5 Top Scenic Drives Around Albuquerque

Albuquerque serves as a great launch point for scenic drives and weekend getaways. Whether visiting during Balloon Fiesta or spending time in New Mexico at any time of year, these five destinations offer an enchanting retreat from the city.

  • 01 of 05

    Abo Pass Trail

    Abo Mission
    ••• Near Mountainair, NM, the Abo Ruins are one of three now-abandoned Salinas Pueblos (Gran Quivira and Quarai are the other two) that now make up the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument. On the Abo Pass Trail Scenic Byway. Photo by Mike Stauffer / Courtesy New Mexico Tourism Department

    The Abo Pass Trail is as ancient as the people who once lived within its path. The Abo Trail served as a trading route between the Pueblo and the Plains Indians hundreds of years ago. It links with the Camino Real Scenic Byway and the Salt Missions Trail Scenic Byway. To take the trail, drive east on NM 47 from Belen toward US Highway 60. You'll see the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge, the Manzano Mountains and the grassy plains of the Rio Grande Valley. Visit the Abo Pueblo ruins, once one of the largest Pueblo villages of the southwest. Visit nearby Gran Quivira and Quarai ruins, which with Abo form the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument. Spend the night in the historic Schaffer Hotel in the arts community of Mountainair.

  • 02 of 05

    Tent Rocks National Monument (Kasha-Katuwe)

    Kasha-Katuwe
    ••• The Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument offers visitors a unique landscape of tent-shaped rock cones. Photo by James Orr / Courtesy New Mexico Tourism Department

    The cone-shaped tent rock formations of Kasha-Katuwe National Monument are the result of dynamic geologic events. Six to seven million years ago, volcanoes erupted to leave behind the ash, tuff and pumice deposits. Hiking through the cone rock formations is a favorite for kids and adults. The recreational trail ranges from 5,570 feet to 6.760 feet. Tent Rocks lies between Albuquerque and Santa Fe and is easily accessible off I-25. Take the Santo Domingo/Cochiti Lake exit (Exit 259) and follow the signs on NM 22. While in the area, visit the living history museum of El Rancho de los Golondrinas (check for hours/days of operation).

  • 03 of 05

    Jemez Mountain Trail Byway

    Jemez Mountain Trail National Scenic Byway
    ••• Courtesy of Sandoval County Tourism

    The drive to Jemez includes spectacular geologic formations, an ancient Indian ruin, the Jemez Pueblo and the beauty of the Jemez Mountains. Visit the town of Jemez Springs, where art galleries abound and the Los Ojos Restaurant and Saloon features a great green chile cheeseburger and some local atmosphere. Jemez has hot springs and sites such as Soda Dam, Cabezon and Battleship Rock as hiking destinations. Continue through the mountain, pass the Valles Calderas National Preserve and find Los Alamos and Bandelier National Monument. Or head to Fenton Lake State Park for recreation.

  • 04 of 05

    Sandia Crest Trail Byway

    Mountaintop
    ••• Albuquerque sits at the western foot of the Sandia Mountains. Shown here is the view looking at the eastern slope, which is greener and far more rural than the Albuquerque side. Photo by Mike Stauffer / Courtesy New Mexico Tourism Department

    Just a few minutes outside of Albuquerque, the Sandia Mountains offer visitors the chance to feel worlds away from the city. Visit the Museum of Archaeology and Culture in Cedar Crest, or kid favorite, Tinkertown. The Sandias offer picnic areas, hiking and biking recreation, and winter sports. After stopping at points along the crest road, visit Sandia Crest for its incredible view of Albuquerque and the Cibola Forest.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05
    Cerrillos Chapel
    ••• Photo by Dan Monaghan / Courtesy New Mexico Tourism Department

    The Turquoise Trail explores towns from Tijeras and Cedar Crest up to San Marcos, just below Santa Fe. One must-do stop along the way is Madrid, followed by Cerrillos and the Casa Grande Trading Post. Whether it's a bit of history or some of New Mexico's famed art galleries, the Turquoise Trail has plenty to explore. Get to the trail by taking I-40 east to Cedar Crest (Exit 175). Head north along Route 14 and discover each stop along the way. The trail starts in Tijeras and ends at San Marcos/Lone Butte near Santa Fe. Madrid is a must-stop along the route, known for its history, art galleries, good music and good food.