Complete guide to Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument in New Mexico, including things to do, historic missions, history, hours, directions, and so much more.
Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument
Salinas Pueblo National Monument is a new amalgamation of national and state monuments. The monument preserves and interprets three sites, each of which has more than 1,000 years of history.
Pit houses and pueblos constructed by Ancestral Puebloans exist alongside unique Spanish colonial missions.
Is Salinas Pueblo Missions NM worth visiting?
Yes, The park is really interesting and does a great job of telling not only the history of the missions but the surrounding area.
History of Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument
Salinas Pueblo National Monument is located in the center of New Mexico. The monument sits at the foot of the Manzano Mountains.
Like much of the surrounding area, the deep history of central New Mexico stretches back millions of years. An ancient inland sea, the Western Interior Seaway, left behind sandstone bedrock and rich salt deposits across southern and central New Mexico.
The Ancestral Puebloans who lived near the Manzano Mountains when Spanish missionaries arrived in the 17th century were famous for trading salt. Hence, the Spanish dubbed the area Salinas which translates into English as saltworks or salt mines.
Pre-Columbian History of Central New Mexico
Ancestral Puebloans lived across the Colorado Plateau. Based on the pueblos located within Salinas Pueblo National Monument, several sizable towns preceded Spanish arrival. The Ancestral Pueblo people primarily lived in pit houses prior to the 10th century.
During the period from 900-1100, most Ancestral Pueblo groups transitioned from pit houses to pueblo-style domiciles. Many of these multiroom and multistory buildings have been remarkably preserved. Some of the best examples of Ancestral Puebloan architecture are located in Mesa Verde National Park and Chaco Cultural National Historical Park.
The foundations of many pueblos exist within Salinas Pueblo National Monument. However, the more intact remains are of Spanish missions established in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Arrival of the Spanish
The story of Salinas Pueblo National Monument and its structures is a clash of cultures between the Pueblo and Spanish settlers.
The Adventures of Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca
Spanish exploration and expansion into the territory of modern New Mexico began with the dramatic journey of the shipwrecked conquistador Cabeza de Vaca. Cabeza de Vaca helped lead a small Spanish fleet with hundreds of conquistadors tasked with exploring the Gulf of Mexico.
Numerous misadventures and poor leadership left Cabeza de Vaca and three others stranded on foot in modern Texas. Cabeza de Vaca led his small crew west from Texas to the Gulf of California then south towards Mexico City. It took the small band nearly a decade to make it from Texas to Mexico City.
After his return, Cabeza de Vaca regaled anyone who would listen about his unbelievable interactions with native groups during his journey. Cabeza de Vaca claimed to have seen the Seven Cities of Cibola where gold abounded.
Coronado and his Conquistadors
Francisco Coronado, hearing de Vaca’s tale, set off with 1,000 conquistadors to find the cities of gold. Traveling far and wide, Coronado ended up empty handed in modern-day Kansas which he called Quivira.
The trail blazed by Coronado was soon traveled by waves of Catholic Franciscan missionaries. In central New Mexico these Franciscan monks worked to convert the Pueblo people and set native groups to work within the encomienda system.
Salinas Pueblo National Monument consists of three distinct sites: Gran Quivira, Abó, and Quarai. Each of these contain both Spanish and Native American ruins.
The town of Mountainair, New Mexico, is in the middle of the three sites. Gran Quivira is south of Mountainair, while Abó is west, and Quarai is north.
Gran Quivira is home to the largest pueblo within the monument. The massive pueblo is called Mound 7 and had at least 200 rooms.
When Spanish friars arrived, they shared occupancy of the pueblo with natives. Modern excavations revealed an older substructure beneath Mound 7.
Under the massive rectangular pueblo was an older circular pueblo. Within two hundred years of Spanish arrival Mound 7 was unoccupied due to disease, warfare, and drought.
Working from Mound 7, Spanish missionaries oversaw the construction of two separate churches: the smaller San Isidro and the unfinished but enormous San Buenaventura. Ruins of both churches can be toured.
The Abó site contains a pueblo and the foundations of a small church and convento. Construction began on these in 1623. Fascinatingly, the convento contains a small kiva. Kivas were dugout, circular, religious structures used by many Native American cultures across the U.S. Southwest.
It seems as though the kiva was intentionally included in the design of the convento to bridge Catholic and Pueblo religious spaces.
