New Mexico offers so much for outdoor activities, in particular — hiking. First, the weather is relatively pleasant year round. It may be cold in the winter, but by mid-day the sun makes even cold days pleasant. Although the weather may be hot in the summer, hiking is pleasant on shaded trails at higher elevation. Days with snow or rain are few.
The geology is absolutely amazing. It varies from lava fields (the Malpais near Grants and other places) to mesas and other vertical features that reveal so many examples of the earth’s evolution. One can hike through a valley with a stream running through it or climb a mountain to above the tree line. I am amazed at the range of colors in the geology, and even then the colors change with changing light conditions. One can find petrified wood, oceanic fossils, fascinating rocks and rock formations, and many more interesting specimens from eons past. There are vast open spaces (such as the Rio Puerco valley) to juniper, pinon, ponderosa, and fir forests in the Jemez, Sangre de Cristo, Sandia, and Manzano Mountains. And there is wildlife to be found: antelope on the plains, elk in the mountains (tho’ we haven’t seen any ourselves, yet), turkeys (saw one in the Sandias last week), deer, coyotes, rabbits, roadrunners, and we’re told bear and bobcat in the mountains. And all of this within an hour or two of Albuquerque.
There is history all about – in addition to the geology of millenia under your feet almost anywhere you walk, there are remains of cultures of peoples from ancient times through the Pueblo peoples, the Spanish “invasion” beginning in the 16th century, and more recently European-Americans migrating from “back east”. One can find petroglyphs, remains of settlements of Pueblo cultures, battlefields and forts dating from the settling of the West to the Civil War, and much more.
And the views are spectacular. The air is almost always clear enough to see 20, 30, even 50 miles distant. And once climbing even a short gain in elevation, one can see miles and miles across a valley such as the Rio Grande or Rio Puerco. In the Sandia Mountains overlooking Albuquerque or Placitas, the whole city is laid out before you.
Hiking can be easy or strenuous. Trails in the Sandia Mountains usually involve a large gains in elevation – the uphill treks can give one a good workout and returning downhill uses the muscles in quite a different way. Out in the Rio Puerco valley, among the remains of many volcanoes, the terrain is much more level. Distances can vary from a mile or two, such as the trails in Albuquerque’s Elena Gallegos Open Spaces on the eastern edge of the city, to as many miles as one might tackle – the most widely known trail in the Sandias is the La Luz trail. It starts at the base of the Sandia Mountains near the Sandia Peak Tramway and climbs up to Sandia Crest, a distance of 7.5 miles (one way) and an elevation gain of 3,210 feet (elevation at the top: 10,250 feet MSL).
This truly is the “Land of Enchantment”. Welcome to my world of Hiking in New Mexico. Join with me, Pat, and friends to enjoy this wonderful state.