If you are an avid biker, you are probably aware of New Mexico’s Turquoise Trail and its allure. If not, you are missing out on an amazing scenic byway between Santa Fe and Albuquerque in the Sandia Mountains. Though the brochures and other authors who discuss the Turquoise Trail talk about the touristy side of the scenic byway filled with local artists and ghost town tourist traps, this article focuses on parts of the Turquoise Trail you won’t hear about.
What is it?
The Turquoise Trail is a segment of Highway 14 between and just east of Santa Fe and Albuquerque, New Mexico with brilliant desert and mountainous views. It is a popular biker and hiker trek through the Sandia Mountain range and much more entertaining a drive than Interstate 25.
Oscar Huber Memorial Ballpark
Avid baseball fans will keel over stepping onto what is left of this field. The Oscar Huber Memorial Ballpark was home to the Madrid Miners from the early 1920s. The Madrid Miner was an American Association Minor League team named such because of the coal mining that kept the Santa Fe Railroad locomotives running. The coal-infused hills are still visible just behind the Mine Shaft Tavern.
The Oscar Huber Memorial Ballpark was also home to one of the first lit stadiums and first in the state to incorporate an electronic scoreboard. The Madrid Miners may have been known for winning pennants, but their success could not keep the ballpark alive.
Today the ballpark is under restoration but prominent remnants remain at the site of this baseball relic including its signature trumpeter and stonework.
Yes, its true that this funky gem resides within one of the most tour-laden towns in all of New Mexico as well, but it has an interesting (though very recent) history all its own that most brochures fail to mention.
Though Maggie’s Diner is highly touted as the signature diner from the Disney movie “Wild Hogs” starring John Travolta, Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence, and William Macy, it is rarely explained how Maggie’s came to be.
Maggie’s Diner was build by Disney on land owned by a local homeowner. Disney saw the plot of land on an already famous biker riding route and asked for permission to build the structure for the movie. Once the movie was over, Disney packed up and left, leaving the building to the landowner at no expense to them.
It may look like a diner and maintain a diner name, Maggie’s is a shell of a diner. There is no kitchen, no running water, not even a bathroom. Just the dining area (now a souvenir shop) and a small closet are housed under Maggie’s roof.
The Turquoise Trail is best known for its biking, riding and hiking opportunities as the highway slithers through the desert and Sandia Mountains providing some of the best views of any landscape in the country. However, Gutierrez Canyon is one of the few canyons that most drive-through hikers no nothing about.
For hikers that find Gutierrez Canyon nestled behind the Cedar Crest Post Office, a nearly untouched landscape awaits. Its outside the state and national parks, so its free to hike, and there are no tall peaks or deep ravines to maneuver into so anyone can manage this less-traveled hike.
Better still, after your hike, stop by the Fat Boy Café just a hundred yards east of Gutierrez Canyon entrance for some great coffee and tasty breakfast burritos or breakfast bagels with green chili.
For seasoned travelers, Madrid (pronounced MAD-rid by locals) is little more than a tourist town of expensive local art and cafes that house that art. The art is fantastic in its own right, but when I travel I really am interested in the sights and the hidden gems, not the cookie cutter amusement park towns.
That said, the Turquoise Trail does offer plenty of not-yet-damaged areas. Just south of Tijeras on Highway 337 about 10 minutes further south than the end of the Turquoise Trail is an amazing little ice cream shop with one of the friendliest owners of any shop I’ve met outside of Irena’s Kitchen in Milwaukee.