By the 1640s, the kiva had been filled in with refuse, perhaps hinting at less accommodating conversion strategies.
Similar to Gran Quivira, drought, disease, and Apache raids on Abó led to its desertion by 1673.
Similar to Abó, Quarai has another church and convento which seems to have been constructed with a kiva at its center.
However, this kiva is uniquely square! Like Abó, the kiva was filled in within two decades and the site was emptied of inhabitants by 1678.
Spanish settlers repopulated the area in the early 1800s despite the threat of attack by Apache warriors. These settlers contributed their own unique structures, plazuelas, to the already-existing complex mosaic of Ancestral Puebloan buildings and Spanish Catholic hybrid religious structures.
Plazuelas are fortified ranches. Some plazuelas had their own defense towers.
Creation and Unification of Salinas Pueblo
Salinas Pueblo National Monument is both old and new. The park initially consisted of a single site, Gran Quivira, which was designated as a monument in 1909.
However, the State of New Mexico gave over control of two additional sites, Abó and Quarai, to the federal government in 1988.
The original park, Gran Quivira National Monument, was renamed to Salinas Pueblo National Monument to bring a sense of cohesion to the three distinct but interconnected sites.
Salinas Pueblo National Monument is a sprawling monument preserving Native American and Spanish colonial history within the modern United States.
The multicultural history of the United States is on full display. Beautiful desert and ancient ruins await the adventurous a short drive south of Albuquerque.
Things to know before your visit to National Park
$0.00 - There is no fee to visit Salinas Pueblo Missions NM
Planning a National Park vacation? America the Beautiful/National Park Pass covers entrance fees for an entire year to all US National Park Sites and over 2,000 Federal Recreation Fee Sites.
The park pass covers everyone in the car for per vehicle sites and for up to 4 adults for per-person sites.
Buy on REI.com and REI will donate 10% of pass proceeds to the National Forest Foundation, National Park Foundation and the U.S. Endowment for Forestry & Communities.
Learn more about National Park Passes for parks that have an entrance fee.
Free Entrance Days -Find the five free entrance days the National Park Service offers annually.
Leashed pets are welcome on the trails and in the picnic areas at Salinas Pueblo Missions. Pets must remain on a leash at all times within the park.
Pets are not allowed inside of the visitor center or museums.
Our cell service was spotty within the park and on the way to the different missions.
During Winter Season, the Main Visitor Center in Mountainair, Abó Visitor Center and Quarai Visitor Center are open five days a week from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (Closed Tuesday and Wednesday).
Abo Ruins Visitor Center
Summer hours (Memorial Day - Labor Day) 9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m
Quarai Ruins Visitor Center
Summer hours (Memorial Day - Labor Day) 9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m
Gran Quivira Ruins Visitor Center
Summer hours (Memorial Day - Labor Day) 9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Years Day.
Make sure to check park hours for any changes.
There is no wi-fi available within the park.
Insect repellent is always a great idea when outdoors, especially if you are around any body of water.
We use Permethrin Spray on our clothes before our park trips.
Make sure to bring your own water bottle and plenty of water with you. Plastic water bottles are not sold in the park.
There is a large parking lot near the visitor center. Each of the missions has its own parking areas.
There is a turnaround large enough for most RVs and Buses.
There is a turnaround large enough for most RVs and Buses
Located north of the main entrance gate there is an overflow parking lot which will accommodate most RVs and Buses.
There are no restaurants within the park. There are a few restaurants in Mountainair, New Mexico
There are no gas stations within the park.
Drones are not permitted within National Park Sites.
National Park Passport Stamps
National Park Passport stamps can be found in the visitor center.
Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument is part of the 1992 Passport Stamp Set.
Electric Vehicle Charging
There is no electric vehicle (EV) charging station within the park
Details about National Park
Size - 370 acres
Check out how the park compares to other National Parks by Size.
November 1, 1909
In 2021, Salinas Pueblo Missions NM had 38,080 park visitors.
In 2020, Salinas Pueblo Missions NM had 26,982 park visitors.
In 2019, Salinas Pueblo Missions NM had 31,672 park visitors.
National Park Address
Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument
105 South Ripley St.
Mountainair, NM 87036-0517
National Park Map
Where is Salinas Pueblo Missions?
Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument is located in the U.S. state of New Mexico, near Mountainair southeast of Albuquerque.
