Anyone from New Mexico has heard of the Turquoise Trail, and many East Mountain residents drive it regularly.

The trail officially begins south of Tijeras and runs north straight through Cedar Crest, Sandia Park, Golden, Madrid, and Cerrillos ending in the Galisteo Basin just east of Santa Fe. The Turquoise Trail has a famous history in New Mexico’s gold rush era, long before the California Gold Rush. Then there are the Spanish explorers, pioneers traveling by wagon, burro, and by foot. Native Americans are, of course, part of the rich history of the area as they have lived in all of the small towns along the trail, in fact, there are still ruins that can be visited if one is in the area.

The Turquoise Trail was nationally designated as one of the scenic byways in New Mexico in 2000. If you are driving on Route 66 in front of Molly’s or anywhere on North 14 between Cedar Crest and Madrid, there are several signs posted to let folks know and they work as a kind of self-guided tour. The trail is now becoming popular once again, as a location embellished with art. If you want to experience some art without driving all the way to Santa Fe or Taos—the Turquoise Trail is the path to follow.

As a resident of the East Mountains I’d like to share what I feel are the art highlights along the Turquoise Trail. In Tijeras, one can experience live music regularly at Molly’s. Lots of musicians play at the bar and the place is pretty much always hopping on the weekends.

In Cedar Crest, there is the Watermelon Gallery which has wonderful art from local artists and on opening night you can occasionally catch live music. Also worth checking out, especially if you are a local musician, is Banjo Bob’s and The Village Guitarist, both nearby.

If you are a young person in Cedar Crest and are looking for art that is a less traditional there is a tattoo parlor and there is a hand blown glass by local artists at the Smoke Shop. Also more geared towards a younger crowd, but certainly not exclusive to, is The Lazy Lizard in Sandia Park. They have food and drinks but they also have regular live music.

As you drive toward Santa Fe there is a small art venue in Golden that has neat looking art displayed obviously and can be seen from the road. As you keep moving north you will come to Madrid which is full of galleries, live music, hand crafted jewelry and many more types of art. In reality one could spend all day enjoying the art in Madrid. The gem in Madrid, in my opinion, is the Johnsons Gallery: I could spend all day there.

Los Cerrillos has a treat that is not very well known as they have seasonal hours. It is called The Turquoise Trail Sculpture Garden. As you are driving north along highway 14, without slowing down, you can see giant metal origami sculptures of cranes. My family and I have stopped many times and shot pictures of the sculptures you can see from the road. It is unique, beautiful and worth stopping to take a peek at, even when they are closed.

Leota Harriman
Leota Harriman

Leota started working for The Independent in 2006, working her way up through the ranks. An employee buyout in 2010 led to her ownership of the newspaper. Leota has served on the board of the N.M. Press Association, and is currently its First Vice President. She is passionate about health and wellness, especially mental health, and loves making art. She can be reached at news.ind.editor@gmail.com.