New Mexico’s largest city is a nice blend of old and new – particularly in regards to its landscape. A bright blue sky and the ancient Sandia Mountains are paired against a modern city skyline and the neon lights of Historic
Route 66. As such, this quirky population center offers many opportunities to get out and enjoy the view. But the questions is, where do you start? British banker and archeologist, John Lubbock, once said, “What we see depends mainly on what we look for.” Keeping that in mind, here are a few scenic highlights to get you looking.
Don’t Miss View: Sandia Mountains
From the volcanic mesas in the West to the foothills in the East, Albuquerque is surrounded by natural beauty that locals love and visitors fall in love with. Sandia is the Spanish word for watermelon, appropriately named on account of the pinkish color the mountains turn at sunset. Whether you experience the mountain range on a ride up the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway, a run down the Sandia Peak Area Ski Hill, a hike or mountain bike ride through the many trails within the mountain’s layers or from any point throughout the city, it is a don’t miss – or perhaps a literally can’t miss – part of the local landscape. You can also take your car up the eastern slopes of the Sandia Mountains along the Sandia Crest Byway (New Mexico Atlas, Page 53, B9) The Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway is North America’s longest aerial tramway, and the world’s second longest. Armenia’s Tatev Aerial Tramway took over that title in October 2010.
Don’t Miss Adventure: Floating Along the Rio Grande
While the Rio Grande is little more than a dribble in some parts of town, just minutes from downtown the river becomes quite a bit grander, if you will. The Level 1 River proves to be an easy and relaxing scenic float for those looking to enjoy the mountains and cottonwood forests from a canoe or kayak. While many locals dismiss the river on account of its perceived size – or lack there of – here in town, they are completely shocked that this experience exists in their own backyard. If you didn’t pack a paddlecraft on your journey, consider taking a guided trip with Quiet Waters Paddling Adventures, based in Bernalillo. They are knowledgeable guides and provide all the equipment that you need – including a great mid-route snack. If you’re not taking a guided tour, consider entering the water on the very north edge of Corrales (New Mexico Atlas, Pg. 28, B4) and floating down to Alameda Blvd.
Just Northwest of Albuquerque at the junction of NM 550 and Hwy 4 (New Mexico Atlas, Pg. 16, D2) begins the Jemez Mountain Trail, a National Scenic Byway leading to many natural and geological formations as well as ancient Indian ruins and the Jemez Pueblo. Start your leisurely journey along this byway and select a hot springs or spa option in Jemez Springs. My pick is the short but beautiful trek up to Spence Hot Springs, open sunrise to sunset. Soak in the natural pools with new friends as you kick back and enjoy view. Be sure to keep your swim trunks on though; this hot spring says no to nudity. Driving tip: Park in the unmarked lot about 7 miles north of the Jemez Springs town center along Highway 4 – GPS: 35.849N, 106.629W.
A few other favorite locales with a view: