New Mexico

9 Beautiful Hikes Near Albuquerque, New Mexico

Posted by
Kristen Arendt
July 14, 2022
Updated August 10, 2022

Photo: Danita Delimont

Albuquerque, New Mexico enjoys over 300 days of sunshine every year.

And with all that blue sky plus the nearby Sandia Mountains and the scenic Rio Grande, hiking is one activity you shouldn’t overlook when you’re visiting New Mexico’s most populous city.

From interesting geologic features and culturally significant sites to high mountain vistas with a bird’s-eye view of downtown, these 9 hikes near Albuquerque deliver on the wow factor — and are close enough to town that you can enjoy a bite or beverage (or both) after your hike.

Related Read: 10 Rad Weekend Road Trips from Albuquerque, New Mexico

1. Aldo Leopold Trail Loop

aldo leopold trail albuquerque
Photo: Faina Gurevich

Why you should go: Enjoy an easy, scenic stroll along the river.

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance: 2.3 miles
  • Elevation gain: 6 feet

To access the trail, park at the Rio Grande Nature Center. From here, you can pick up the paved Aldo Leopold Trail and hike north until the pavement ends. Turning toward the river, you have your choice of trails for your return leg. Choose your own adventure to customize the length of your hike. Just be sure to budget some extra time for stopping off at the riverside vantage points.

The main trail is named after Aldo Leopold who is widely considered the father of Wildlife Conservation and was once a resident of Albuquerque. Along it, you’ll enjoy a unique view of the bosque, or riverside forest, along the Rio Grande. For more information on the habitat and local wildlife, visit the Nature Center before or after your hike.

In the summer, you will stroll through shady cottonwood groves and willows. In the winter, keep your eyes peeled for bald eagles. A favorite spot for birdwatchers, this riverside area is home to 250 species of birds including roadrunners and wood ducks.

Related Read: 12 Best Spots to See the Fall Colors in New Mexico

2. Boca Negra Canyon

Boca Negra Canyon Albuquerque
Photo: Shutterstock

Why you should go: Take the kids on a family-friendly adventure to spot petroglyphs.

  • Difficulty: Easy/Moderate
  • Distance: 1 mile
  • Elevation gain: 250 feet

Visit the Boca Negra Canyon day-use area of Petroglyph National Monument for a fun, short outing. You can combine the area’s three self-guided trails (Mesa Point, Macaw, and Cliff Base) for a mile-long hike to see over 100 petroglyphs.

Each trail is short and easily accessible from the area’s two main parking areas. Here you’ll also find restrooms, shaded seating, picnic tables, and a drinking fountain as well as a wheelchair-accessible view scope on the patio adjacent to the restroom facility. You’ll appreciate these amenities if you have young hikers in tow.

Note that while the trails are short, they are uneven in places with concrete steps and small boulders. The Mesa Point Trail is the steepest and most difficult, and while sections of the paths are paved, they are not wheelchair or stroller accessible. Your little ones should be excited to hike on their own. Make it a fun game to see who can find the next petroglyph along the route!

Related Read: 10 Adventurous Glamping Destinations in New Mexico

3. Paseo del Bosque Trail

Paseo del Bosque Trail Albuquerque
Photo: Simon Foot

Why you should go: Create your own adventure on Albuquerque’s premier multi-use trail.

  • Difficulty: Easy / moderate
  • Distance: 16 miles (customize your hike to any length)
  • Elevation gain: 70 feet

No matter where you pick up the Paseo del Bosque Trail, you’ll be treated to some prime riverside scenery. The trail, which runs from the north to the south edges of the metro area, winds through the Rio Grande’s cottonwood bosque (forest). The 16 miles of paved multi-use trails are uninterrupted by roadways.

While the trail doesn’t get you out of town or up in the mountains, it does allow you to enjoy a different kind of hike—one highlighted by public art as well as the chance to stop in at the Rio Grande Nature Center, the Albuquerque BioPark, or the National Hispanic Cultural Center.

And the scenery along the trail isn’t to be scoffed at either. From towering cottonwoods and man-made wetlands to picnic areas along the river’s edge, the path has lots of cool spots. And, given its ease of access and customizable length, it’s a great option for getting in weekday miles or taking the kids out for a mini-hike of their own.

Related Read: 11 Awesomely Unique Places to Stay in New Mexico

4. Rinconada Canyon Trail

Rinconada Canyon Hike Albuquerque
Photo: Tony Fernandez

Why you should go: Trade the city scene for a quiet canyon with plenty of petroglyphs and wildlife.

  • Difficulty: Easy/moderate
  • Distance: 2.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 114 feet

Another great option within Petroglyph National Monument, the Rinconada Canyon Trail provides a relatively short, easy outing with a chance to spot 300 prehistoric and historic petroglyphs. Additionally, you can view the remnants of old rock wall alignments and shelters, another glimpse into the long history of human inhabitants in the area.

The sandy path follows along the northern escarpment of the canyon, winding over small sand dunes along the top of the mesa. This section has the most petroglyphs, many of which were carved by the Ancestral Pueblo People. The middle section of the trail heads through the canyon, before returning you to the top of the mesa at the end of the loop.

Along with coming ready with plenty of water and sun protection, bring a pair of binoculars for a close-up view of the petroglyphs and the local wildlife. And if you’re interested in learning more about the area’s history, swing by the visitor center a mile up the road before or after your outing.

