I was suprised how many people had never been to or even heard of The Salt Missions. I asked a couple of friends and co-workers if they had ever been there and they were like...'huh'? What's that. They obviously don't get out of their environment much he he he.
It was amazing to me how relatively close these monuments are to Albuquerque...yet growing up here as a kid I had never heard of them either. They are relatively easy to get to and make a great day trip!! Basically take I-40 east to 337 south to the 55. Go south on the 55 to Punta de Agua at which point you will come to Quarai. Quarai has the largest church of the three missions. From there continue south to Mountainair. I highly recommend you have lunch at the historic Shaffer Hotel Dining Room.
It's very casual and reasonably priced. I had the carne adovada with fresh beans [not refried!] and rice.
What's that....ooohhhhh, that....you noticed the swastika's on the facade of the building eh.
No no no, this was not Heinrich Himmler's favorite eatery.....far from it.
The swastika has been in use by many cultures for about 3,000 years. Here in the southwest it has many meanings.
To the Hopi it represented the wandering Hopi clan. To the Navajo it was one symbol for whirling winds, a sacred image that was used in healing rituals. After learning of the Nazi mimic the Navajo rejected the symbol; however it is still visible on buildings built before the Nazi's used it.
[Navajo basketball team from 1909]
After lunch and a brief tour of 'main street' continue south to Gran Quivira.
Gran Quivira is the largest of the missions and sits on a high plain overlooking the valley. It is amazing. Sort of like Machu Picchu lite but impressive none the less.
After you visit Gran Quivira you head back up 55 north to 60 west. Keep in mind, Gran Quivira and Quarai are both well marked National Monuments. Abo however is not. I missed it the first time as the entrance is a road between two houses and the sign is a small simple one that says 'Abo'.
After Abo continue west on 60 to either Interstate 25 [at which point you'd head north back to Albuquerque] or you can take a diagonal route to Belen, saving you time but you end up on 47 north which takes you into Albuquerque's South Valley.
All three national monuments are free admission. Quarai and Gran Quivira have a modern bathroom and small gift shop/soda machine. The gates lock at 5pm sharp. Abo does not have a gate and only has port-a-potty's. The best time to take pics is probably when the sun is low in the sky and you get long shadows. I was there early morning and mid afternoon and still got some great shots.
I do recommend a full tank of petro and some snacks/drinks. I went now during late winter/early spring and the weather was great. Not to mention the tourists have not arrived yet.
All in all this is a GREAT day trip.
Here is some video from Abo.