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200 Miles before breakfast, a visit to the VLA

Info about the Rio Salado sand dune rest stop.
Info about the Rio Salado sand dune rest stop.

Rio Salado Sand Dune rest area.

Let's face it, some days on those glorious, free weekend mornings you just wake up and know things will not be right with the world unless you put in a couple of hundred miles before breakfast. Should that be the case I can suggest just the ticket. A ride which is both adventurous and inspiring. Pack some hydration and sandwiches and head out to the Very Large Array (VLA) which is located about 40 miles west of Socorro on US-60. The VLA one of the largest radio telescope observatories is the world and even if one is not particularly an aficionado of radio astronomy, to visit the site is still an amazing experience. More importantly, it is a great ride.

To get the most out of your day take NM-14/Turquoise Trail south through Madrid, continue on through Cedar Crest and catch I-40 west at Tijeras. Turn south on I-25 past Las Lunas. Even though this route requires some slab riding there are some interesting things to see along the way. One notable attraction is the unique rest stop in I-25 south of Los Lunas overlooking the Rio Salado sand dunes.

The view from SR-52

Continue south on I-25 to Socorro the follow the signs towards NM-60 west. Keep your eyes open as there are a few tricky turns in a row to get headed in the right direction. But just follow the signs and soon you will be on a well-maintained, lonely desert road headed into the Plains of San Augustin. Take care to watch your speed as you pass through the little town of Magdalena because the local lawmen watch the route carefully. Turn South on SR-52 and follow the signs that lead to the visitor center parking area. Upon entering the VLA facility there are a number of self-guided exhibits and a small, but interesting gift shop featuring everything from VLA shot glasses to T-Shirts varying from the serious to the silly. The most interesting attraction is the self-guided walking tour. One can walk right up to a working dish and the scale is, to put it mildly, massive. From this viewpoint it is also possible to get a perspective on the entire complex. After pondering this view the walking tour continues around to the second-floor balcony of the control room where one can survey the entire complex. Small picnic areas are set up for a leisurely lunch, but make sure to bring your own because no concessions are provided.

Walk up and prepare to be impressed!

If the day gets a little long it is possible to make this route a loop of sorts by taking NM 60 back to Socorro and then riding I-25 back to Santa Fe.  Yeah it is slab riding, but it is not too bad.   At this time of year, as the days get shorter and the weather cooler, make sure to layer up.  The temperature changes drastically as the sun traverses the sky and there are significant elevation changes.  Pack your really warm riding clothes and wear something underneath to walk around in.

This is a truly awesome ride and there are plenty of opportunities to eat a picnic lunch either at the VLA or along the road.  Wake up, ride out, and be inspired.


  • Patty Davis 5 years ago

    Loved the pictures.

  • Tom Bachur - Baltimore Motorcycle Travel Examiner 5 years ago

    Excellent trip!

  • Ken 5 years ago

    It's good to have you back following your move. And the story is definitely interesting. I guess you'll have plenty to write about as you explore your new location.