Quarai Mission Ruins

Round Trip Distance: 0.5 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 6609 - 6640 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 45 mins.
Trailhead: Quarai Visitor Center
Fee: none
Attractions: Mission and pueblo ruins

The Quarai (pronounced: KWA-rye.) Mission Ruins are located in Punta de Agua (translation: point of water or water point), New Mexico and are one of the three Spanish Mission/Indian Pueblo sites that are part of the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument. The oldest part of the pueblo dates to the 1300s but appears to have been abandoned for several hundred years until just before the Spaniards arrival in 1626 by which time the pueblo had grown to a considerable size of 400 to 600 people. The pueblo was abandoned once again in the 1670s due to drought and famine and never reoccupied.

The easiest way to find the best route from wherever you are to the Quarai Ruins is to enter Quarai Mission Ruins into your driving app and then compare it to the map we have provided to see if it suits you. Quarai is 85 miles from Albuquerque via I-25 and 63 miles via I-40.

Currently the ruins are only open from 9am-5pm regardless of what the sign or the internet might say so plan accordingly. Also at present they aren't charging an entrance fee.

A nice wide accessible trail leads from the Visitor Center to the ruins. The trail that branches off on the right leads to a shaded picnic area and the Spanish Corrals. It also serves as the return route if you choose to complete the full half mile loop.

Most of the pueblo consists of rubble piles that are covered with dirt.

A kiosk along the trail has an artist interpretation of how the pueblo would have appeared at the height of its inhabitation.

The trail brochure states: "Before you stands the church of Nuestra Señora de La Purísima Concepcion de Cuarac, an enduring symbol of the early Spanish presence in this valley....The red sandstone walls, once protected by adobe plaster, are forty feet high on foundations seven feet deep and six feet wide. The interior length of the church is one hundred feet. The nave is twenty-seven feet wide, and the transept fifty feet." (Quarai Trail Guide: Written by Sue Schofield, Murty Sullivan, and Norma Pineda-Plog.)

The thickness of the walls is apparent from within the church. Now empty, the slots at the top of the walls once held the beams that supported the roof.

A maze of rooms can be explored outside the towering walls of the church. Here among the many compartments you will find a square kiva and rooms that would have been the priests and mission workers quarters, kitchen and storerooms.

As the paved trail continues past the church is passes by the South Convento and a circular ring of stones that at first appears to be a kiva but as explained by a nearby kiosk is actually what is left of a watchtower, or torreón, that was built by Hispanic settlers in the early 1800's as part of their fortifications that protected their settlement from Apache attacks.

One of the best reasons to continue on around the loop is the view that it offers of the mission.

An interesting aspect of the Quarai Mission Runs is how its written history, left by the Spaniards, fades into that which has been passed down through time by the Tiwa speaking descendants of the Quarai Pueblo that dispersed and relocated to other pueblos in the area where they live to this  day. While in the area you may also want to include a visit to the Abo and Gran Quivira Mission Ruins that are also part of the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument. As far as the Quarai Mission Ruins go, if you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.