The Jemez Mountains

The road winding to and through the Jemez Mountains northwest of Santa Fe takes you on a circuitous route highlighted by a Native American pueblo, prehistoric ruins and cliff dwellings, a vast volcanic crater and the birthplace of the atom bomb, all worth a day-tripping visit.

San Ildefonso Pueblo: Home of the renowned potter Maria Martinez, whose matte-finish black-on-black pottery revived the ancient craft and took the Pueblo art form to a new level in the 1920s, San Ildefonso artisans still produce high-quality pottery. The pueblo has a number of shops featuring the work of resident Pueblo artists. Call 505-455-3549.

Los Alamos: Once the home of an elite school for boys perched atop an isolated plateau, Los Alamos, NM, became the site for the US government’s top-secret nuclear research during WWII and the birthplace of Fat Man and Little Boy, the first and only nuclear arms ever to be deployed. Today considered one of the world’s leading scientific institutions, the Los Alamos National Laboratory continues to attract brilliant scientists from around the globe.

The Bradbury Science Museum: The historic Fuller Lodge, once the main building of the aforementioned boarding school for boys, now houses this museum dedicated to preserving and interpreting the history of Los Alamos, from its volcanic origins some 1.4 million years ago through to its status as the home of the Manhattan Project. Call 505-662-6272;www.losalamoshistory.org

Bandelier National Monument: The Anasazi, ancestors of today’s Pueblo culture, once occupied this complex of cliff dwellings carved into the side of a mountain. Visitors can follow paved paths to investigate the interiors of some of them, or branch off onto hiking trails with varying degrees of difficulty, throughout the monument. In summer months, evening star-gazing walks offer a compelling glimpse of what Anasazi life was like centuries ago. Call 505-672-0343;www.nps.gov/band/


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