New Mexico Scenic Byways

Map of New Mexico Scenic Byways

While BMW Car Club of America New Mexico Chapter events have been temporarily suspended due to the COVID-19 outbreak, that does not prevent you from getting out and enjoying your BMW in a socially-distanced fashion. New Mexico is home to 25 scenic byways, totaling over 2,900 miles across a diverse landscape. Eight of these are part of the federal “America’s Byways Program” and the remainder were established by the New Mexico Department of Transportation to “showcase the intrinsic scenic, historical and cultural qualities of the state.” With some pre-planning and common sense, these scenic byways make for particularly enjoyable and safe drives during these challenging times.

The New Mexico Tourism Department has a nice web page on New Mexico’s Scenic Byways as does the New Mexico Department of Transportation. Here are a few by region:

Northern New Mexico

  • Photo from the Enchanted Circle Scenic BywayEnchanted Circle Scenic Byway – The Byway begins in Taos on NM 522. Head nine miles north of Taos on NM 522 to Arroyo Hondo. The next stop is Questa, then travel east on NM 38 from Questa toward Red River. The route then runs through Bobcat Pass and descends into the high alpine Moreno Valley, bounded by some of the most spectacular peaks in New Mexico. The circle closes in Taos, entering town on tree-lined Kit Carson Road. Read More (NM DOT pdf)
  • Photo from the Jemez Mountain Trail National Scenic BywayJemez Mountain Trail National Scenic Byway – The 66-mile byway begins at the junction of US 550 and NM 4 northwest of Bernalillo in the village of San Ysidro. Head north past Jémez Pueblo to Jemez Springs and on to the Soda Dam. The Northwest Trail leaves NM 4 at La Cueva, but is only paved to Fenton Lake State Park. The remainder of the trail is gravel to Cuba. The northeast trail of the byway continues on NM 4 to the Valles Caldera National Preserve, a million-year-old collapsed volcano caldera some 15 miles wide. Continue on NM 4 to Bandelier National Monument or take NM 501 to Los Alamos.  Then head off to Española or Santa Fe. It makes a delightful day’s jaunt from the Albuquerque or Santa Fe area. Read More (NM DOT pdf)
  • Photo from the Santa Fe Trail National Scenic BywaySanta Fe Trail National Scenic Byway – The Mountain Branch of the Santa Fe Trail crossed the Raton Pass and in Raton, the byway follows Moulton Street southeast to Second Street and picks up south of Raton on US 64, running through Cimarron. Heading south, the byway passes through Rayado and travels west out of Clayton on US 56 past the Rabbit Ear Mountains, an important landmark on the trail. The byway leaves Springer on the east I-25 frontage road and heads for Wagon Mound, the last major landmark on the trail, named for its resemblance to the top of a covered wagon. The byway follows the I-25 frontage roads west and then to NM 63 north into Pecos. Read More (NM DOT pdf)
  • Photo from the High Road To Taos Scenic BywayHigh Road To Taos Scenic Byway – To begin this journey through an authentic remnant of Old Spain, take US 285/84 north from Santa Fe and turn east on NM 503 to the Pueblo of Nambe. The byway turns north on NM 520, traveling through Chimayo and following NM 76 towards the village of Las Trampas. Then south on NM 75 through Penasco to NM 518. Turning north here  provides a view of the Carson National Forest and the Taos Mountains with Wheeler Peak (at 13,161′ New Mexico’s highest) dominating the view. Cruise on through the village of Talpa and end at the Saint Francis Plaza in Ranchos de Taos. Read More (NM DOT pdf)

