Top 5 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.

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Abo Pass Trail

The Abo Mission Ruins

Mike Stauffer / New Mexico Tourism Department

The Abo Pass Trail is as ancient as the people who once lived in 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. Nearby you can visit the 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.

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Tent Rocks National Monument (Kasha-Katuwe)

Amazing formations at Kasha-Katuwe

James Orr / 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 ash, tuff, and pumice deposits.

Hiking through the cone rock formations is a favorite pastime for kids and adults. The recreational trail ranges from 5,570 feet to 6.760 feet elevation.

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 las Golondrinas (check for hours/days of operation).

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Jemez Mountain Trail Byway

Jemez mountain trail national scenic byway
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. As you continue through the mountains, you'll 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

Eastern slope of the Sandia Mountains

Mike Stauffer / 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. A kid-favorite is to visit Tinkertown museum.

The Sandias offer picnic areas, hiking, biking, 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.
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Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway

Madrid, New Mexico

TripSavvy / Kathleen Messmer 

The Turquoise Trail explores towns from Tijeras and Cedar Crest up to San Marcos, just below Santa Fe. Stops that should be included along the way are 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.​

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