At the end of a dirt road in the Jemez Mountains lies a natural wonder that hints at the region’s fiery past. Known as Sulphur Springs, it lives up to its name, as the distinctive rotten eggs stench of brimstone wafts from the area. The site has geologic features like mud pots and fumaroles that are rare in the United States, and unique in New Mexico. There are also a few man-made creations—rusted-out cars, decaying cabins, and collapsing wooden fences.
Sulphur Springs was first claimed in 1898 by Maríano Otero, who mined the site for sulfur. The remoteness of the site and the stench in the tunnels caused the mine to shut down in 1904. The Otero family later opened it as a health spa. There was a three-story log hotel and several bathhouses. Guests soaked in the sulfuric waters for wounds, and drank it for internal infections. For a time, baths went for only 50 cents, unless you “seemed poor.” In that case, it was free.
The spa was passed down between different owners and continued operation until the 1970s, when it, unfortunately, burned down. In 2020, the property was purchased and absorbed into the Valles Caldera National Preserve. The National Park Service plans to restore the site and develop proper infrastructure for visitors. For now, it seems almost post-apocalyptic—an abandoned and forgotten settlement, overtaken by the forces of nature.
Know Before You Go
Make your way down Sulphur Creek Road until you reach a locked gate. There isn’t much in the way of dedicated parking, so make sure you’re able to turn around and head back the way you came.
The springs are just a short quarter-mile hike from the gate. Do watch where you step, these geologic features are not only sensitive but potentially dangerous due to high temperatures.