What is the Valles Caldera? About 1.25 million years ago, a volcanic eruption created this 13-mile wide circular depression now known as the Valles Caldera. The preserve is known for its huge mountain meadows, abundant wildlife, and meandering streams (this excerpt was taken from the National Park Service…).
Two years ago, we happened upon this National Park on our road trip through New Mexico… and it’s absolutely breathtaking! Jeremy has been in love with this place ever since; so of course we had to go back and bring Oliver this time. It’s located in Jemez Springs, about an hour northwest of Santa Fe.
To really experience the Valles Caldera, you MUST obtain a “Backcountry Permit” – and they only issue 35 of these a day! That means only 35 cars a day are allowed to drive into the park. ONLY 35! And they don’t accept reservations.
A. You have to get there when they open to guarantee your spot! (8am)
B. Can we just talk about how amazing it is that they only let in 35 cars a day??! The park is HUGE, so you basically will see NO one ALL day. Gah! It’s truly a magical place!
(Side Note: If you’ve ever watched Longmire on Netflix… this is where Walt Longmire’s cabin is located. We watched every season of this show… I’d highly recommend it. Nerd alert… we got our picture with the cabin on our trip in 2016.)
Fly-fishing requires a lot of gear. And when you are flying somewhere for a weekend vacation & you only plan on ONE day of fishing… that’s a lot of extra stuff to pack (on top of ALL the EXTRA you need for a baby!)… So the best solution is to find a good guide service. We’ve fished with Land of Enchantment Guides twice now; and they are great! They provide the rods, flies & waders (if needed) + lunch! Doesn’t really get much easier than that… !
The Caldera is HUGE + you’re driving on gravel/dirt roads (so slower moving)… we drove for over 30 minutes inside the park to our fishing spot! Rolled the windows down, and Ollie took a morning snooze. He’s wearing the cutest little Outdoor Quick-Drying pants that we picked up at Walmart! Had to cover those legs from the all day sun! And his sunhat & sun-shirt are from Patagonia.
I caught the first Brown Trout of the day! Pretty decent size for the size of the stream.
Jeremy, Ollie & and our awesome guide, Clay.
Had to hike back to the car with Ollie for a diaper change, snack & some cool air. And he snuck some driving time in while we were there… ha.
My cute sunhat is from Toad & Co… one of my favorite outdoor brands!
Jeremy and Ollie caught the biggest trout of the day! The trout slipped from his hands before we could capture a great shot of it!
It wouldn’t be a Howard Family Outdoor adventure if Ollie didn’t fall asleep! Ha. Our Osprey backpack carrier has a built-in sun shade.. perfect for hot sunny days outside. ANDDDD… it’s padded for a soft & comfortable snooze!
We had lunch on the porch of this cabin… the views aren’t terrible. Ha! Our guide, Clay provided our lunch. He was beyond thoughtful, and brought all sorts of snacks for Ollie. We made gourmet style sandwiches, with sliced avocado, lettuce, tomato, cheese, etc. Ollie ate most of the avocado; and the raspberries. Didn’t leave much for sharing, oops!
Even if you aren’t into fishing or hiking… it’s worth it to pack a lunch, and go just sit all day in the grander of it all. God did some amazing work in this valley!
After lunch, Clay offered to take a few family pictures… I didn’t even have to ask… could we have gotten a better guide?! I think not.
Land of Enchantment Guides are the only fly-fishing service with access to the Valles Caldera. Although they can’t guarantee you’ll catch fish (Jeremy always tells me, that’s why they call it “fishing” and not “catching”); they know where all the good fishing holes are… so you’ll definitely have a better chance of landing some trout on your line!
The drive back to Santa Fe! I always used to have a preconceived notion that New Mexico was all desert.. but there are so many mountains!
Before our dinner reservations, we went to the motel bar, La Reina at El Rey Court for cocktails. We heard it was all the rage by the locals. I’d have to say The King’s Margarita was pretty damn good.
Ollie did some exploring of our motel common area while we enjoyed our cocktails. The El Rey Court is decorated pretty awesome. I seriously loved every Southwestern detail.
What it’s really like “trying” to enjoy a cocktail while chasing a one year old around…
We had a little more time to kill before heading to dinner, so we walked around the El Rey Court outside common areas… and it’s just so beautiful! It’s so lush & green. Bet you were expecting desert, right? Again.. maybe just me!
That awesome shop that I mentioned in my first post about Santa Fe, the Santa Fe Vintage Outpost was having a pop-up shop AT our motel! I mean, what are the odds? How did I get so lucky!! (I didn’t buy anything else incase you were wondering.. haha!)
We had dinner at The Compound Restaurant. Would highly recommend if you are visiting Santa Fe! I had steak and scallops + another great marg!
Ollie was rocking the cutest little Fishing Lure Shirt by Mudpie! (Went with the fishing theme of the day… duh).
Another great day in New Mexico!