State: New Mexico
Length: 62.0 mi / 99.8 km
Time to Allow: 2 hours, including backtracking, or several days to explore
Few things can compare with the unique beauty of turquoise stones. The stunning baby blue color that makes up these precious gemstones comes from the combination of copper and aluminum that forms this hydrated phosphate. For those who aren’t geology-focused, that combination of metals plus oxidization (exposure to air) gives these stones their distinct blue-green to bright blue coloration. Not only have these stones held religious and cultural significance to the people of New Mexico for centuries, but their history as a precious gem has also helped solidify this area as a destination. It’s no surprise, then, that the Turquoise Trail Scenic Byway lives up to the legacy of this beautiful stone, bringing visitors to spectacular views of baby-blue skies and cultural and historic landmarks that are well worth the drive.
The Turquoise Trail runs between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, and like many scenic byways in New Mexico, this trail allows visitors to explore a melding of natural scenery and historic locations, as well as plenty of entertainment opportunities along the way. The Turquoise Trail sits along the 15,000 square-mile (24,140 square-kilometer) scenic and historic area at the center of New Mexico, and brings visitors off of the main highway and instead along the route less traveled by. This byway brings travelers through several towns across New Mexico and offers historic waypoints that help visitors learn more about the history of the area, from the Native Americans who make their home in the area, to the various settlements and towns that cropped up in search of turquoise deposits.
Those who are fans of the blue mineral that gives this trail its name can visit the Turquoise Museum in Albuquerque, a family-owned-and-run operation that not only shows off the various uses for this incredible stone but also gives visitors a glimpse into the turquoise mining industry that helped put several of the towns in the area on the map. For those who would rather spend their days exploring the outside world than inside a museum, there are plenty of old mining locations, as well as scenic bluffs and incredible views along the way to the museum that make the trip well worth the added stop.
While the Turquoise Trail focuses more on scenic towns and historic locations, and less on biking and hiking trails, travelers are far from removed from the natural world around them. These scenic roads blend into the mountainside, and small towns seem to spring up from the sandy embankments as if they are coming from a time long ago. Those interested in the history of the area will find plenty of historic buildings, signposts, and learning opportunities, while the hungry traveler will find themself spoiled for choice when it comes to the various eateries and restaurants that make their home along this incredible byway.
Whether you make your way to Turquoise Trail Scenic Byway in search of the precious stone that helped put this region on the map or are looking to enjoy turquoise blue skies as you make your way through the heart of New Mexico, this scenic byway holds a beauty that competes with even the most precious stone and will hold a treasured place in your heart and memories long after you leave New Mexico behind you.
More New Mexico Byways
You can check out additional Byways in New Mexico by clicking on the list of byways below, or by going to the New Mexico Byways home section. To find even more of scenic byways in the United States, visit our scenic byways map.