Things To Do Around Albuquerque
Things To Do Around Albuquerque
Tucked away in the middle of New Mexico, as I say, the middle of nowhere, one will find the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument. The three sites are located near the small community of Mountaineer and offer a glimpse into a unique time in history. The signs posted around the sites explains a time entrenched with cultural borrowing, conflict, and struggles. The now abandoned sites stand as reminders of the Spanish and Pueblo People’s early encounters.
About thirty-five miles Southwest of Grants, one will find the El Morro National Monument. Because of the reliable waterhole hidden at the base of this 250-foot sandstone bluff, it was a popular camping site for Ancestral Puebloans, Spanish and American travelers for hundreds of years. These travelers carved over 2,000 signatures, dates, messages, and petroglyphs into the sandstone around the base of the bluff. The trail around the bottom allows for one to see many of these messages left by famous historians. The trail to the top, allows one to be rewarded with the spectacular views of the Zuni Mountains, the volcanic craters of the El Malpais area and the Ancestral Puebloan ruins.
National Historic Landmarks worth visiting is the Jemez National Landmark located in Jemez Springs. Here one will find a 500-year-old Indian Village and the San Jose Church dating back to 1621. The Kuaua Pueblo in the city of Bernalillo was first settled in 1325 AD, and had around 1200 occupants. During the 1930’s when archeologist was excavating the site a square Kiva was discovered. The Kiva contained many layers of mural paintings and they are the finest examples of Pre-Columbian art ever found in the United States. Fourteen of the original murals are on display in the visitor center.
Right in Albuquerque is the Petroglyph National Monument, home to one of the largest petroglyph sites in North America. The carving of designs and symbols on the volcanic rocks date back 400 to 700 years. The monument has four locations and one should go to the visitor center to get a map for directions to each.
The Piedras Marcadas Canyon is an easy to navigate 1 ½ mile sandy trail, which wraps around the base of the volcanic rocks. Along the trail one will find hundreds of petroglyph carvings on the volcanic rocks. One must take the time to really look at the boulders, for they are no signs pointing at them, which makes the trail a more relaxing and enjoyable walk.
Boca Negra Canyon contains only 5% of the petroglyph’s in the national monument, but is the most visited. Here one will find three trails with varying difficulty. The trail to the summit was by far the most challenging; however, the views from the top was well worth it. The three trails combined for a one-mile strenuous cardio workout. Here one will find little markers where the carvings are located.
Rinconada Canyon has a 2.2-mile trail which makes for excellent jogging as well as for leisurely walks. Due to the natural restoration project the trail is clearly marked with poles and wire. Unfortunately, the trail in most places aren’t close enough to the base for good views of the carvings. The return trail takes one through the middle of the crater through the salt brush.
The volcano day use area sits just outside of town and displays no petroglyph’s; however, this location is popular with the locals for the walking trails. The volcano loop is 2.25 miles while the Vulcan loop is.95 miles. The trails start out flat and turn to steep inclines with loose footing. The views from the top of each location are spectacular.
The Sandia Mountains just East of Albuquerque are the most visited mountains in New Mexico and there are two scenic byways, one travels along the base while the other one goes up the mountain. The Turquoise Trail National scenic byway on Highway 14 which travels along the base is the old route from Albuquerque to Santa Fe and is about fifty miles long. Along this route one will see mountains on both sides as well as spaces of arid land. During the coal boom the towns of Madrid and Cerrillos boomed, now both are merely ghost towns.
Madrid somewhat has recovered due to the arrival of artist and craftspeople in the 1970’s. They converted old stores into quality shops, cafes and galleries with everything here being truly original. The original Tavern and Coal Mine Museum are still present, and the 150 residents don’t allow any type of chain stores and the town only stretches about a mile along route 14. The town of Cerrillos once boomed with twenty-one saloons, four hotels and several newspapers, now the remnants of its sleepy Front Street has served to more than a dozen films. With its dirt streets, it’s a picturesque reminder of the Old West. Today they are only serval shops and galleries, post office, one saloon and a few family homes.
The Sandia Crest Byway home of the Bighorn Sheep, Mule Deer, Black Bear and many species of birds including the Golden Eagle which soars above the crest is the highest scenic drive in the Southwest at two miles above sea level. Starting at highway 14 on the East side of the mountain the byway climbs for thirteen miles up a steep winding road through the Cibola National forest while the West side is like a craggy, cliff face. Throughout the drive one will find pull outs which allows for time to take in the spectacular views of the valley below and the surrounding mountains. In addition, they are parking lots for the hikers to explore deeper into the mountain side and two snow play areas for children and adults.
The Jemez trail starts at the intersection of highway 4 and 550 Northwest of Bernalillo and ends at the intersection of highway 501 near Los Alamos. Part of the trail is on highway 126 which is about thirty miles from the start of the byway and travels Northwest at Amanda’s mountain country store back to highway 550. The byway is a two-lane road and used mostly by locals which live in the small communities on the canyon floor.
About ten miles into the drive, one will enter the Jemez Canyon. For the most part, the canyon is very narrow with towering red-rock cliffs on both sides. Along the canyon floor one will feel dwarfed by the echo of the Jemez River off the volcanic cliffs. The most popular community along the canyon floor is Jemez Springs, which has become a popular destination for tourist over the years, with many of the buildings here being over 100 years old; however, they are not used for the same purpose when originally built. Although Jemez Springs population is only 272 residents, the town was rewarded an All-America City in 1995, the smallest community in the United States to get this award. The town is known for its geological and culture attractions in the area.
Just past the junction of highway 126, the 8,800-foot climb to the trail across the top of the Jemez mountain Range begins. Along the mountain range are large forests of Spruce-Fir, Aspen, and Ponderosa Pines. Near the end of the mountain range, the scenery opens to reveal the incredible Valles Caldera, a volcanic crater up to twenty-five miles wide, known for Elk, Black Bears and natural hot springs. The view here was past awesome, and the San Antonia Mountain range can be viewed along the Northern side of the crater. Across the crest of the mountain range, one will find many hiking trails and areas for summer camping. Descending the East side of the mountain range, one will enter the Santa Fe National Forest.
About forty-five miles West of Albuquerque is Sky City, home of the Acoma Pueblo which is the oldest continuously occupied community in North America. At the present time there are fewer than forty year-round residents in the earthen homes. The Pueblo was built on top of a 367-foot sheer-walled sandstone bluff in a valley studded with towering monoliths. The mesa-top settlement is known around the world for its unique culture and art. A hand cut staircase carved into the stone was the only access to the top before modern times and visitors are allowed to descend the staircase at the end of the tour.
The Rio Grande Nature Center State Park is the perfect place for the bird lover with over 250 species, including roadrunners and wood ducks. The park has a seventeen-mile paved bike trail as well as a two-mile walking trail which takes one through the forest of cottonwoods, willow thickets and open sand flats along the Rio Grande river bank.
ABQ Biopark is truly amazing and hosts the Zoo, Aquarium, and Botanic Garden. When visiting the Zoo, one will find a large selection of animals of all sizes from around the world. In addition, there is a carousel, playground and large picnic area for families to enjoy. The Aquarium and Botanic Garden is located 2.5 miles from the Zoo, one can drive or take the ABQ Park train which runs every thirty minutes in each direction. The Aquarium is quite small and takes only a short time to walk through; however, the garden is extremely large and quite impressive.
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