Albuquerque and its surrounding landscapes are filled with outdoor adventures for all ages. Here are 5 easy, family-friendly trails in or near Albuquerque that are perfect for young explorers (and fun for adults, too).
1. The Corrales Bosque Preserve Trails
These easy trails are packed dirt and flat, making this a great choice for families. The system of braided trails wends through a 6-mile route, but it’s easy to make an out-and-back hike customized to any mileage and ability. Ancient cottonwoods tower over the trails, littering them with leaves and providing homes to many animals, including porcupines. Canada geese, sandhill cranes, bald eagles, and many other avian species migrate through or live in the preserve. Since they are near the river and shaded by the cottonwood forest, these trails keep cool even in summer.
What kids will love: Children (and adults) can climb trees, crunch leaves, spot wildlife, look for bugs, and play in this riparian wilderness. You may not get many miles in before heading back to the car, but you can spend hours just immersed in nature.
Location: This system of trails travels north and south along the west bank of the Rio Grande, from the north end of Corrales to the pedestrian bridge at Alameda Boulevard.
Where to park: Parking is available at the north end of Siphon Road and off Alameda Boulevard at the south end.
2. Rio Grande Nature Center State Park
The Rio Grande Nature Center State Park visitors center provides hands-on displays detailing the water cycle of the Rio Grande and its importance to the animals that live along and in the river. Throughout the summer, volunteers are on hand to explain special exhibits and lead nature-themed arts-and-crafts projects during camps for kids. Outside, walking paths lead to ponds teeming with turtles, ducks, mosquito fish, dragonflies, and many other critters. Observation blinds allow viewers to watch wildlife without disturbing the animals. The park connects with the Aldo Leopold Trail, which leads to the Rio Grande and its vast bosque trail system along the river.
What kids will love: The exhibits are directed for kids but informative for adults as well. The paths and trails are great for all ages; it’s a thrill to get so close to the turtles and other animals living in the ponds.
Location: The 38.8-acre state park is at the west end of Candelaria Road off the roundabout on Rio Grande Boulevard.
Where to park: There’s a gravel parking lot at the center. The park is also accessible via the paved Paseo del Bosque Trail for bicycling along the Rio Grande.
3. Sandia Cave
The hike and cave are a true New Mexican adventure for intrepid kids. Beginning at 7,040 feet, the trail (FS Trail 72) climbs 140 feet over a half-mile to a metal spiral staircase that leads to the entrance of Sandia Cave. Sometimes called Sandia Man Cave for the stone tools, arrowheads, and Ice Age animal bones excavated here in the 1930s, the cave extends back 466 feet. While the cave is not considered dangerous, flashlights and helmets are advised. Be prepared to get dirty, and wear a face mask to help guard against the fine limestone dust that coats the floor.
What kids will love: This hike brings out the Indiana Jones in kids (and adults). Safe, short, but with a sense of awe and mystery, this trek involves hiking, climbing, and entering a dark cave where mammoth and other Pleistocene animals once lived. Along the trail, keep an eye out for shells and other marine fossils from when this region was a shallow sea some 300 million years ago.
Location: Sandia Cave is located just off NM 165 in the Sandia Mountains near Placitas. NM 165 becomes a dirt road after passing through Placitas and can be rutted and extremely muddy after rain. While passenger vehicles are okay, it is best to use a higher-clearance vehicle, if possible. The trailhead is a slow-going 2.2 miles on the left from where the pavement of NM 165 ends.
Where to park: There is a small dirt parking area at the trailhead. The area can become crowded on the weekends, so take care if you park along the narrow, rugged NM 165.
4. Piedras Marcadas Canyon Trail
This 1.5-mile loop trail is 1 of 3 marked trails within Petroglyph National Monument. Piedras Marcadas Canyon Trail passes more than 400 images carefully pecked into basalt boulders by ancestral Puebloans centuries ago. Anthropomorphic, animal, and geometric art grace this landscape that is sacred to many.
What kids will love: Youngsters love looking for images hidden among the jumbles of boulders. Imaginations soar while wondering about the meaning of all this art, and all visitors gain a deeper appreciation for New Mexico’s Native American cultures and history.
Location: Piedras Marcadas Canyon trailhead is located off Golf Course Road at Jill Patricia Street NW, behind the Valvoline Instant Oil Change.
Where to park: There is a small gravel parking area at the trailhead.
5. 4 Seasons Nature Trail
Also called the Peak Nature Trail (Trail 97), this half-mile trail is a great introduction to the animals, trees, and plants of the Sandia Wilderness. The trail is at 10,300 feet above sea level and shows off sweeping views of Albuquerque below. Kiosks describe the fir, spruce, wildflowers, and animals that live in this subalpine forest. The trail ends at Crest Trail (Trail 130), about 1,000 feet from the starting trailhead. Those wanting to extend their hike can take the Crest Trail to the Kiwanis Cabin, a historic WPA-era rock structure with great views of Albuquerque below. Follow the Crest Trail for a mile to the cabin and then return to the upper Tramway terminal.
What kids will love: Children can earn a Junior Ranger Badge by picking up an activity sheet at the Forest Service information desk at the Upper Tram Terminal. Complete the short hike and answer the questions on the activity sheet, and then return to the information desk for a Forest Service badge or patch. The 2.7-mile long, 15-minute tram ride is an exciting adventure all on its own.
Location: This easy hike begins just to the north of Ten 3 Restaurant next to the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway upper terminal atop the Sandia Mountains. It is reached via a 15-minute tram ride.
Where to park: The trail is reached by taking the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway to the top of the Sandia Mountains.
Steve Larese enjoys exploring these Albuquerque-based trails with his children and dog.
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