Cerillos Hills State Park

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During my three-week jaunt around New Mexico, I tended to circle back toward Sandia Park one day of the weekend to visit my friend Tina.  Of course, this visit also included using the washer and dryer and taking a long shower.  I must have driven through Madrid, a cute town between Sandia Park (Albuquerque) and Santa Fe, three times and never stopped.  As a result, I insisted we do hike nearby and go for lunch.  In so doing, we visited Cerillos Hills State Park.

Mining History of Cerillos Hills

Cerillos Hills has a storied past.  In 900 AD it attracted ancestors of the Native Americans who dug for prized turquoise which was valued for its ceremonial significance.  In the early 1300s, the pueblo people came to mine galena.  They used the lead ore for a black glaze on their pottery. In the 1600’s, the Spanish came and used the silver from the galena to make musket balls. 

In 1680, with the Pueblo Revolt, the Spanish were expelled from New Mexico.  Additionally, by the turn of the century, the Native Americans stopped mining.  After the fighting and a quiet period, the mining boom came to New Mexico in 1869.  The boom happened for three reasons:

  1. The courts rejected the Delgado’s family claim that they owned the hills
  2. The long-awaited railroad finally made it to New Mexico
  3. The number of miners in Colorado exceeded the labor demand, so many flocked to New Mexico

The boom last until 1884, when the legislation changed.  The law used to require claim holders to only dig ten feet annually.  The new law required the excavation take place in 90 days.  Consequently, many did not stake claims.  Especially since the mining in New Mexico was not nearly as lucrative as that of Colorado or California.  Of the 4,000 pits dug, only about a dozen yielded enough to make a profit.

mine at cerillos hills state park

Hikes in Cerillos Hills State Park

Some of the mines may still be seen today at Cerillos Hills State Park.  The Santa Fe County Open Space purchased over 1,100 acres in 2000.  Over the next several years they safeguarded the mineshafts, built trails and posted interpretive signs.

Now the park, which costs $5 to enter, features approximately 5 miles of trails.  Tina and I took a 4.4-mile loop that undulated along the hills, past the mines, and through a handful of blooming cacti.  We even spotted some fall colors in the below valley.

There is little shade at Cerillos Hills State Park, so be sure to pack enough water for you (and your dogs).  Annie and Jack definitely needed a drink or two.


Afterward, since I was bound and determined to visit Madrid, we stopped for lunch at The Hollar.  The Hollar offers a variety of fare from chicken and grits, fried green tomatoes, veggie burgers and more.  Tina ordered for us at the counter while the dogs and I found a quiet, shaded corner on the patio. 

With our bellies full, we strolled the once ghost town’s main street.  Madrid, located on the Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway, was revived in the late 70’s to early 80’s.  The eclectic and artsy town features galleries, shops, cafes, and a museum.  It became even more popular after the movie Wild Hogs, a biker comedy starring John Travolta, Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence, and William H Macy, aired in 2007. Fans of the movie can stop in the souvenir shop.

In all, we had a great day hiking at Cerillos Hills State Park and visiting Madrid.  ETB

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

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