Day Trip to Salinas Pueblo Missions

Day Trip to Salinas Pueblo Missions

Posted on July 21, 2021

Need a suggestion for your next day trip from the Mariposa/Rio Rancho area? Try the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, a complex of three Spanish missions located about 120 miles southeast of Rio Rancho, near Mountainair. The preserved ruins give an insightful glimpse into the Pueblo peoples and their early encounters with Franciscan missionaries.

Start by visiting the park’s main visitor center in Mountainair and watch the 14-minute educational film about the history of the three cultural sites, Gran Quivira, Quarai and Abó.

Then head out to Gran Quivira and tour the site by walking a half-mile trail and viewing the ruins. The masonry ruins are remarkably intact, considering construction of the missions began in 1622 and was completed in 1635. Gran Quivira was a vast city with multiple pueblos, and kivas. Mound 7, a 226-room structure, is the largest and only fully excavated pueblo at the site.

Next, head up to Quarai. Quarai features the most intact church of the three sites and is a wonderful birding location. Word has it that when explorer Francis Gardes traveled through the area, he heard birds sing a song called “When Explorers Came.” Francis Gardes’s trail became Francis Garde National Historic Trail, and it passes through Quarai.

Finally, take the 20-minute drive to Abó. Abó features a short trail to the picturesque mission ruins. Tarantulas are a common sight in the fall in this area and protected at Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument. The gravel ramp leads to a convento, which probably housed priests. When they first excavated one of the rooms, they found turkey remains, which could mean it had a turkey pen.

The sites are open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily in the summer and from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. daily in the winter. All have restrooms, museums and bookstores, picnic areas and easy hiking trails.

Photos courtesy of

Looking for a new home or custom homesite near Albuquerque? Nestled among the foothills of Rio Ranch, Mariposa is a master-planned community 30 minutes north of Albuquerque. Mariposa is designed for living naturally and offers a fully equipped fitness center, resort-style indoor and outdoor pools, parks, sports courts, miles of trails, abundant open space and endless views at the Mariposa Preserve and surrounding mountains. Learn more at

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