Last weekend, the family set out on an exciting road trip across south-central New Mexico. Our first stop was at the Abó Ruins, part of the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument. We visited the ruins once before a few years ago and have been looking forward to revisiting. Since it was Mother’s day, we decided to pack a picnic and hit the road. I’m sure for many families this would be an odd way to celebrate. For us, it was perfect.
If you are looking at a map the first thing you need to know is that the Salina Pueblo Missions National Monument is split across 3 seperate sites. The Abó Ruins is a few miles west of the small town of Mountainair. The other two sites are larger and worth visiting as well. We picked this one because it was small enough to visit, eat our lunch, then get back on our road trip. It also has the ruins of an incredible 17th century mission and pueblo that are a lot of fun to visit.
Park Info and Attractions
Let’s cover the most important things first. All three sites are totally free to visit, leashed pets are welcome, and the parks are open almost every day from 9am to 5pm. There is a small visitor center at each one. The one at the Abó Ruins has a nice little gift and book store and restrooms. The park also has plenty of covered picnic areas so be sure and bring lunch.
The main visitor center for the park is actually in the nearby town of Maintainair. It has a really nice museum and gift shop at the visitor center so it is worth checking out. They will show a short park movie on request but we have always had an impatient teenager with us so we haven’t gotten to watch it yet.
There is a short (1/2 to 3/4 mile) paved trail that runs in a loop around the site. There are plenty of informative signs as well to help you understand the history. You can see several of them in our pictures, but not all of them. The trail is wide and flat enough for wheelchair access although I wish there were more benches available. The tour took us less than an hour without any rush and could probably be done in about 20 minutes if you’re in a hurry.
Whenever we come out here we always pack a lunch to enjoy outside and the picnic area here is very nice. The staff do an excellent job of keeping the area clean. If you are planning to stop I highly recommend taking the opportunity to picnic. This is especially true since dining options in the nearby town of Mountainair are pretty limited.
If you are an amateur stargazer or just want to get an amazing view of the night sky this park is one of 6 International Dark Sky Parks in New Mexico. This means that because of it’s geography and remote location the park has almost no light polution. Visiting on a clear night will give you a chance to see the sky in a way most of us never get to experience. You will need to attend one of their astronomy events or apply for a special use permit though.
History of the Abó Ruins
The pueblo was established between the 12th and 13th century by the Tompiro people of the Salinas Valley. Like the other sites it was a thriving trade center and the area was home to about 16,000. In the 1600’s the Spanish conquistadors came into New Mexico to “Christianize” the pueblo people. With the forced labor of the locals they built the Mission San Gregorio de Abó in 1630.
Sadly, due to a drought and famine, all of the pueblos in the region were abandoned before the 1680 Pueblo Revolt. The ruins of the mission are still mostly buried but what is visable is quite remarkable. In it’s day it must have been quite an amazing sight.
Clearly that was a very abridged history so if you are wanting to learn more check out the Wikipedia links for Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument and The Abó Pueblo). Atlas Obscura also wrote a pretty good article on the history of the Abo ruins that is worth checking out.
Pueblos of New Mexico (Images of America) As early as 1851, photographers journeyed along the arduous Santa Fe Trail on horseback and in covered wagons on a quest to capture the magnificent vistas on film. In the ever-changing light of New Mexico’s landscape, they photographed the faces of the Pueblo People and helped to document their ancient, unimaginable world.
I normally forget my phone in the car but this time I actually remembered it. So here are a few of the other pictures I took around the ruins. I’m no photographer but hopefully I did a good enough job to give you an idea of what you would see here.
Looking for more New Mexico travel destinations?
New Mexico is an amazing state with one of the most diverse landscapes in the world. Our history, culture, and food is unique and must be experienced to truly understand. While we are working on documenting our travels across this great state we want to the following travel guide for anyone who wants to learn even more.
New Mexico: Outdoor Adventures, Road Trips, Local Culture (Travel Guide) From hiking sandstone canyons to chowing down on southwestern cuisine, fall under the spell of the Land of Enchantment with Moon New Mexico
We had an amazing time visiting the Abó Ruins and will be stopping by again. Because of it’s small size, beautiful landscapes, and clean facilities it is a perfect destination for a weekend picnic. If you are ever in the area we strongly recommend stopping in and taking a look around.
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By Summer and Bill
Summer and Bill are the dynamic duo behind Adventureite.com, a blog dedicated to inspiring others to explore the great outdoors. With a combined lifetime of experience traveling and adventuring across America, they have a wealth of knowledge to share. From hiking to camping, kayaking to travel, Summer and Bill are passionate about helping others discover the beauty of the natural world.