A side road off the Jemez Mountain Trail offers rugged mountain scenery, world class fly fishing, rock climbing and the Gilman Tunnels. Cross the Jemez River at Cañones and go through the small town of Gilman following the picturesque Rio Guadalupe. You are at first surrounded by striking red mesas. Then along the Rio Guadalupe’s cascades you pass through some of the oldest rocks in the Jemez Mountains on the way to the Guadalupe Box and the Gilman Tunnels. The Jemez mountains are the remnant of a series of major volcanic eruptions that occurred about one million years ago.
The Gilman tunnels were originally blasted out of rock in the 1920s for a narrow-gauge logging railroad that used to haul timber out of the Jemez. There was a sawmill near Gillman but it came much later (around 1948). At some point they enlarged the tunnels so that logging trucks would fit. Perhaps this coincided with the building of the sawmill in Gillman. We found no record of when the railroad tracks were dismantled, but many tracks in the west were torn up during WWII). Railroading and logging artifacts can be found, even up towards Cuba.
Just past the tunnels the pavement ends. There are great views of the Guadalupita and Virgin mesas.
The canyon is a popular recreation area for camping, fishing, hunting, hiking, and rock climbing. It provides habitat for threatened and endangered species. The road parallels the Rio Guadalupe. The fast tumbling, boulder strewn canyon river is home to wild browns in the 10-14 inch range. There is a section designated as quality trout waters.
At Bernalillo, take exit 242 off I-25, go west on Highway 550. From San Ysidro, drive north on Highway 4. After the Jemez Valley School look for SR 485 to the left. After taking this left turn, follow the road through Gilman, continuing up the canyon through the tunnels. There are numerous turnouts for sightseeing and photography. Past the tunnels you are on dirt road, Forest Service Road 376. At Porter crossing (where you cross the Rio Guadalupe), you can continue on FR 376 to Fenton Lake and Jemez Springs, or turn left to Cuba (we hear this road is pretty rough in places).