Visiting Albuquerque's Sandia Mountains

Southwestern Landscape with Sandia Mountains

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The Sandia Mountains flank the city of Albuquerque's east side, providing not only stunning scenery and a place to participate in all a mountain has to offer, but a compass point. Anyone who lives in Albuquerque knows that if you're looking at the mountains, you're looking east. 

The Sandia Mountains have spectacular beauty. The word Sandia means watermelon in Spanish, and when the sun shines against the western face of the mountains at sunset, the pink hue the mountains take on leave no doubt as to why watermelon was the word chosen to describe that hue.

All About the Sandia Mountains

The mountains rise to 10,678 feet at their highest point at Sandia Crest, which is a popular tourist destination. The Sandia Tramway goes from the foothills at the city's high elevation on the mountain's west side for a 2.6-mile ride to the top of the mountain. The views are spectacular, spanning for over 11,000 square miles of pure New Mexico landscape. At the top of the crest, there is a restaurant, a ranger station with interpretive information, and the crest trail, which is popular with hikers. In the winter, the Sandia Peak Ski Area is open for skiing and can be accessed either via tram or by car on the eastern side of the mountain. 

The Sandias sit along the eastern edge of the Rio Grande Rift valley, having been formed in the past 10 million years. They consist of granite that is called Sandia granite, which is topped by limestone and sandstone. Sandia granite gets its pinkish hue from the potassium feldspar crystals within the granite.

The Sandias run north to south for about 17 miles and are part of the Sandia and Manzano Mountain ranges. The Manzanos lie to the south of the Sandias, separated by Tijeras Canyon and the mountain pass where Interstate 40 passes through, along with historic Route 66. 

Available Activities

The Sandias are a recreational destination for locals and visitors. In the winter they draw skiers to their slopes, along with snowboarders and snowshoers. The Sandia Crest Byway is popular with motorcyclists as well as those out for a scenic drive. The many trails that crisscross the range draw hikers and bicyclists. Rock climbers make their way to the many rock faces on the western edge. Even hang gliders make their way off the mountain in good weather.

The mountains also have a multitude of picnic areas. The Sandia Man Cave, which is near the village of Placitas, along the Las Huertas Canyon. The cave is a popular destination and an easy climb.