Friday, February 18, 2011

Area Hot Springs Provide Winter Relief for Weary New Mexicans

By Karl Moffatt
It’s near noon on a delightfully warm and sunny, midwinter’s day and the steaming waters and impressive view at the Spence Hot Spring are soothing one man’s worries away.

“It doesn’t get much better than this,” said Bob of Albuquerque, who had called in sick, grabbed his bike and jumped aboard the train to Bernalillo where he caught the bus to Jemez Springs.

The hot spring is just one of several in the Jemez Springs area where visitors can enjoy a brisk hike in the woods and cap it off with a soothing soak in a natural hot spring.

Bob, who politely declined to provide his last name, said his midweek, mental health day, was made all that much better by the fact that he could use public transportation to get out of town.

“It’s a little known fact that you can take the train out to Bernalillo first thing in the morning and the bus to Jemez Springs is waiting there for you,” he says. “And it’s free with your train ticket.”

Unfortunately the morning train from Santa Fe arrives about 20 minutes too late at the 550 station in Bernalillo for riders to take advantage of the outbound Jemez Springs bus.

But being from Albuquerque Bob was able to take advantage of a great break in the weather and call dibs on the steaming pool located high on a hillside with a great southerly view of the Jemez Valley.
A bridge across the Jemez River provides access to Spence Hot Springs.
Spence Hot Spring is located about seven miles north of Jemez Springs off State Road 4 between mile markers 24 and 25 where the parking lot is currently under renovation along with trail improvements to the spring. 

The spring’s close proximity to the roadway makes it one of the area’s more heavily used but on this Tuesday morning it sees just a few visitors.

Just down the road at the Battleship Rock parking area one can find trail #137 and a two mile hike to McCauley Warm Springs where the clear pools of warm water are bigger and feature tiny minnows that tickle as they nibble at your skin.

These pools see less traffic during the week due to their remote location and can usually be enjoyed with little or no other company. 
Battleship Rocks looms large and beckons hikers to McCauley Warm Springs.
But those who are seeking a real workout in getting to a hot spring should consider hiking in to the San Antonio hot springs located alongside the creek bearing its name.

This hillside hot spring is a cult favorite among winter hikers due to its remoteness, steady supply of good hot water and the fabulous view.

One can follow Forest Road 376 north off State Road 126 to reach it and expect to hike in about 12 miles, round trip. The forest road is closed to vehicles in the winter.

Another hiking route follows San Antonio creek along an old logging road found just across State Road 126 from the San Antonio Campground. This roundtrip hike covers about 10 miles, crosses some private land and ends at the intersection of Forest Road 376 just below the springs.

Others seeking an even shorter route to the San Antonio Hot Springs have dropped down to the river trail through Ice Cave Canyon from Thompson Ridge Estates. This shaves several miles off the hike but is naturally a more difficult and adventurous hike. 
A snake and lizard  are formed by nails hammered into an embedded timber at Soda Dam near Jemez Springs. 
Either way, the trip is usually worth it and may be all that much easier this winter due to a lack of snow fall. 

Consult the Santa Fe National Forest map for more detailed directions to these sites or visit the Jemez Ranger District office on State Road 4 outside of Jemez Springs for more information.
Visitors to these hot springs should pack swimsuits as it is technically illegal to skinny dip in the pools.

Bathers should also be aware that the warm waters may contain bacteria that can cause serious illnesses such as meningitis and should avoid getting water in the nostrils or other body entrances.

Those seeking a hot mineral bath without the hike will find a public bath house within the village as well as the Giggling Springs bath house, both located in downtown Jemez Springs.

And after a full day of soaking visitors may want to drop in to the Los Ojos Bar in downtown Jemez Springs and experience one of the last of a dying breed of real, rustic, New Mexico roadhouses. 

If You Go:
From Santa Fe take US 84/285 north to Pojoaque and take State Road 502 to State Road 4 through White Rock and then up the mountain past the Valles Caldera and down to Jemez Springs. For an alternate route home continue on State Road 4 through Jemez Pueblo to San Ysidro and follow U.S. 550 to I-25 at Bernalillo.

Enjoy a beer or two but party responsibly and arrive alive.


Capell said...

Dave's Burgers in Jemez was incredible; best burger I've ever had.

Anonymous said...

The road across from the San Antonio campground is not and old logging road, but a private road( yes, the dirt on the road is technically privately owned) that goes through private property. If you don't want to traipse across private property then the way to go is on 376 which has a nice parking area or 144 and a lovely hike down canyon.

Anonymous said...

Be very careful and follow the posted speed limits thru Jemez Pueblo or you will receive a speeding ticket.

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