The next scenic stop in our scenic loop along the Jemez Mountains Trail Scenic Byway is Jemez Falls. If you’ve made the drive from Cuba on NM-126, you’ll find Jemez Falls on the right side of the road, just a few minutes after you’ve met up with NM-4.
From the parking area, you’ll need to take a short walk through the woods to reach Jemez Falls. The waterfall is only about 1/4 mile from the parking area.
Many people probably stop at this viewpoint (pictured above). It’s the best place I could find to take a picture of the falls, which were pretty muddy during my visit. I could hear thunder in the distance, and I think there must have been a storm upstream that was increasing the water flow and stirring up some dirt. The impending storm made me worry about a possible flash flood, so I scurried around quickly taking pictures.
I found my way over to the brink of the falls, where the view is not spectacular…
… but you do get a good, close look at the rushing water. There may be more places from which to view the falls, but I didn’t take the time to find them, because of the impending weather.
If you have time for a longer hike, it’s 2 miles (one way) to McCauley Springs. I’ve read that they’re quite warm and relaxing, and you can camp nearby.
Valles Caldera National Preserve
A few miles after Jemez Falls, NM Route 4 drops into a strange valley, that’s wide and flat, and surrounded by low hills. Much to my surprise, I was suddenly inside a collapsed volcanic crater. This area is the Valles Caldera, and it’s only recently (in 2000) been taken over by the federal government as a National Preserve.
I drove out the dirt road to the middle of the caldera, where a small visitor center has been set up. Because of the bad weather, there wasn’t anything I could do outdoors, so once I reached the end of the road, I took a couple of pictures, turned around, and headed back to the highway.
Back on NM-4, the road passes through an area scorched by wildfires, before dropping down (passing huge cut-out mountainsides) to the Los Alamos area. You can either take NM-501 to Los Alamos, or stay on NM-4 to White Rock. Flooding had closed NM-501 during my visit (I avoided most of the rain, but there were much bigger storms nearby), so I stayed on NM-4, headed east.
Here’s the time-lapse, dash-cam video of the drive from the NM-126/NM-4 junction to White Rock, New Mexico: