the closest. The well-marked trail takes you close to the carvings. Even though the trail is paved, this is not a level path and not recommended for anyone with walking limitations. Cinder Cone Volcanoes, the western, quieter part of the park, is dog friendly.

From Albuquerque, travel west on I-40, “Coronado Freeway” which follows the historical Route 66. You will be impressed by the gorgeous sandstone bluffs near Mesita, a small village in the Laguna Reservation, and its two landmarks: The Owl Rock and the Dead Man’s Curve. The town’s native name is “Tsé Ch’ ééhii”, which means “Red Rocks Pointing out horizontally”. And they do. Mesita is Spanish and means “Small Mesa”. The residents of Mesita have a Protestant Christian heritage while the residents of Laguna Pueblo have a Roman Catholic heritage.

Approaching Mesita, New Mexico

Follow old Route 66 to Laguna Pueblo, as it skirts the red rock cliffs. You are never far from I-40, but this is the more scenic route. Laguna Pueblo is home to the is federally recognized Native American tribe of the Pueblo people in west-central New Mexico. The name Laguna is Spanish and it comes from the now-dry lake located on their reservation. Pottery and other traditional crafts are available from Pueblo members in the village, as well as at the I-40 Scenic View (NM 114), and at the Dancing Eagle Supermarket, at NM 108. The interstate and historic Route 66 bisect the heart of the 42-square-mile Pueblo lands. Visitors are welcome to visit the St. Joseph/San José Mission Church; the mission was built in 1699 in the early Pueblo-style architecture. Ancestors of today’s current Pueblo residents lived here as far back as 1300. Please be courteous: photography, sketching, and audio or video taping are not allowed on Laguna land.

Laguna Pueblo, New Mexico at sunset. Sunset at Laguna Pueblo

While this part of New Mexico has been inhabited for over ten thousand years, in the 1880’s the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad arrived, and built a station at the small town of Paraje. The site where Paraje was built was once a pueblo of the San Felipe Indians. Each year on October 17 is the annual Paraje village festival.

From Paraje, follow NM 23 south to Acoma Pueblo. The stark beauty of the landscape and the sense of remoteness are sure to impress you. Keep an eye out for wild horses, you will probably see some. Legend claims that the horses are part of herds left over from the time of the Spanish conquest. As America’s west was settled, escaped horses and burros from American Indians, ranchers, and soldiers were added, to become today’s wild horse and burro herds.

Mesa Encantada Mesa Encantada

Mesa Encantada is a striking feature of the landscape just before you reach Acoma. Tradition says that Enchanted Mesa was once the home of the Acoma people, until a severe storm and landslide destroyed the only approach to the top, prompting a move to Acoma Pueblo. Archeologists have found artifacts atop the mesa to indicate human occupation that would corroborate this tradition.

Acoma Pueblo is built on a 367-foot high sandstone bluff. Inhabited since 1150 A.D., and probably before, Acoma Pueblo is the oldest continuously inhabited community in North America. The settlement is famous worldwide for its rich culture and beautiful art. Sky City Cultural Center and Haak’u Museum is where to begin your visit. It tells the origin history of the Acoma people and serves as your gateway to Acoma. Artifacts in the museum set the framework for what you will see on your tour. Tours are guided and well worth the price. While you tour the city, you will have a chance to visit the mission, and shop at the artisan run shops, whose works are gorgeous and prices are very reasonable. Also, the Gaits’i Gift Shop offers authentic world renown Acoma Pueblo pottery, Native American turquoise jewelry, and other fine art by artisans from New Mexico and Arizona.

Acoma Pueblo