Jemez Mountains

The Jemez Mountains ([ˡhɛmɛz]) are a volcanic group of mountains in Rio Arriba, Sandoval, and Los Alamos counties, New Mexico, United States.

Jemez Mountains
Jemez Mountains
Highest point
PeakChicoma Mountain
Elevation3,524 m (11,562 ft)[1]  NAVD 88
Coordinates36°00′26″N 106°23′04″W
State/ProvinceNew Mexico
Topo mapUSGS Polvadera Peak (1977)

Numerous Puebloan Indian tribes have lived in the Jemez Mountains region since before the Spanish arrived in New Mexico. The Pueblo Indians of this region are the Towa-speaking Jemez people for which this mountain range is named, the Keres-speaking Keresan Indians, and the Tewa-speaking Tewa Indians. Tsąmpiye'ip'įn is the Tewa language name for the Jemez Mountains.

The highest point in the range is Chicoma Mountain (also spelled as Tschicoma or Tchicoma) at an elevation of 11,561 feet (3524 meters). The town of Los Alamos and Los Alamos National Laboratory adjoin the eastern side of the range while the town of Jemez Springs is to the west. Pajarito Mountain Ski Area is the only ski area in the Jemez. New Mexico State Highway 4 is the primary road that provides vehicular access to locations in the Jemez Mountains.


The Jemez Mountains lie to the north of the Albuquerque Basin in the Rio Grande rift.[2] They are a classic example of intracontinental volcanism and consist of a broadly circular ridge surrounding the famous Valles Caldera. The most recent known eruption was an obsidian flow dated to 50,000 to 60,000 years before the present; however, most of the volume of the range is composed of rhyolite. The two most recent caldera-forming eruptions, dated to about 1.61 million and 1.22 million years ago, produced massive ignimbrite deposits known as the Otowi and Tshirege members, respectively, of the Bandelier Tuff.[3] Much of the material in these deposits now forms the Pajarito Plateau, a scenic region of canyons and mesas on which Los Alamos is situated. Redondo Peak, the second-highest summit in the range at 11,254 ft (3431 m), is a resurgent dome in the middle of the Valles Caldera, which also contains several smaller volcanos. The caldera is segregated by these structures and its rim into multiple lush grass valleys (valles in Spanish, hence the name).

Public use

Much of the range is federal land, including Santa Fe National Forest, Bandelier National Monument, and the Valles Caldera National Preserve. State lands include Fenton Lake State Park [4] at 35°52′58″N 106°43′46″W in Sandoval County. Hiking trails crisscross the range and lead to many of the summits, although some regions are closed to hikers either because of environmental restrictions or because they are on the territory of Santa Clara Pueblo or private landholders. (Access to pueblo lands is available by permit.) The summits are generally easy to climb (in good weather) and require no technical climbing skills, but rock climbing is popular on some of the basalt cliffs near Los Alamos, Caja del Rio and elsewhere in the range. The mountains also are home to Pajarito Mountain, a small downhill ski area and offer some opportunities for cross country skiing, although not every winter produces enough snow to support this recreational activity. The region is prone to forest fires because of the tendency for spring weather to be dry and windy, creating conditions under which fires caused by human activities or lightning can spread rapidly. The Las Conchas Fire in 2011 was the most recent large wildfire. Parts of Los Alamos National Laboratory were also damaged, although none of the laboratory's special nuclear materials were threatened or released.


Census-designated places within the Jemez Mountains include Jemez Springs and Jemez Pueblo.


The Jemez Mountains house the American elk (wapiti), the golden-mantled ground squirrel, the Gunnison's prairie dog, American beavers, black bears, and mountain lions. The Jemez Mountains are also home to a federally endangered species, the Jemez Mountains salamander.


  1. "Langley". NGS data sheet. U.S. National Geodetic Survey. Retrieved 2008-12-22.
  2. Pinet, Bertrand; Bois, Christian; Bois, C. (1990). The Potential of Deep Seismic Profiling for Hydrocarbon Exploration: Proceedings of the 5th IFP Exploration and Production Research Conference, Held in Arles, June 19-23, 1989. Editions TECHNIP. p. 178. ISBN 978-2-7108-0590-8. Retrieved 2012-09-30.
  3. Dethier, David P.; Kampf, Stephanie K. (2007). Geology of the Jemez Region II. Ne Mexico Geological Society. p. 499 p. Retrieved 6 November 2015.
  4. Official website: Fenton Lake State Park
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