About Cuba

History

The Cuba area has been inhabited by indigenous peoples since the late Pleistocene period. Flaking sites still remain throughout the area as a reminder of the hunters and gatherers whose survival depended upon the mountainous, high desert terrain. The area is known for its many Puebloan ruins and lithic deposits.  Anasazi and Gallina people inhabited the area, as well as the ancestors of present-day Ute and Navajo tribes.  In 1769, Spaniards began to settle the nearby San Joaquin del Nacimiento tract of land, granted by the Spanish province of New Mexico.

The Rio Puerco River, with its headwaters in the Nacimiento Mountains to the east, fed numerous lakes and ponds in what is now downtown Cuba.  Spanish settlers, attracted to this water source, established villages in the late 1800s.  The standing water bodies inspired southwest Cuba’s first name, Las Lagunitas, while the steep nearby mountain front inspired the Village of Cuba’s first name, Nacimiento (“birth” in Spanish). These water bodies were eventually drained by early settlers. In Spanish, cuba means tank or basin, probably in reference either to the basin-shaped valley or the once-prevalent water. The Navajo name for Cuba, naʼazísíto’, translates to “gopher water” and is said to come from the name of an elderly chief who lived by a spring where there were many gophers.

Today

Farming and ranching are important industries in the Cuba area.  Copper, coal, oil, gas and humate fertilizer have all been extracted from the area in recent years.  Large populations of Navajo and Jicarilla Apache people reside west and north of Cuba today, while the Zia and Jemez Pueblo tribes are found to the south. Though its population numbers just over 700, Cuba is an important center for commerce and healthcare for the surrounding population of about 7,000.  Cuba serves as the gateway to the San Pedro Parks Wilderness and Chaco Culture National Historic Park, and is an important stop for travelers going between populous central New Mexico and the Four Corners Region.  It attracts all sorts of outdoor enthusiasts, and is known in particular for its outstanding wildlife.  With plenty of services, fantastic scenery, and a relaxed small-town atmosphere, Cuba makes an excellent stopping point on any CDT journey.

Information courtesy of Cuba Chamber of Commerce,  Cuba Area Visitor Guide, “San Joaquin del Nacimiento” by Hilario Luna, and “Antes” by Esther V. Cordova May. 

Cuba as a Gateway Community

Since 2007, the Village of Cuba has been supporting programs and efforts to raise awareness about the Continental Divide Trail, known as the King of Trails, and how its proximity might benefit the Village of Cuba. Beginning in 2008, community leaders and land managers have worked to identify the location for the CDT and other trails near Cuba and strengthen the community in the process. The Step into Cuba Alliance of the Nacimiento Community Foundation is the partnership that sponsors this effort. Dr. Richard Kozoll, coordinator of the Step into Cuba program and JoAnne Hughes, chairperson of the Alliance, and members of the Alliance, have been instrumental in mobilizing interest in walking and developing pedestrian enhancements and trails in and near Cuba. Step into Cuba’s mission is to improve health and quality of life for Cuba through active living.

According to Dr. Kozoll, “We have experienced extraordinary success in creating access to wonderful places to walk, and completion of a new Continental Divide Trail segment will be the crowning achievement in Cuba’s transformation to a more active outdoor lifestyle. Cuba is fast becoming a model for how other rural communities can improve their health and well-being through volunteerism, cooperation, and maximizing their resources.” Cuba has been a designated CDT Gateway Community since 2014.

Stats

Elevation: 6,906’
Population: 735 (2010 Census)

The Essentials: Where to Stay and Eat

Lodging

Cuban Lodge: 6332 US-550, (575) 289-3269
Del Prado Motel: 6380 US-550, (575) 289-3475
Frontier Motel: 6474 US-550, (575) 289-3474
Circle A Ranch: 510 Los Pinos Rd, (575) 289-3350
Sandoval County Fairgrounds (tent camping soon to open, call for info): Sandoval County Road 11, 1 mile south of Cuba, (575) 289-0062

Food

Dining
El Bruno’s Restaurante y Cantina: 6453 US-550, (575) 289-9429
Presciliano’s Restaurant: 6478 US-550, (575) 289-3177
CC’s Paisano Pizzeria: 6410 US-550, (575) 289-0302
Cuban Café: 6333 US-550, (575) 289-0257
Chaco Grill: 6454 US-550, (575) 289-0338

Grocery
Mickey’s Save-Way Market: 6392 US-550, (575) 289-3454
Family Dollar: 6371 US-550, (575) 289-0046
Circle K: 6401 US-550, (575) 289-2301

Drink

El Bruno’s Restaurante y Cantina: 6453 US-550, (575) 289-9429
Copper Mug Liquor Store & Bar: 6388 US-550, (575) 289-3754

Other Resources: Gear, Information, etc.

