New Mexico: Jemez District of the Santa Fe National Forest

Jemez Springs, NM

We spoke with Ron Schubert to ask about one of the more popular riding destinations in New Mexico: the Jemez District of the Santa Fe National Forest.

Schubert is an AMA ATV member, and active local club member of the ATV club, Sierra riders, and a board member of the New Mexico OHV Alliance.

"The Jemez Forest district of the Santa Fe National Forest is a ride destination that everyone should have on their list for places to ride," Schubert said.

The Santa Fe National Forest has an area of 1.6 million of acres and is comprised of five forest districts. The Jemez Forest District is located in the Jemez Mountains which are known for their rich native American history. It is located 45 miles from Albuquerque and 30 miles west of Santa Fe.

From Albuquerque, take Highway 25 north to exit 242. Go west on US 550 through Bernalillo for another 23 miles to San Ysidro. You are now accessing the Jemez Valley. At 5,000 feet, there are many shear multicolored cliffs throughout the valley.

The town of Jemez Springs offers hotels, dining facilities and, best of all, hot springs. Many hot springs can be accessed within the Jemez Forest District with little hiking. These springs provide a popular and relaxing getaway.

The Jemez Forest District headquarters are located on the north side of Jemez Springs. You can't help but notice the transition from high arid desert to alpine forest.

You access Forest Road 126 at La Cueva. La Cueva is the next town after Jemez Springs. It offers groceries, restaurants, fishing equipment, a campground with hookups and a local motel. Note that there is no trail access.

There are also national forest campgrounds along State Road 126.

There are some good opportunities for dispersed camping and riding off SR 126. (Dispersed camping refers to places where you can get off the main road to camp with your OHV.)

These are accessed by Forest Road 376 and Forest Road 144. FR376 is located on the north and south side of SR126. The north side will take you to the San Antonio hot springs that have very little riding opportunities. South 376 has dispersed camping within aspens and you won't be disappointed with the riding experience and fantastic views.

FR144 is located to the north about a mile past the south FR376 turn off. This road takes you to some very scenic camping areas and miles upon miles of riding trails.

New Mexico state law requires riders under 18 to wear helmets and eye protection and to attend an approved ATV safety course. They are not permitted to carry passengers, even on a two-person vehicle.

All vehicles must have a Forest Service- approved spark arrester and must meet sound requirements of a maximum of 96 decibels. The minimum age to ride an ATV is six.

Not every out-of-state rider needs a permit thanks to reciprocal agreements with other states. Out-of-state riders should call the State Tourism Office at (505) 827-4751 to find out about out-of-state OHV permits. Local ranger district offices can provide you with maps, information about current conditions and more site-specific information about closure areas.

For more information contact the Jemez District Ranger, P.O. Box 150, Jemez Springs, NM 87025, or call (505) 829-3535.