Related Read: 11 Outstanding Cabin Rentals Near Pagosa Springs, Colorado

5. Sabino Canyon East & West Trail Loop

sabino canyon open space albuquerque
Photo: Bernalillo County

Why you should go: Escape to mountain meadows for an enjoyable loop with lots of scenery.

  • Difficulty: Easy/moderate
  • Distance: 2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 315 feet

Head to the mountains, about 25 miles southeast of Albuquerque, for a hike through scenic piñon juniper forests and upland meadows. Sabino Canyon Open Space features a 2-mile, singletrack trail that connects the east and west side of the property for a lovely hike on easy-going terrain.

The hike ranges from 7,000 to 7,200 feet on the northern plateau of the Manzano Mountains, south of Cedro Peak Campground. If you’re looking to escape to the mountains and avoid some of the more popular trailheads, this is one option for beating the crowds—and the heat.

Along the way, you might spot locals like mule deer, black bears, porcupines, diamondback rattlesnakes, raptors, and a variety of songbirds. In wet years, a seasonal spring creates a riparian area where you might spot wildflowers. And be sure to check out the interpretive signage detailing the history of the area.

Related Read: 12 Enchantingly Romantic Getaways in New Mexico

6. 4th of July Trail

4th of July Trail Albuquerque
Photo: Flickr

Why you should go: Plan an extra special outing in the autumn to do some leaf peeping.

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Distance: 4.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 918 feet

Head to the Manzano Mountains for a fabulous loop hike on the 4th of July Trail. Located in Cibola National Forest, the trailhead is located on the west/northwest end of the Fourth of July Campground. You’ll find day-use parking and a picnic area near the entrance to the campground. Note that it is a dirt road to reach the trailhead, so a high-clearance 4×4 vehicle is recommended.

When hiking the loop counterclockwise, you’ll have a gradual but steady two-mile climb to get started, so pace yourself on those first few miles. The elevation gain is worth the extra effort though as you’ll enjoy great views of the Rio Grande valley below as well as the forested slopes around you.

Though this hike is beautiful in the spring and summer, it really comes into its own in the fall. The yellow, red, and orange foliage of the maples, oaks, and aspens along the trail makes for a showy backdrop for your hike.

Related Read: The 9 Best Weekend Road Trips from El Paso, Texas

7. Domingo Baca Trail to TWA 260 Crash Site

Domingo Baca Trail Albuquerque
Photo: Flickr

Why you should go: Visit a historic plane crash site on a beautiful trail in the Sandia Mountains.

  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Distance: 7 miles
  • Elevation gain: 2,142 feet

If you’re looking for a challenging hike that will give you a workout and reward you with a unique piece of local history, check out the Domingo Baca Trail. From the trailhead at the popular Elena Gallegos Open Space, the trail climbs steadily through Domingo Baca Canyon. You’ll trade the lowland desert scrub for forested slopes the higher you climb.

Along the way, you’ll navigate steep sections, creek crossings, and dense brush. Near the end, you’ll reach the crash site of TWA Flight 260, just underneath the Sandia Peak Tramway. You’ll have to hunt off-trail for the remnants of this ill-fated plane that crashed in the Sandias in 1955.

Once the hard work of the climb is over, simply retrace your steps to the trailhead on this out-and-back hike. You’ll be treated to panoramic views of Albuquerque as the trail exits the canyon—more than enough reward for working up a sweat on the climb.

Related Read: 11 Magnificent Hikes Near Santa Fe, New Mexico

8. South Sandia Peak

South Sandia Peak Albuquerque
Photo: Ernie Dow

Why you should go: Earn your views after a challenging climb.

  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Distance: 11.1 miles
  • Elevation gain: 3,789 feet

For experienced hikers or those looking for a long day on their feet, plan an outing to South Sandia Peak. When done as an out-and-back hike along the Embudito Trail, you can plan on nearly 6 miles of steady climbing—followed by an equally long descent.

Along the route, you’ll climb through several ecosystems representative of the Albuquerque area. From the dry desert scrub of the lower elevations to the forested upper slopes, these foothills are home to a variety of birds and wildlife. In the spring and summer, you can spot wildflowers, too.

Be prepared to navigate some rocky sections and keep in mind that there may be snow and ice at the higher elevations depending on the time of year. The reward for all your work is outstanding views toward Albuquerque and deeper into the Sandias. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, time your hike to catch a sunrise or sunset at the peak.

Related Read: 7 Awesome Scenic Drives in New Mexico

9. La Luz Trail

La Luz Trail Albuquerque
Photo: Marc Soller

Why you should go: Check out one of the most popular trails in Albuquerque.

  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Distance: 15 miles
  • Elevation gain: 3,200 feet

One of the bucket list hikes in Albuquerque, the La Luz Trail takes hikers up to one of the highest points in the Sandia Mountains. Recommended for fit, experienced hikers, plan on lots of elevation gain and a long day on your feet. Also, be sure to bring plenty of water as the lower portions of the trail are not as shaded and can get quite hot.

From the day-use parking area at the La Luz Trailhead, the well-maintained trail climbs steadily for most of its length with a few steeper sections in the first five miles. On most days, you’ll likely be sharing the trail with lots of other hikers and trail runners, so be courteous. Along the way up, you’ll find several great spots to take a breather and enjoy the views.

The trail climbs up to the Crest Trail near the upper terminal for the Sandia Peak Tram. If a 15+ mile hike isn’t on your agenda for the day, you can always pay to ride the tram back down. No matter how you plan your return trip, be sure to spend some time up top appreciating the spectacular views.

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