This is a must-not-miss side trip from the Turquoise Trail trip. This road rivals some of the best hairpins in Europe as it winds up the back of the Sandia where one can look over Albuquerque and about 100 miles of central NM. I had a friend who wore grooves in the sidewalls of his Yamaha on this road, but take it easy or well have to pull you r bike out of the top of a tree. It is also a decision point: its a round-trip to the top of the Sandia Mountain and back down to the Turquoise Trail, or a turnoff halfway back down takes you over to Placitas and connects you to the end of the Jemez Valley trip. A decent unpaved road (NM 165) will be no problem for dual-purpose bikes, but sketchy for Harleys and loaded tourers especially in the rainy season. About five miles north on NM14 from Tijeras, turn left on NM536, the Sandia Crest Road and wiggle your way up to the summit. If not continuing on to Santa Fe, on the way back down the Crest Road, turn off onto NM165, which winds down through the woods to the village of Placitas, where pavement resumes. This route takes you all the way to Bernalillo, where it becomes US 550. Food, fuel and lodging here. Forty miles west, you will find San Ysidro, and the bottom of the Jemez Valley route listed elsewhere on BBR. Or, you can bomb up Interstate 25 to Santa Fe and points north.
Enjoyable winding section heading south.
This route starts at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta Park in north part of the city, just off Interstate 25. If you can time your trip for the second week in October, this event brings up to 900 hot air balloons that can take off over a two hour period in the early morning; not to be missed but plan far in advance if you want a hotel room. You can take Alameda Blvd east from the Park to Interstate 25 north, or go west on Alameda to 4th St northbound. Thsi is Route 313 and turns into El Camino Real as it crosses onto the Sandia Indian Pueblo. The latter route is more scenic. Both routes intersect US Route 550 in Bernalillo. In both cases, go west on 550 towards Farmington. After about 45 km, the road enters the tiny burg of San Ysidro. Turn right onto the start of State Route 4. You will stay on this road almost all the way to your destination. Route 4 drops down to a very narrow two-lane road as you cross into the Jemez Indian Pueblo. Watch your speed; the road is patrolled asn there are small children and pets that run into the road. As you leave the north end of the Pueblo, the scenery begins to transition to red cliffs and step canyon walls. The road continues north into the town of Jemez Springs. Watch your speed here, highly enforced. North of Jemez Springs is the soda dam, a natural hot spring full of minerals that has built up a natural dam across the valley. Nice palce to stop for a picnic. As you continue north, you enter the Santa Fe National Forest, passing Battleship Rock on your right. The road becomes steep and windy, and then transitions over the ridge into the Valle Grande National Wildlife Preserve, which is the caldera of an enormous volcano that formed most of the land features for over a 50 mile radius. Very scenic views on both sides of the road. Then the road climbs up into the rim again and then over and down into Los Alamos County. At the bottom fo the switchback section, you can continue on Route 4 to Bandelier National Monument and the spectacular Anasazi cliff-dweller ruins, or turn left on West Jemez Rd (NM501) and follow the signs to the town of Los Alamos. If you go to Bandelier first, you can enjoy a 3 or 4 hour hike into the canyon and see the homes that were carved out of the soft tufa walls of the canyon. Then, you can proceed on down 4 into White Rock. At the second traffic light, turn right onto Rover Dr, and then make a quick left onto Meadow Ln. after about 1.5 km, look on your left for Overlook Park. Follow the road to the end, where there is a scenic view of the Rio Grande 200 m down in White Rock Canyon. Bring your camera. Reverse course back to 4 and continue about 4 km down to the 'Y', where you should take the left exit and turn onto NM 502 west and climb up the hill to the town of Los Alamos. Stop for a look over your shoulder...very scenic in the late afternoon. After the airport, look to the right a few hundred meters up and bear right onto Central Ave. After the traffic light, you are in the ehart of town, and you can stop and have coffee or a meal at the Central Avenue Grill. Nearby is the Bradbury Science Museum and other historic buildings related tot he towns history. Here ends the trip.
Turn north on NM 337 towards Chilili. This winds up and down the pine forests of the Manzano mountains and across the Estancia Valley, then back into the forests of the Cibola National Forest, dropping precipitously into Tijeras. Here, you can blaze a few miles down into Albuquerque, or stay away as you like. Food, fuel and lodging here, or continue up NM14, the Turquoise Trail, where there is food and fuel.
From Interstate 40, take NM14 north through Cedar Crest that rises up the gently sloped back side of the Sandia Mountains above Albuquerque. To add icing to your biking cake, be sure to digress onto the Sandia Crest Road, also listed in BBR. There are some nice flats where you can let it rip, but once i a while youll come around a bend and find the once-a-week patrol car with his radar on. Proceed north through the San Pedro mountains towards Golden, NM. Continue north to the artsy-hippie former-ghost-town of Madrid. It was featured in the recent American movie, Wild Hogs, but the green grass in the film was sod rolled out for the filming. Then continue north through the interesting tilted rock formations and finally open grasslands to Santa Fe. Youll pass the famous NM State Penitentiary that was used to film the Longest Yard. You can either cross I-25 and continue on the Bypass Route that drops you at the north end of Santa Fe, or you can go north in I-25 to St. Francis Dr or Old Pecos Trail and drive west into Santa Fe. Stay far away from Cerrillos Drive unless you want three lanes of stupid Walmart shoppers and a zillion traffic lights.