Sprawling along the Rio Grande River and crawling up the scrubby mesas that build to the Sandia Mountains, Albuquerque offers a variety of terrains for outside adventures. For a quick and easy dash of outdoor adventure, while Courtney explored the shops of Old Town I rented a bike from the bike share kiosk at the Zoo and cycled north along the Rio Grande trail for a few miles. The trail was well maintained, easy going and since it is not bordered by roads or highways, the ride was peaceful. Surprisingly, along this stretch, I saw very little of the Rio Grande river – and enjoyed the wild cottonwoods in the river bottom and glimpses of the Sandia Mountains. This map is helpful to plan your cycling adventure. TIP: Wear a hat, apply sunscreen and take water – the trail is not shady so it gets hot! Also, use the restroom before venturing out as I did not encounter any such facilities on my ride.
Together, Courtney and I enjoyed the Sandia Peak Tramway “flight” (see Experiences) and at the top I was delighted to find hiking trails! While she took in the panoramic sights at the top, she graciously allowed me to abandon her for a quickie impromptu hike along the top of the Sandia Crest and into the Sandia Wilderness area.
At over 10,300 feet, the pine forest at Sandia Peak is a wholly different world than the hot scrublands below; 20-30 degrees cooler, windy and rainy even in summer. From the craggy rock ledges, I could see spectacular vistas of the city, the Rio Grande and distant desert mesas to the west. To the east, the Sandia Peak Ski area slopes face a wide open landscape of the Cibola National Forest, and beyond to the grassy ranchlands of Sandia Park. The rugged rocky trail was quiet, and only a few visitors venture out from the tramway landing zone to hike, so the trail quickly felt remote and the forest was quiet except for the wind in the pines. The dense forest trimmed with shaggy moss created dark shadows, and signs warned of bears… I let my imagination get the best of me and got a little freaked out, so was a tad relieved to start heading back to the Tramway after about 20 minutes.
My forty minute hike was exhilarating and I returned to Courtney refreshed and full of enthusiasm for a return visit to explore more of this wild and beautiful place in the clouds above Albuquerque. We boarded the tramway for our descent and were treated to a spectacular sunset. Although we had not planned this, it turns out this is what many visitors plan for; sunset flights are among the most popular times so be aware and plan accordingly as wait times in line can be over an hour long. During peak tourism season and Balloon Fiesta, it can be hours long!
(TIP: Even in the heat of summer, take a rain poncho because most of the wait time is outdoors and at this elevation the weather changes quickly; it can get chilly and rainy in line, and if unprepared, you’ll be miserable.)
At the visitor center I learned it is even possible to hike up and down the seemingly impassable rugged slopes of Sandia Peak. Clearly there is much for outside travelers to enjoy just beyond this city’s limits!
On my Albuquerque outdoor adventure wish list was the Petroglyph National Monument. Only about 6 miles west of downtown, it offers hiking trails to experience the ancient culture of the region’s native peoples. We ran out of time on this visit, so next time…
Couples Travel Tip: In our travels, we try to plan our time together and apart, but sometimes there are surprise opportunities that present themselves. Courtney and I agree that if these are too good to pass up, we allow each other to take advantage of these with certain guidelines. One is to commit to an agreed upon time to reconnect. So even if an unexplored trail beckons me to keep going for hours, I honor the commitment to return. This flexible approach works great for us, and prevents either of us from feeling either “cheated” or “abandoned”! By defining a time limit, this also reduces concerns over the other’s whereabouts and worry that something bad has happened.
Learn more about Albuquerque, here.