Sure, you can snag lofty views from the famed Sandia Peak Tramway—if you can find a gap in the crowds. Alternatively, ditch the congestion and earn your summit by tagging nearby South Sandia Peak from the valley floor as part of a 22.1-mile shuttle hike. You’ll link together sky islands by way of pinyon-juniper scrublands, ponderosa pine forests, and spruce-fir woods. Not everyone will be up for the steep 3,800-foot ascent to South Sandia, but that’s a good thing: No need to share panoramic views at the summit.
Turn-by-turn Follow the Foothills Trail north to the Embudo Trail and head east up Embudo Canyon (spring runoff feeds desert flora like evening primrose and prickly pear). Bag 9,782-foot South Sandia Peak via a .7-mile (one-way) spur at mile 7, then return to the main trail. Continue .3 mile to a junction and follow the Sandia Crest Trail south to the trailside South Sandia Spring at mile 9.4; fill up before proceeding to a ridgetop campsite (first-come, first-serve) at mile 9.7. Views extend across Albuquerque to the west, and open sightlines to the east ensure morning warmth from the rising sun. Next day, retrace your steps north and continue on the Sandia Crest Trail past the Embudo Trail junction. Take in 360-degree views of the surrounding Chihuahuan Desert as you trace the treeless spine of the Sandias for the next 7 miles to a junction at mile 15.4. Descend via the Pino and Foothills Trails to the Empudito trailhead. Follow city roads 1.1 miles to the Tramway@Montgomery Park and Ride and take the #5 or #8 bus back to Alvarado Transportation Center*.
Get there From Albuquerque’s Alvarado Transportation Center, take bus #11 to Copper @ Turner ($1, 45 mins; departures 6:08 a.m. to 8:29 p.m.) and walk .3 mile east to the trailhead at the end of Copper Ave.