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Valles Caldera National Preserve, Jemez Springs
(4.7/5 based on 240+ reviews on the web)
The Valles Caldera National Preserve is a national preserve located in northeastern Sandoval County and southern Rio Arriba County, just west of Los Alamos. It protects a large portion of the Valles Caldera, an area of significant geological, ecological and cultural interest. It has a land area of 89216acre and until 2015 was administered by the Valles Caldera Trust with offices in Jemez Springs. In 2014 legislation attached to the Defense Authorization Act authorized the transfer of the preserve to the National Park Service and dissolution of the Valles Caldera Trust. The transfer to NPS management took place on October 10, 2015.BackgroundThe Valles Caldera Preservation Act of 2000 signed by President Clinton on July 25, 2000, created the Valles Caldera National Preserve (VCNP). The legislation provided for the federal purchase of the land, previously the privately held Baca ranch. The surface estate of 95000acre and seven-eighths of the geothermal mineral estate were purchased by the federal government for $101 million. Funds for the purchase were obtained through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) from federal government royalties received from offshore petroleum and natural gas drilling. Some areas of the Baca Ranch are of cultural significance to Native Americans. Accordingly, 5000acre of the purchase were obtained by the Santa Clara Pueblo, which borders the property to the northeast. These include the headwaters of Santa Clara Creek, considered sacred by the Pueblo. On the southwest corner of the land 300acre were to be ceded to Bandelier National Monument.
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  • The drive is beautiful and particularly with snow on the ground, but none on the highway. It is full of natural beauty and geographic interest. 
  • I had read a lot about the Caldera but had no idea what we were in store for. I did not know it was now a NP and on our first day in the area we merely stopped along the road above it and took picture...  more »
  • Valles Caldera was new to us and a very pleasant surprise. Lets get the negatives out of the way - the roads through the caldera were terrible. We have a small car and we made it fine, but it was not ...  more »
  • Nature is beautiful but a few of the park rangers are ugly. This Sunday we went to the Valles Caldera national preserve and experienced an unpleasant female park ranger when we checked in and she was rude or short with the few people who were checking in and I saw her grunt something to a European visitor who had difficulty speaking English. I assisted him and we paid the $20.00 to go into the back country. A male park ranger was on duty on the porch and he was very pleasant as we should expect. The drive through the park was beautiful but the map provided and signage and trail markers throughout the park was very bad. Towards the end of the long road it is very badly maintained and very rutted even though we asked in advance how the roads were she said they were like the entry drive but did not warn us about the conditions we would experience. We were able to deal with the poor road conditions and made it back without getting stuck. We only saw about 15-20 cars coming and going and 3 motorcycles during our time. When we arrived back at the quard house and visitors center we stopped to take down the chain to allow the motorcycles to pass. There was a large truck and horse trailer coming down the hill from the overflow parking area into the acute angle intersection so the motorcycles cut across the dirt area into the parking area to check out as is required. I saw a red headed female park ranger run down from the porch and I at first thought she was being nice to come out to help them check out but I heard her yell at them for cutting across into the parking area instead of going into the difficult intersection with the horse trailer. She then approached me and also told me that we should not have cut across the dirt area and that we were lucky that law enforcement was not there. I asked her to show me the sign which says not to cut across the area and she barked back that they were working on it and Maybe that they should put up some barriers. The 30-50 foot area is not marked in any way and it was more of a road then a lot of what we had just driven along. Her actions created another unpleasant experience to what should have been a nice afternoon at Valles Caldera and I don't like to think how the foreign tourists feel. I have heard of unpleasant park rangers but this is the first time I have experiences two in one day. Maybe they are not happy with their jobs and dealing with park visitors and they should seek another profession. Thanks for ruining an otherwise nice experience.
  • Beautiful place. We saw a lot of bluebirds, sparrows, and Prairie dogs. Unfortunately, we didn't see any elk this time. But it's beautiful. If you would like to have a longer walk, you might want to get there earlier. Besides the trails near the visitor center, you need to drive your own vehicle, and there's a 35 daily cap for private vehicle to pass the visitor center.
  • There is not one thing that stands out here- not in a bad way. It is just beautiful. It is a great area to enjoy nature and the beauty of Northern New Mexico. I was blown away with just the stunning beauty of nature here. I am glad to see it is now federal land and protected. Highly recommend going to spend some time there and
  • Beautiful landscape, prairie dogs, elk. I've been twice - this time was in the evening to see/hear elk...Did see a small herd but it was hearing them call out as I sat in the near dark that was so amazing. Almost otherworldly.
  • I was introduced to valleys caldera through the tv series " Longmire". Always wandering where the main character s house was. It was so beautiful when he had his coffee in the morning and overlooking the land in front of his house. Well I found out when I drove my car from Cuba,NM, to the Valle's Caldera. Need a four wheeler to do that trip.