This scenic back route to Santa Fe , which runs along the east side of the Sandia Mountains and up across high plateaus, revisits New Mexico’s mining history as it passes through a series of ghost towns. Take I-40 east from Albuquerque  to Exit 175. Bear right to go into the village of Tijeras  and the Sandia ranger station (505/281-3304) if you want to pick up hiking maps to the area. Otherwise, bear left to continue directly to the junction with Highway 14, the beginning of the Turquoise Trail.
The four-lane road heads north through alternating communities of old Spanish land grants and modern subdivisions collectively referred to as the East Mountains. Practically an Albuquerque suburb, the area still preserves its independence—this might be the only place in the United States that a Blockbuster was forced to close because of a community boycott.
Meet the feisty locals at the Greenside Café (12165 Hwy. 14, 505/286-2684, 11 a.m.–8 p.m. Mon.–Thurs., 11 a.m.–9 p.m. Fri., 8 a.m.–9 p.m. Sat., 8 a.m.–8 p.m. Sun., $8), a casual place with fresh American standards; it’s just south of the Triangle Grocery in Cedar Crest.