Central New Mexico

  • Photo from the Turquoise Trail National Scenic BywayTurquoise Trail National Scenic Byway – Embark on the byway from the north, just outside of Santa Fe, or from the south, just east of Albuquerque, on NM 14. Perfect for a one-way jaunt between the two cities, the 52-mile byway takes only a bit longer to drive than the Interstate highway taken by most travelers. Travel through the quirky ghost towns of Cerrillos, Madrid and Golden through stunning scenery. Read More (NM DOT pdf)
  • Photo from the Route 66 National Scenic BywayRoute 66 National Scenic Byway – This byway has multiple segments, the pre-1937 alignment and the straighter modern alignment. Through 1937, the road meandered west of Santa Rosa through small villages in the Sangre de Cristo foothills up to Santa Fe and its plaza. The route then turned south and descended what was treacherous La Bajada hill in a series of hairpin, hair-raising turns that led to Albuquerque. From there, it went South through Isleta Pueblo to Los Lunas then northwest towards the Pueblo of Laguna where it proceeded west. The post 1937 Route 66 National Scenic Byway follows I-40 from around Tucumcari to Gallup. Read More (NM DOT pdf)
  • Photo from the Salt Missions Scenic BywaySalt Missions Scenic Byway – This byway starts at the junction of NM 337 and NM 333 in Tijeras Canyon and shares the road with Route 66 National Scenic Byway, now known as NM 333, to Moriarty. The byway follows NM 41 south out of Moriarty and runs through McIntosh and Estancia before turning west on US 60 to Mountainair. Mountainair is the starting point for the places that gave this byway its name – the pueblo ruins of Abo (9 miles west on US 60), Quarai (8 miles north on NM 55), and Gran Quivira (25 miles south on NM 55). Then NM 55 and NM 337 pass through the villages of Manzano, Tajique, Chilili, Escobosa, and Yrisarri on the way north back to Tijeras. Read More (NM DOT pdf)
  • Photo from the Abo Pass Trail Scenic BywayAbo Pass Trail Scenic Byway – Starting in Belen, this byway links the Camino Real Scenic Byway with the Salt Missions Trail Scenic Byway. To traverse the Trail, leave Belen to the east on NM 47, angling off to the southeast, toward its junction with US 60. The road here begins to climb the foothills of the Manzano Mountains and the terrain changes to red rock formations scattered with piñon and juniper. Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge stretches off to the west. The byway follows US 60 east for a dozen miles to the Abo Pueblo ruins. Read More (NM DOT pdf)

