El Morro is one of the several national parks in New Mexico. It is 2 hours west of Albuquerque and so makes for a great day trip. Here are some sights along the way!
- Route 66 sites: almost as soon as you drive out of Albuquerque, you’ll see the Rio Puerco Bridge, which was built in 1933 and closed to cars in 1999. When you reach the Laguna Pueblo, get off I-40 to drive along the Old Route 66 Road. In his work Route 66 on Tour, Don J. Usner writes, “Laguna may be the most photographed of all the pueblos, with the possible exception of Taos, because of its picturesque setting. The church (2), built in 1699, is an elegant example of mission church architecture.” Keep in mind that right now (summer of 2021) all of the pueblos are closed to outsiders due to covid. Along the old 66 road you can see the Budville Trading Company building, opened by a man named Bud Rice in the late 1930s. You can also see the Acoma Curio Shop, built by a Lebanese immigrant in the early 20th century, as well as the ruins of a Whiting Bros Gas Station (fun fact, the only operational Whiting Bros station in the country today is in Moriarty). On the other side of the highway you can see the Santa Maria Mission, which was designed by famous architect John Gaw Meem and built from rock hewn from local sources. From here, you could very easily travel down and visit Acoma Pueblo (again, currently closed). The town of Grants has a variety of Route 66 sites,
- El Malpaís: before reaching El Morro, you can visit El Malpais, an incredibly beautiful area marked by volcanic fields. There are lots of different hikes you can take, including up to the privately owned Ice Cave. Jack Kutz dedicates a chapter to El Malpais in his book “More Mysteries & Miracles of New Mexico.” Some of those mysteries include:
- In 1950, a man reported that he found two frozen, preserved Civil War soldiers in a cave in El Malpais, but wasn’t able to find his way back to that location
- After the 1680 Pueblo Revolt, apparently silver and gold taken from Spanish missions was buried throughout El Malpais, “just enough Spanish artifacts have been found over the years to keep the stories alive and believable”
- El Morro: one of my favorite sites in New Mexico, El Morro has served as a stopping place for travelers for centuries as it has a reliable water source known as “the pool.” There are 2,000 inscriptions and other markings carved into the sandstone, which are so interesting to see. You can also hike to see the Atsinna ruins, which were occupied until about 1350 CE.
- Zuni Pueblo: from El Morro, you could easily continue on to Zuni Pueblo. One of the figures from the history of New Mexico I’m most interested in, Esteban, met his end here in 1539. You can learn his story and the story of the later Pueblo Revolt in this great video. I haven’t been able to visit Zuni yet, but am very interested in the tours they offer, specifically the “Re-Discover the Cities of Cibola” tour!