Sandia Mountains, Albuquerque
A very popular excursion from Albuquerque is to take the Sandia Peak Tramway to the top of the mountains that fringe the eastern side of the city, for the view and for the outdoor pursuits available there (walking in the summer, skiing in the winter). We did not do that. But there is another way to visit these mountains, which has its own appeal – driving. You don’t get the excitement of the tramway (which is actually, despite the name, a cable-car) but you do get to see some marvellous scenery en route and unlike a cable car, you can stop and get out to take photos whenever something catches your eye. We did the drive in late September and as we climbed we found that the trees, still green at lower altitudes, were starting to take on their autumn hues. There were several stands of aspens that were especially marvellous, and we found ourselves stopping several times as round each bend there appeared to be an even more magnificent group.
Highway 536, or Crest Road as it is called, is slow and winding, not one to be driven in a hurry. Soon after you turn off from Highway 14 you will pass the marvellous and not-to-be missed Tinkertown Museum (see my next tip) and then shortly will start to climb. By the time you reach the peak you will be at 10,678 feet above sea level. There is a large parking lot, nearly empty when we visited, and an honour pay system for the $3 per vehicle fee (also payable if you want to stop and hike on the trails that lead from the road up at various points). You then climb a short distance higher and the city is spread out beneath you.
I expected to see the Tramway terminus and be surrounded by the crowds who choose that route up, but we found that this spot is a couple of miles north of that and consequently much quieter. There are information boards along the path pointing out the landmarks that can be seen (including a distant Mount Taylor) and describing the geology and natural history of the area.
To get here from Albuquerque take Interstate 40 east, leave at exit 175 and head north about six miles on Highway 14. The junction with Highway 536 is at a wide point on the road and consequently a little hard to spot, or so we found – we nearly missed it! Make sure you take a warm top, even if it is hot when you leave the city – the thermometer in our car dropped from 70 Fahrenheit to 58 in the course of the drive up the mountain.
As we were leaving Sharon and Larry's home, headed out for the balloon fiesta, a number of mule deer casually crossed the street in front of our car and began grazing in a neighbor's front yard.
With nary a second glance, a group of them moved about the yard sampling the green tidbits here and there. We stopped the car and I got out to take a picture. Although directly across from this little deer, she didn't seemed surprised at all to see me snapping a photo.
This neighborhood is located at Sandia Crest, one of the foothills to the Sandia Mountains.
Its a nine mile trek that will take you to the very top of the Sandia Mountains. The trail actually ends at the tram stop so you can actually hop on it to get back down to the mountain.
The tail entrance is past the main entrance to the tram parking lot. Stay on the PanAmerican Highway and do not turn right towards the tram but keep going for about a mile and you'll see the second dirt road that leads to the base of the trail.
The trail is pretty challenging but can be hiked at any time of the year. The last bit of the trail is at on the crest of the range and offers great views of the city.
One of my favorite things to do in Albuquerque.
Take a ride on the world's longest aerial tramway! It's 2.5 miles up from the floor of the valley to the top of Sandia peak. From here, you can have great veiws of Albuquerque, as well as Santa Fe which is 50 miles north. Rates range from $8 one way to $15 round trip for 1 adult. (It's gotten a little pricey over the years!) The hours are usually from 9am to 9pm, but check to see if it is open as sometimes the weather will shut it down. It's located on Tramway Blvd, which is the road that hugs the base of the mountain
Seen from anywhere in the city, the Sandia Mountains rise 10,300 plus feet over the city. The mountains make a beautiful backdrop for the city, providing breathtaking views especially during sunsets, when the mountains turn a rosy color as they reflect the light from the setting sun. There is a lot of mountain biking, hiking, skiing and just plain sight seeing to be had on this beautiful mountain.
Here is a picture of me and my old car near the base of the Sandia Crest. I was getting ready to go mountain biking, as trails are plentiful throughout the area. Some of them allow horses. If your a serious mountain biker, this is the place. You can also catch a cable car(tram) up to the top and bike down the other side which is used for skiing during the winter.
Albuquerque borders a large mountain on the east side of town called Sandia Crest. It's very beautiful as the sun rises from the other side each morning. I never got tired of looking at it. This picture was taken from the top of Sandia Crest.
From Sandia Crest you can see all of Albuquerque spread out in front of you. My picture of the city was not such a good one for all the haze. This is another one from Sandia Crest that I liked better.
Tinker Town is a must see place as far as I am concerned. It is hard to call it a museum and at first glance it looks like a tourist trap. It is just a fascinating example of a man's creativity. Tinker Town is surrounded by a wall made of 48,000 colored glass bottles embedded in cement. Inside are hundreds, maybe thousands, of hand carved wooden figures. Fascinating place to look around and not very expensive. It is on the road up to the Sandia Crest and Cibola National Forest.
The Sunsets are spectacular! You can see for miles and miles from the top of this magnificent mountain.
Many hiking trails are to be found in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains. These mountains are very beautiful. Becareful not to get lost though. Watch out for bears!
Ski Lodge on Sandia Crest. It is possible to ride the ski lifts here but the aerial tram seemed to be a better deal.