Valles Caldera in Winter

Valles Caldera in Winter

This is the view from the famous Longmire Cabin. Isn't it stunning?

We were so happy that we had the chance to head up to Valles Caldera in the snow! Valles Caldera is a New Mexico National Monument in northern New Mexico. What is a Caldera you might ask? It's from a volcano that collapsed into itself. Creating this bowl like valley that spans 13 miles. The photo above is facing the section called the Valle Grande. The Caldera is divided into 5 sections. Each section is called a Valle which is spanish for Valley. There are no trees in these valles which is what creates such a stunning view. 

Valles Caldera is, according to our Jeep... 

at 8748 feet in elevation, and you can also see the co-ordination as well. It's a few miles north of Jemez Pueblo and 27 miles south of Los Alamos, just to give you a general idea of it's location.

I truly can't decide which season I love best here so I choose them all! In the winter it is advisable to have a four wheel drive vehicle to go there.

The only drawback is that dogs are restricted here. But it's not really a drawback at all because, you see, there are amazing wildlife on this preserve and dogs can interfere with that, even if they're just riding in the car. Since their presence itself can be detected by wildlife and because of that, the wildlife would alter their behavior and patterns, so really it's not a drawback at all. 

When we went in the summer one year we had the opportunity to watch a little coyote chasing and catching flying bugs. Sadly, we weren't able to get it on film, instead it was like that moment on the movie "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" when the photographer played by Sean Penn says,.. after Walter Mitty asks him if he's going to take the photo of a snow leopard he's got his camera pointed at, "Sometimes I don't, if I like a moment, me personally, I don't like to have the distraction of the camera, I want to stay in it, right here." It was a moment like that, watching her pounce and dance and hop around catching bugs and if we'd had the dogs with us, that moment wouldn't have happened. So even though we love having the dogs along there are a few places we don't mind not having them with us.

The good news is that you can take your dogs on certain trails and you can have them up until the parking lot right before you go into the back country. If you're just traveling through and stopping in briefly it's incredibly beautiful even if you don't go into the back country. 

One other note is that if you want to see the cabin where they filmed Longmire, that is in the back country. I'm hanging out on the porch of the Longmire cabin in the photo below. 

The snow was up to the edge of the porch! 

There are several other historic cabins and buildings near the Longmire cabin as well. It was at one time a working cattle ranch. I find it quite fascinating how tough the people were who lived here in the past.

I'm grateful this incredible preserve is available to the public to respectfully enjoy. Growing up here I had never seen it, since it wasn't open to the public until 2013. I'm so happy it is now! If you get a chance, add it to your travel list. It is off the beaten path, but as we have found to be true, most things off the beaten path a worthwhile!  




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