September can still be sweltering in Albuquerque, but just north of town, fall is already hitting the village of Jemez (HAY-mus) Springs.
Tucked into a valley in the Jemez Mountains, the tiny town (pop. 375) already has cooler weather and the first hints of autumn color―excuse enough to make the trek. A soak in the natural mineral waters that give the town its name is the clincher. The drive up takes you along the banks of the Jemez River and through a forested valley surrounded by red canyon walls.
Make a day of it with a visit to the ruins of a 17th-century mission and gallery-hopping.
Jemez State Monument. WHAT: Explore the dusky ruins of a 700-year-old Native American village and a 17th-century Spanish mission. WHEN: 8:30-5 Wed-Mon. HOW MUCH: $3. WHERE: 18160 State 4; www.nmmonuments.org or 505/829-3530.
Los Ojos Restaurant & Saloon. WHAT: The funky roadhouse in a rambling 1920s-era building is known for its Famous Jemez Burger, a 5-ounce beef patty topped with Swiss cheese and olives. Place your order, then shoot a game of pool. WHEN: 11-8:30 Mon-Fri (until 9:30 Sat-Sun). HOW MUCH: $. WHERE: 17596 State 4; 505/829-3547.
Jemez Mountain Trading Company. WHAT: A landscape by local painter Edward Samuels is just what you need for your den. You'll also find jewelry, clothing, furniture, and art, as well as retro toys for the kids. WHEN: 11-6 Thu-Tue. WHERE: 17502 State 4; 505/829-3956.
Jemez Mountain Pottery. WHAT: Nothing is sadder than store-bought tomatoes. Stock up on produce grown in the village's backyard gardens and some handmade stoneware to serve it in. WHEN: 11-6 Mon-Sat, 11-5 Sun. WHERE: 17521 State 4; 505/829-3579.
Jemez Springs Bath House. WHAT: An unpretentious century-old spot where you can get a massage and a mineral soak in a private tub. WHEN: 10-8 daily. HOW MUCH: Baths from $10. WHERE: 062 Jemez Springs Plaza; www.jemezspringsbathhouse.com or 505/829-3303. ―Leanne Potts
INFO: Jemez Springs is about 60 miles north of Albuquerque; shops are stretched along a mile of State 4 in town.