Gilman Tunnels. Photo by Sharon Snyder
By Sharon Snyder
Los Alamos Historical Society
With autumn just around the corner, thoughts of colorful foliage and drives through the mountains come to mind. State Road 4 passes through golden aspens and accents of red in the Jemez Mountains, but it can also take you to an interesting piece of history that is tucked away in the back country.
South of Jemez Springs but north of Jemez Pueblo, State Road 485 veers west to the small community of Cañones (also known as Gilman). From there the road is designated as Forest Road 376, and it takes you west to the Guadalupe
The rapidly moving waters of the Guadalupe River rush through steep-sided walls of Precambrian rock. Those outcroppings contain some of the oldest exposed rock in New Mexico, dating to 1.450 billion years old. In the 1920s, two tunnels were blasted out of that rock to give logging camps west of the tunnels access to the Santa Fe Northwestern Railway. By way of the tunnels, completed in the 1924, lumber could be hauled through the canyon. For five years the lumber industry boomed, but the Great Depression brought the logging to a near halt by 1937.
In the 1940s, the New Mexico Timber Company resumed logging, and the little town of Gilman came into existence. The tunnels and the town were named for William Gilman, vice president of railroad operations, but the logging boom wasn’t to last. The rails were eventually removed, and today only a few homes and remnants of Gilman still exist.
In the 1960s, the tunnels were deeded to the Forest Service. The roads were paved and the bridges renovated. Eventually another industry became interested in the area. At least three Hollywood movies have used Gilman tunnels as filming locations--3:10 to Yuma (2007), The Lone Ranger (2013), and The Scorch Trials in (2015).
Visitors to the tunnels can park off the narrow road in pullouts that abound with photo ops. The Guadalupe River still races through the steep canyon and becomes a water fall below the second tunnel.
The road designated Forest Service Road 376 is paved to just beyond the tunnels. From there it turns into a “somewhat maintained dirt road.” If you plan to continue, don’t take the family car! However, if you have an off-road vehicle, continue on! You won’t be disappointed. Forest Road 126 eventually takes you back to the La Cueva area and State Road 4.
The entire drive through the Gilman tunnels and beyond to La Cueva was referred to by one visitor as “exquisite,” and I agree completely. You won’t want to miss the unique beauty of the terrain and the stunning rock formations that make the extended trip worthwhile. In your visit to the Gilman tunnels, you will experience a combination of human history and natural history. Both are infinitely worthwhile!
These articles are written by the Los Alamos Historical Society Staff. Many of these articles were originally published by the