Jemez Mountains Elk Festival: Oct 6 – 14

What do elk and balloons have in common? Absolutely nothing. One is light and airy and up in the sky, the other is heavy, makes loud trumpeting noises, and is very earth-bound. (Unless you know different and have seen flying elk. In New Mexico, anything is possible.)

The only thing to connect elk and balloons is that they each have festivals to celebrate them, taking place at the same time. As Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta launches its 2012 edition from October 6 – 14, the Jemez Mountains Elk Festival stampedes alongside, also from October 6 – 14.

The Jemez Mountains Elk Festival is hosted by the Valles Caldera National Preserve. Many elements of the Elk Festival are free, including daily demos, activities and booths at the Valles Caldera Visitor Center, free self-guided hikes, find out how antlers grow, and spotting scopes on the trails to see the elk herd in the Valle Grande. There’s an atlatl shootout on October 14!

Other festival activities require fees.  For example, the Magma to Magpies guided tours of the Valdera cost $3 during the festival, discounted from the usual $5. The tours happen several times a day, and you’re taken in a van to the historic ranch headquarters area.

I drove through the Valles Caldera National Preserve a few weekends ago and was reminded just how beautiful this area is, inside an old volcano crater.

However, I do wish they’d make it a little easier to find out what’s going on where and when at the Elk Festival. The best thing I can do is give you some links to see what’s happening on whichever day you want to visit from October 6 – 14.

I love seeing the magnificent elk in the wild, and the festival could make a cool day trip if you need a break from Balloon Fiesta madness, or as an excursion for visiting friends and family.

The Jemez Mountains Elk Festival is hosted by the Valles Caldera National Preserve. They reckon it’s about 2 to 2.5 hours drive from Albuquerque’s Big-I intersection of I-25 and I-40, but I’m sure I’ve driven it on the faster side of that.  (Or maybe it was just such a lovely drive I didn’t notice the time fly.) See directions to the Valles Caldera preserve via Jemez Springs.

–Tania


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