Maybe Halloween would be a better time of year to do a Goblin Colony hike, but you could fool me. I took off on a bright May morning in search of goblins in the Jemez Mountains of Northern New Mexico. The Jemez are full of interesting geology from their volcanic origins and this hike is no exception. The goblin colony is a collection of hundreds of volcanic rock columns on a steep slope above Paliza Canyon at about 7000 feet (2135 m) altitude. They are interspersed with Ponderosa Pine and some ancient alligator juniper trees. Goblins are hoodoos, or tent rocks, that many people imagine display interesting human and animal-like profiles “if you look at them just the right way.” The caps are gone from these hoodoos – I’ve also heard this kind of formation called a “fairy chimney”.
This hike, a 4-mile loop, is off the beaten track in an off the beaten track area so be ready for some rough road if you go. You can approach from the North as I did on Forest Road 10 off of Highway 4 or from the South on that same road via the village of Ponderosa. The South approach is paved more of the way and is fairly easy for a car. A car can do the North approach in good weather, but I’d recommend a high clearance vehicle.
I parked off the forest road near the bottom of the hike then proceeded back north in the forest along the road. At the top of the hike (highest elevation), you turn sharply over a small ridge and immediately descend into the goblins. There is no beaten path so you need to pick a route through the goblins – for me, there was a bit of trial and error as some of the routes I chose led me to steep drop-offs forcing a backtrack to find a better way. Eventually, you reach the floor of Paliza Canyon where an old track follows it back down to the starting point.
That was a good spot to cap off the hike with a beer. I had thrown in a Santa Fe Brewing Company Imperial Java Stout. This is a stout stout at 8% ABV and also very flavorful – a nice beer to cap off the walk.
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This part of the Jemez Mountains has other interesting things to see and do and I decided to take the scenic route home. Following the hike, I headed South to the village of Ponderosa and made a stop at the Ponderosa Valley Vineyard tasting room. This is a relaxed place in a pretty setting. There is a striking red rock area at the Jemez Pueblo, one of New Mexico’s nineteen remaining Native American pueblos. Not far from the Pueblo is Gilman tunnels, a series of former railroad tunnels carved into a scenic gorge. The village of Jemez Springs is a picturesque place with an old saloon, a few eating places, a few hot springs establishments, and the Second Alarm Brewhouse. Second Alarm is a fairly new place so I wanted to stop for lunch and try one of their beers. I had a green chile cheeseburger with a drinkable porter. In addition to their own beers, they serve a variety from Bosque Brewing, Santa Fe Brewery, La Cumbre Brewing, and others.
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