Now living in NM for over 10 years and traveling most of the state, I can say that Jemez is still one of my favorite places. The Jemez Mountain Trail is not something that should be passed up. Google Map here
From start to finish, it’s a 16 1/2 mile section of stunning Jemez, NM. If coming from the south, you will drive through a Native Pueblo (be sure to obey speed signs, they are strict because of children, dogs, etc), then a red rock cliff that is worthy of a quick stop for photos.
First stop is Jemez State Monument –
(This monument has exhibitions and self-guided tours. Ranger-guided tours are also given upon request.)
“The pueblo was first built in the AD 1500s by ancestors of the modern residents of Jemez Pueblo. The Jemez people lived a typical Southwestern lifestyle for that time. They raised corn, beans and squash in Jemez Canyon along the Jemez River and also up on the nearby mesas. They hunted deer, rabbits, elk, and other game from the forests. They had plenty of water from the Jemez River, and hot springs nearby. In the best of times they may have had a somewhat idyllic life, but the climate could be fickle.
Jemez State Monument consists of the ruins of an ancient pueblo of the Jemez people known as Giusewa and the ruins of a 17th Century Spanish mission known as San Jose de los Jemez. The mission had a unique octagonal-shaped bell tower.” (JSM)
A unique waterfall that is part of a natural dam, made from calcium deposits. It dates back roughly 5000 years. The water flow continues to erode the dome and the shape has changed since my first visiting the area in 2008. You can walk across the top, climb into the small cave, or sit in the river enjoying to roaring waterfall sound. There have been times where it freezes in the winter. There is a mild sulfur odor but not at all hindering the experience.
Battleship Rock is a 200 ft. tall natural land form of volcanic rock, resembling a Navy warship. The East Fork Jemez and San Antonio Rivers join at the picnic area and offer a cool streamside environment for family picnics, fishing and hiking. There are 33 day use picnic sites with grills, with restrooms and drinking water available. This picnic facility is designated as a reduced impact and recycle picnic area, visitors are encouraged to recycle and pack out trash. Cutting live vegetation is prohibited. Charcoal only in pedestal cooking grills.
Located at an altitude of 7,880 ft above sea level, the river drops 70 feet through a spectacular series of falls. There is a picnic area, hiking, fishing, and camping, info here. The falls are accessible from the trail that starts at the Jemez Falls campground and day use area. There is an overlook at the end of the trail.
I highly recommend, after Jemez Falls, to continue heading East (7 1/2 miles) to drive through the Valles Caldera National Preserve – yes, a caldera (more info here). There is a visitor area and loads of photo opportunities – sometimes there are elk close by!