Estimated distance from major cities nearby
Albuquerque, New Mexico - 60 miles
El Paso, Texas - 230 miles
Lubbock, Texas - 310 miles
Colorado Springs, Colorado - 400 miles
Tucson, Arizona - 440 miles
Mesa, Arizona - 425 miles
Scottsdale, Arizona - 425 miles
Estimated Distance from nearby National Park
White Sands National Park - 155 miles
Guadalupe Mountains National Park - 280 miles
Petrified Forest National Park - 270 miles
Saguaro National Park - 430 miles
Great Sand Dunes National Park - 300 miles
Mesa Verde National Park - 300 miles
Where is the National Park Visitor Center?
The main visitor center is located in Mountainair, New Mexico.
Each of the missions has its own small visitor center.
Getting to National Park
Albuquerque International Sunport - 90 miles
El Paso International Airport - 230 miles
Sierra Blanca Regional Airport - 120 miles
Alamogordo-White Sands Regional Airport - 150 miles
Belen Regional Airport - 60 miles
Taos Regional Airport SKX - 200 miles
When planning your driving route make sure to look at which missions you want to visit and the distance from the visitor center.
The missions are pretty spread out.
Abó: Ruins are 9 miles west on US 60 and one-half mile north on NM 513.
Gran Quivira: Ruins are 26 miles south on NM 55.
Quarai: Ruins are 8 miles north on NM 55 and 1 mile west.
Best time to visit
Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument is a beautiful place to visit at any time of the year. Each season offers its own unique charms and activities to enjoy.
Weather and Seasons
The hot season starts from May 24 to September 14, with an average daily high temperature above 84 degrees.
The cold season starts from November 21 to February 18, with an average daily high temperature below 56 degrees.
The coldest month is in December, with an average low of 29 degrees and a high of 49 degrees.
Best Things to do in Salinas Pueblo Missions
We suggest planning a full day to visit all three mission ruins within the park. It is a fairly long drive between each mission site and you will want to plan time to explore each ruin.
There is a main visitor center for the park located in Mountainair, New Mexico. Each of the ruins has its own small visitor center with staff available to answer questions.
Visit the Missions
The three mission sites offer the opportunity to walk around and through the ruins. It is hard to believe how big the missions were and how much is still intact today.
The Junior Ranger program is a great way for visitors of all ages to learn more about the park.
The Junior Ranger Activity Book includes different activities for Gran Quivira, Abó, and Quarai.
The park also has a Senior Ranger program.
In September 2016, Salinas Pueblo Missions NM was certified as an International Dark Sky Park by the International Dark Sky Association.
During the year the park offers Astronomy events.
Hiking in National Park
Always carry the 10 essentials for outdoor survival when exploring.
Spanish Corral Trail - 1 mile trail at Quarai
How to beat the crowds?
We did not experience any crowds during our visit to the park. We only saw a few other visitors.
Where to stay when visiting National Park
There are no National Park Lodges within the park.
Super 8 by Wyndham Belen NM - Take advantage of free continental breakfast, dry cleaning/laundry services, and a bar at Super 8 by Wyndham Belen NM. Stay connected with free in-room Wi-Fi.
Travelodge by Wyndham Belen - Travelodge by Wyndham Belen provides amenities like a gym and a restaurant. Stay connected with free in-room Wi-Fi.
Baymont by Wyndham Belen NM - free continental breakfast, laundry facilities, and a fireplace in the lobby at Baymont by Wyndham Belen NM. Stay connected with free in-room Wi-Fi, and guests can find other amenities such as a 24-hour gym and a 24-hour business center.
Quality Inn Los Lunas - free continental breakfast and a gym. Stay connected with free in-room Wi-Fi.
Western Skies Inn And Suites Los Lunas - laundry facilities, a gym, and a 24-hour business center. Guests can connect to free in-room Wi-Fi.
Click on the map to see additional lodging and vacation rentals near the park.
National Park Camping
There are no National Park campground within the park.
Nearby camping can be found in the Cibola National Forest and Manzano Mountains State Park.
For a fun adventure check out Escape Campervans. These campervans have built in beds, kitchen area with refrigerators, and more. You can have them fully set up with kitchen supplies, bedding, and other fun extras. They are painted with epic designs you can't miss!
Escape Campervans has offices in Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Denver, Chicago, New York, and Orlando
Parks near Salinas Pueblo Missions NM
Check out all of the National Monuments managed by the NPS