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New Mexico’s top 10 national and state parks
January 27, 2014
New Mexico lives up to its nickname – the Land of Enchantment – with glittering deserts, vast underground caverns, gem-rich mountains and hundreds of years of human history
By Mary Caperton Morton
Cerrillos Hills State Park
"New Mexico is famous for its turquoise gemstones, and nowhere more so than the Cerrillos Hills, just south of Santa Fe. Featuring not so much hills as medium-sized mountains, New Mexico's newest state park is home to some of the oldest and most productive turquoise mines in North America. With so many prospectors on the lookout for so long, you're unlikely to find gem-quality shards of the blue-green stone just lying around, but the hills are a worthy destination on their own for the spectacular high-desert hiking and wild west lore.
With their long history of mining, for turquoise, iron, silver and other metals, the hills are riddled with holes, but most have been fenced off or wholly reclaimed. The trails are well-marked, with signs offering information about the productivity of the mines and tales of the miners who carved a rugged living from these mountains between Santa Fe and Albuquerque. At the base of the hills, the tiny, dusty town of Cerrillos is a photographer's dream. Several movies have been filmed along the town's dirt streets, including Young Guns. Just down the road, the artist community of Madrid offers an assortment of shops and galleries, as well as one of the state's oldest saloons, the Mineshaft Tavern.
Top tip: Check out the best views from the Mirador Overlook. After a hike, head to the Casa Grande Trading Post in Cerrillos to peruse an impressive selection of Cerrillos turquoise – famous for its uniquely greenish hue – set into silver onsite by the owner, who works a claim in the hills."
theguardian.com, Thursday 23 January 2014 01.00 EST