Southern New Mexico

  • Photo from the El Camino Real National Scenic BywayEl Camino Real National Scenic Byway – While Route 66 may be New Mexico’s best-known signature highway, centuries earlier, El Camino Royal de Tierra Adentro (“The Royal Road to the Interior”), threaded 1,500 miles northward from Zacatecas, Mexico to the far edges of known Spanish world. Our country’s oldest and most continually used “highway,” the Camino Real brought European colonists to New Spain 22 years before the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock. Following I-25, the byway begins just north of Las Cruces in Fort Selden and continues to cross 90 miles of flat but waterless and much more dangerous desert, the Jornada del Muerto (“journey of the dead man”) before reaching Socorro. The road then heads north to Albuquerque and Santa Fe, finally reaching its end at San Juan Pueblo, the first capital of New Mexico and the end of Don Juan de Onate’s journey. Don’t miss the International Heritage Center, south of Socorro, for a full orientation to the Camino’s history. Read More (NM DOT pdf)
  • Photo from the Billy The Kid Scenic BywayBilly The Kid National Scenic Byway – Named for New Mexico’s most notorious outlaw, this 84-mile Byway includes the Old West’s epic conflicts, and mountain scenery. Start on US 380 from either Capitan on the west or from Picacho on the east, then travel around and back via NM 48 and NM 70, or on NM 214, which bisects the loop. The byway turns north as it continues on NM 48 and traverses the charmingly rustic mountain resort town Ruidoso, home to the Billy the Kid Interpretive Center. The Mescalero Apache lands are nearby, so you can weave west on NM 532 to find Ski Apache high up in the Sacramento Mountains. Read More (NM DOT pdf)
  • Photo from the Geronimo Trail National Scenic BywayGeronimo Trail National Scenic Byway –  Named after the Chiricahua Apache warrior Geronimo, this byway begins at the Geronimo Trail Visitors’ Center in Truth or Consequences and meanders off in two distinct western forks. Choose either the southern route on NM 152 to San Lorenzo, or the northern route, via NM 52 and NM 59 to Beaverhead. The southern route takes you past Caballo Lake State Park and through the ghost towns of Hillsboro and Kingston before winding through the Aldo Leopold Wilderness of the Black Range to San Lorenzo and the Mimbres Valley. From there, you can connect with the Trail Of The Mountain Spirits Scenic Byway, the route for the grueling annual Tour of the Gila bicycle race. The northern route takes you through the village of Cuchillo and the ghost towns of Winston and Chloride before reaching the eastern edge of the Gila National Wilderness, the nations first, at Beaverhead. Read More (NM DOT pdf)
  • Photo from the Sunspot Scenic BywaySunspot Scenic Byway – This 16-mile byway begins two miles south of Cloudcroft and travels south along NM 6563 (the light wavelength in Angstroms used by scientists to find active areas on the sun) to Sunspot, a village with two famed national telescope observatories – Apache Point Observatory and the National Solar Observatory’s Sunspot Solar Observatory. Along the way, you may see Hardscrabble and Little Burro Mountains, Oscura and San Andres Peaks, and the shimmering radiance of White Sands from Haynes Canyon Vista. As the road zigzags along the front rim of the Sacramento Mountains through pine, aspen and fir forests, similar lookouts provide a peek at the dramatic spectacle some 5,000 feet below as well as access to numerous hiking trails. Read More (NM DOT pdf)
  • Photo from the Lake Valley Back Country BywayLake Valley Back Country Byway – Start the byway west from Truth or Consequences along NM 152 to Hillsboro, then head south on NM 27. The period of major mining here spanned a century. Silver was discovered along the banks of Percha Creek in 1877, followed by a strike near Hillsboro the following year. The spectacular discovery of the Bridal Chamber claim came in 1882, with the name derived from the blinding white light cast by the huge vein of silver, the richest single body of silver ever found. Drive on to the true ghost town of Lake Valley, now owned by the BLM who offers a free self-guided walking tour. The byway continues east to the railhead of Nutt, named for Colonel Nutt, a railroad director. Turn east on NM 26 for some good green chile in Hatch. Read More (NM DOT pdf)
  • Photo from the Trail Of The Mountain Spirits Scenic BywayTrail Of The Mountain Spirits Scenic Byway – This 93-mile National Scenic Byway is an excursion back and forth across the forested Continental Divide, through the country’s first national wilderness area, the Gila. The byway serves as the route for the grueling annual Tour of the Gila bike race. Begin the triangular loop at San Lorenzo, where NM 152 and NM 35 meet. Head north on NM 35 to the village of Mimbres and meander through the gradually thickening forest. Shortly before reaching NM 15, Lake Roberts makes for a nice rest stop. At the crossroads with NM 15, head north 17 miles through a tight, climbing switchback path to the Gila Cliff Dwellings. Then head south on NM 15 through Pinos Altos, a former 1860s gold mining town. The byway continues down to Silver City, where it catches US 180 heading back east. When it hits NM 152, look for Fort Bayard, established in 1866 to protect settlers from the Apaches. It was home to Buffalo Soldiers and also used as a military hospital, World War II prisoner of war camp and remains a national cemetery. And finally, continuing east, check out the huge Santa Rita Mine, the country’s oldest, continually-operating copper mine. Read “Take the scenic route: Trail of the Mountain Spirits offers a picturesque trek through southwest NM” in the Albuquerque Journal. Read More (NM DOT pdf)

Call For Photos

Should you venture out on any of New Mexico’s Scenic Byways, Please consider sharing your experience with us by posting a picture from your BMW scenic byway journey on on our public Facebook page, our Facebook Group page or email it to
Photo of Z4 at Golden, NM
BMW E85 Z4 3.0si at the San Francisco de Asís Catholic Church in Golden, NM
Turquoise Trail Scenic Byway.