Views & Vistas, Albuquerque
The Sandia Mountains tower over Albuquerque 2 miles above sea level and are skied, hiked, biked and/or driven by thousands of visitors each year. Many choose to visit nearby Sandia Peak via a tram that glides along from foothill to 10,378 summit in a matter of minutes. We chose to take the 14-mile National Byway drive up even higher to 10,678 ft. Sandia Crest for amazing panoramic views and some really fun hiking.
The route zig-zags up mountains within Cibola National Forest to a parking area for the trailheads and Sandia Crest House gift shop and restaurant. Plug the fee station in the parking area, (around $3 or so) grab the camera and wander to some of the amazing viewpoints close to the gift shop or further off on some of the trails.
Trails here can be very long - the popular La Luz runs from the foothills up the mountainside for miles - and vary from a stroll to knee-punishing climb but novice hikers or those pressed for time can do just parts of longer jaunts. We spent several hours exploring sections of Crest Spur, La Luz and South Crest routes and wish we would have had time for more.
One word of warning: this is a serious altitude change for flatlanders. We did this at the beginning of our trip and should have done it near the end instead. Albuquerque is high to begin with and the abrupt change from around 300 ft above sea level in Minneapolis to over 10,000 feet was challenging. If you're coming from low elevations, put this activity off for a few days or make sure you have something for a headache, drink lots of fluids and take it slow.
I'm including several websites for information as there isn't just one with all the good stuff:
General byway info - http://www.byways.org/explore/byways/2086/index.html
Very good trail guide - http://www.sandiahiking.com/index.html
Tramway info - http://www.sandiapeak.com/index.php?page=tramway
The Sandia Crest is found by taking the road on the east side of Sandia Mountains; off hwy 14 and north of US 25. It is nearly 11,000 feet high at that point. Also on the road is Sandia Ski Range and Tinkertown Museum-a fabulous place to visit for its unique site and very different. These are views of the valley below at the crest. On the top is a visitor center. They want $3 if you park there on the top
This was the view outside from my hotel window.
The mountains are majestic covered with snow the first few days. They are not clear in this picture, but I will add more.
I love mountains!!
Great architecture and this green building was custom painted.
As far as Albuquerque goes, its spreaded out a lot. I liked it but the only downfall was that I didn't plan to be driving so much, I figured that it'd be a few to see things in the middle of town but I coudn't be more wrong.
Do- Go Downtown and see the old fashioned neon signs from the good old Route 66 days or visit the "haunted" KiMo Theatre.
Don't- Go alone downtown, its to be enjoyed with other people to bar hop, to cruise, to wander about, plus its like anyother metro-downtown- enough said.
Do- Go up the Tram in the Sandias or even hike the Sandias
Don't- Go unprepared, bring money, a camera, bring food if not willing to dish out more than $20 a plate at the restaruant up on the peak, and of course water if hiking, children friendly.
Do- Go to Nob Hill and continue enjoying Route 66
Do- Go to Old Town, maybe spend half a day, even though that wasn't long enough for me to see everything, children friendly.
Don't- Frown and think that all these places are horrible tourist traps. They are what attract tourist but I've actually met Albuquerque locals at these places doing a day trip.
Do- Buy some Genuine Turquoise, some believe by wearing it it brings good luck and by wearing Coral it'll ward away bad spirits
Don't- Buy imitation semi-precious stones or be suckered to do so
Do- Soak in the New Mexican attitude, relax and don't be too worrisome.
Do- Try their chile, its different from Texan and Arizonan chili. And also their food, its yummy.
Do- Visit the petroglyphs, one of the Pueblos, or their cultural centers or museums, children friendly.
This is my favorite part of New Mexico. I enjoy excellent wild trout fishing in the middle of a desert. Fragile and harsh.