The Velo Valle Grande is a delightful summer ride in the heavily forested Santa Fe National Forest that begins and ends at the Jemez Springs bathhouse / public parking lot next to Deb's Deli across from Los Ojos or the Ranger Station parking lot on the north end of town.
Valle Grande Viewed North from Overlook
This is a great summer time ride to get away from the heat of the city. At the high point the elevation is about 9000 ft. In the fall the aspens turn vivid yellows and greens. There is about 3,000 of elevation gain on the way in and 600 ft of gain on the return.
The Jemez State Monument, the San Jose de los Jemez Spanish mission, and the Soda Dam at Jemez Springs are interesting side trips if you haven't seen them. The climb out of Jemez springs ascends the spectacular Jemez River canyon, surrounded by fantastic cliffs and ponderosa forests. You climb past Battleship Rock and the McCauley warm springs and past the parking area for the unmarked Spence Springs. There are numerous pullouts that fishermen use. Further up there are obsidian deposits high on the cliffs on the east side of the canyon. Turning east at La Cueva there are large rolling hills as you ascend the side of the ancient Jemez 15-mile wide caldera.
The Valle Grande is now a national nature preserve with guided tours that require reservations. At the overlook you are looking at portion of the immense Jemez Caldera. Redondo peak is a resurgent plug that rose from the caldera after the latest of a number of eruptions. There is still geothermal activity in the area evidenced by the area's hot springs.
The return has some fantastic, long, straight descents. On your return try the famous Jemez Cheeseburgers at the Los Osos, Deb's Deli, or have a soak at the baths. There is a small store across from the Los Osos.The historic mission is at the north end of town. The Soda Dam is another point of interest.
New Mexico mountains can have violent afternoon thunderstorms in the summer, so be prepared and start early. Bring your camera.
Getting There: This description begins and ends at Jemez Springs. Travel west from Bernalillo on US550 to San Ysidro then north on NM4 to Jemez Springs. There is a USFS ranger station, bath house, and park in Jemez Springs. There are a number of USFS picnic areas along NM4 between San Ysidro and Jemez Springs.
Distance: 46 miles round trip, total elevation gain: 3,620 ft., 3,000' in, 600' out. Several hard climbs. Fun descents on the return.
Roads: The roads are all 2-lanes, most with shoulders and the surface is in very good shape. There is normally only very light traffic.
- A paved road descends 1.5 miles to the very pleasant Jemez Falls Picnic Ground off NM4 about 15 miles from Jemez Falls. Jemez Falls has a USFS picnic ground. This picnic ground is sited in a pleasant ponderosa forest.
- NM4 east of the Valle Grande Overlooks climbs into ponderosa forest and continues on to Bandelier National Monument and then on to Los Alamos.
- See the Gilman Tunnels ride in the same area.
Notes: Bring food and water.
A must-see is the amazing East Fork of the Jemez River where it crosses NM4 at about 5.5 miles east of La Cueva. This is a twisty water-course with waterfalls that flows through rock narrows through ponderosa forest. Experience it when the weather is hot so you can splash through the water (you have to wade in places). This isn't a bike ride but is a great afternoon fun hike/splash. There are parking lots at about 5.5 miles and 10 miles east of La Cueva at the two ends of the route which is about 4.25 miles in length. East to west is a good direction. At the west end people jump off nearby cliffs into large pools but beware of underwater obstructions. Plan a whole afternoon for the trip and plan to get wet. See the green highlight on the map below.
- There is a small store at La Cueva at the intersection of NM4 and NM126.
- There is a small grocery store and several cafes in Jemez Springs.
- There is a gas station and convenience store at Walatowa on the Jemez Pueblo.
- There is a USFS Ranger station on the north end of Jemez Springs for information.
- The Jemez State Monument in Jemez Springs contains San Jose de los Jémez, a 17th century Spanish mission church ruins and the 500 year old village of Giusewa, an ancient Towa settlement. At the north end of Jemez Springs. (Museum of New Mexico)
- The Soda Dam is a 300-foot long natural dam formed from mineral deposits located two miles north of Jemez Springs on NM4.
- The Valle Grande is now the Valles Caldera National Preserve.
- Jemez Mountain Trail Scenic Byway.
- Santa Fe National Forest | SW Region Forest Map Orders ($6) There are a number of USFS campgrounds in the area.
- What is the Valles Caldera?
- Jemez Springs, NM website.
Velo Valle Grande CueSheet // 46 miles 3620 ft. elevation gain.
Mileage Waypoint Description
Jemez Springs From Jemez Springs, Ride north on NM4 steeply uphill past Battleship rock, the Soda Dam, and Spence Springs to the La Cueva intersection with NM126. Here is a store with some snacks. The stretch past Spence springs is the steepest though there are plenty of other climbs.
La Cueva - NM4 & NM126 Intersection Turn right (east) on NM4 steeply uphill past Redondo and Conchas Campgrounds and the East Jemez area to the Valle Grande overlook. There are several, the last one has a sign.
Valle Grande Overlook There are several paved turnouts. This last one before the climb to Bandelier has a good view of the Valle Grande and surrounding hills. Return by the same route, largely downhill. There is a store at the La Cueva intersection for refreshments.
3,620 feet of elevation gain, mostly in.