Outdoor Gear

Family Dollar: 6371 US-550, (575) 289-0046
Richard’s True Value: 6429 US-550, (575) 289-3705
Saveway Variety: 6392 US-550, (575) 289-3561

Internet

Cuba Community Library: 13 E Cordova Ave, (575) 289-3100

Post Office

Cuba Post Office, 6358 US-550, (575) 289-0483
Hours: Mon – Fri 8 AM – 4:30 PM, Sat 10 AM – 11:30 AM

Laundry

Frontier Laundry: 6476 US-550
Cuba Laundromat:  6353 US-550, (575) 289-9131

Information

USFS Cuba Ranger District: Junction of US-550, NM 197 and County Road 11, south end of Cuba, (575) 289-3264

Other

The Cuban Lodge will also accept hiker packages.
Address to:
(Hiker Name)
c/o Cuban Lodge
P.O. Box 1538
Cuba, NM 87013
Please put ETA on the box.
The Del Prado Motel has a hiker box.

Transportation & Trail Access

Getting Here

The Albuquerque International Sunport (ABQ) is serviced by most major airlines, and Rio Metro provides public transportation to and from.

Getting Around

Rio Metro operates a bus service (route 8) between Cuba and Albuquerque, with connection options to points across the city and to the airport.
Uber also exists in Cuba.

Continental Divide Trail Access

North of Cuba
Known locally as the Los Pinos Trail, the CDT north of Cuba climbs from the Nacimiento Mountain foothills to the top of the mountains, the San Pedro Parks Wilderness. From Cuba, take a right on Los Pinos County Rd, and at the junction with Forest Road 95, bear right. The trailhead is located at the end of the road. The shady trail follows Rito Los Pinos on its ascent to the top of the mountains, about 3 miles and 2,000’ up. At this point, enjoy the views and descend, or venture on into the San Pedro Parks Wilderness – an oasis of spruce trees, lush meadows, and grassy, rolling mountaintop meadows.

South of Cuba
Trek to the top of Mesa Portales on the Continental Divide Trail just south of Cuba. Head south of Cuba on NM 197. At mile marker 4, take the dirt road heading south. Follow the road for about 1.5 miles, and look for the trail on your left at the bottom of a wide wash. From here, the CDT climbs gradually to the top of Mesa Portales and along the rim before descending the steep, east face of the mesa, about 5 miles from its departure from the dirt road.  Enjoy sandstone cliffs and expansive views on this hike!

Events & Attractions

The Sandoval County Fair takes place Thursday – Sunday in the first week August at the Sandoval County Fairgrounds. (Sandoval County Road 11, 1 mile south of Cuba)

Attractions

Cabezon Peak
Cabezon Peak’s dramatic volcanic formation is one of the most well-known landmarks in northwest New Mexico. With an elevation of 7,785 feet, the Peak is part of the Mount Taylor volcanic field and is the largest of 50 volcanic necks rising from the Rio Puerco Valley.  (Courtesy of BLM)

Chaco Culture National Historic Park
Chaco Canyon served as a major urban center of ancestral Puebloan culture. Remarkable for
its monumental public and ceremonial buildings, engineering projects, astronomy, artistic
achievements, and distinctive architecture, itserved as a hub of ceremony, trade, and administration
for the prehistoric Four Corners area for 400 years—unlike anything before or since. (Courtesy of NPS)

Guadalupe Ruin
Guadalupe Ruin, the easternmost Chacoan Outlier, is a single-story masonry pueblo situated on an isolated sandstone mesa rising nearly 200 feet above the valley floor. The top of the mesa is isolated by sheer walls on all sides, with access to the top restricted to a narrow trail. This mesatop location provides an impressive view of dissected canyons, rugged mesas, and volcanic necks along the Rio Puerco Valley. (Courtesy of BLM)

Bisti-De-na-Zin Wilderness
The Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness is a rolling landscape of badlands which offers some of the most unusual scenery found in the Four Corners Region.  Time and natural elements have etched a fantasy world of strange rock formations made of interbedded sandstone, shale, mudstone, coal, and silt.  The weathering of the sandstone forms hoodoos – weathered rock in the form of pinnacles, spires, cap rocks, and other unusual forms.  (Courtesy of BLM)

Nogales Cliff House
Nogales Cliff House is situated in an alcove formed by sandstone cliffs. This well-preserved ruin is a structure that was probably built around 1,000 A.D. by a Pueblo Indian Group specific to this area called the Gallina (guy-ee-nah). It was abandoned sometime in the 1,200’s. The Gallina were not a part of, and were isolated from, other, more advanced pueblo cultures like those at Mesa Verde and Chaco. Perhaps because of this isolation, they lasted longer. (Courtesy of Cuba Area Visitor Guide)

Hot Springs
Natural mineral hot springs are located throughout the nearby Jemez Valley. Some are on public land, others are on private land and open to the public for a fee. (Courtesy of Village of Jemez Springs)

Valles Caldera National Preserve
About 1.25 million years ago, a spectacular volcanic eruption created the 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. The area also preserves the homeland of ancestral native peoples and embraces a rich ranching history. (Courtesy of NPS)

Explore Cuba
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Thanks to Alejandro Ortega and Richard Kozoll for their assistance with this webpage.