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“A ton of fun... with the correct vehicle and ability.”
5 of 5 bubbles Review of La Bajada Hill

Ranked #818 of 1,152 things to do in New Mexico
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Attraction details
Owner description: Hill that was the final barrier to those journeying on the Santa Fe Trail that linked Santa Fe and Albuquerque.
Elgin, Illinois
1 review
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
“A ton of fun... with the correct vehicle and ability.”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed December 12, 2012

I drove the La Bajada Hill earlier this evening, from west to east (uphill). About mid-way up the hill, the trail splits. I ended up taking the older, less-traveled alignment that goes to the right of the hill (or southeast). It's a challenging route complete with old lava rock, ruts, and shelf road trail. It was an amazing experience and a beautiful drive. I'm so glad that I took the time to experience this section of the historic Route 66.

That said, a little background... I run a 4" lifted Jeep Liberty with under body and rocker armor, and a rugged AT tire. I also have years of off-road experience. Unless you have a similar high-clearance vehicle with low range and significant knowledge of how to use it, I would discourage any average driver from trying this route.

Visited December 2012
2 Thank yellocoyote
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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7 reviews from our community

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Date | Rating
  • English first
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English first
Corrales, New Mexico, United States
2 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 15 helpful votes
“La Bajada hill - don't drive it”
1 of 5 bubbles Reviewed October 17, 2012

Now you've been warned, which means that some of you will just HAVE to give it a try. Don't. Hike, or maybe use a lightweight off-road motorcycle (one that you can life) or a trail bike.

(Our rating refers to driving; La Bajada would be a 4 or 5 for hiking)

We just did it with a two-wheel drive Nissan Titan pickup. Never, ever, again!

It starts out, from the top, looking reasonable and progressively gets worse, until pretty soon you've come far enough that you can't possible back your way out, and of course you continue on because you're hoping that the worst is behind you. HA!

On one passage, we had to have the right wheels on a two-foot high ridge, the left wheels in a washout gully, then swing hard left to avoid a tall boulder, then back 45 degrees right with a lot of power to get up on the ridge, and immediately straighten out to avoid running off the narrow ridge (and into perdition), then immediately 45 degrees left down off the ridge and up on the left side to avoid a boulder on the ridge, and immediately cut back right to miss a boulder on the left. All this had to be done under considerable power - not creeping or we couldn't mount the ridge - and within inches of precision.

Much of our four hours (for 3/4ths mile) was spent carrying rocks to create bridges and ramps. Crosscuts were sometimes so deep that a front-wheel dropped into the cut meant the end. Sure, you might try to shovel your way out, but the surface is almost entirely hard-packed caliche. A hard shovel bite might come up with four tablespoons!. In other cases we had to pass over boulders tall enough to rip out our undercarriage - or at least do serious damage - which meant building up around the boulder by carrying dozens of 8-inch rocks.

After each successful passage negotiation, we would say, "Well, that's undoubtedly the worst - it'll be easier sailing from here on." Then the next bend gave us an even worse dilemma. All the way to the bottom, which we thought would never come.

If we really got stuck, no wrecker was going to try to get to us. A tractor might - or might not - be able to tow us out (with still lots of rock piling or moving) but would certainly result in substantial damage. The only real solution - if it was any solution at all - would have been to hire a helicopter.

Is that what you want to risk?

(a) Four-wheel drive wouldn't particularly help on the descent. The Titan powered through, so four-wheel power wasn't the issue.

(b) A Hummer, and the Titan almost, would be too wide to get through some passages, and couldn't be negotiated as delicately as needed.

(c) A small four-wheel drive (Tracker, or WWII-size jeep) sounds great but would not be wide enough where it's necessary to straddle the washout gulley.

Quite simply, the Park Service or Forest Service - whoever - should close this non-road to vehicle traffic. Period.

Visited October 2012
11 Thank RalphEstes
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level Contributor
76 reviews
14 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 54 helpful votes
“La Bajada is a Historic Site!”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed July 22, 2012

La Bajada is an historic road, that should not be driven on. If you want to experience the road, hike or bicycle it. DO NOT DRIVE ON IT!
The road branches midway and if you are not on foot, you will miss some great petroglyphs and some early 20th Century advertising, as well as some interesting drainage modes. Additionally, the rock retaining walls at the top of the escarpment are phenomenal, since they were done 100 years ago and no mortar was used. For more information about this remarkable site, visit http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/hhh.nm0305

Visited August 2011
4 Thank SWFoodie
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States
1 review
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
“A good way to test your 4 while drive”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed February 16, 2012

The drive down La Bajada hill was pretty darn scarey. There a lot of big volcanic rocks, tight hairpin curves and drop offs. At one point I thought I was going to tip. It was a very scarey but fun drive. I've always wanted to do it and I'm not sure I would do it again. Okay well maybe.

Four wheel drive is a must

Visited February 2012
3 Thank Leslie B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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