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On Walkabout On: The Sandia Peak Tramway

Basic Information

  • What: Sandia Peak Tramway
  • Where: Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • Price: Adults $20, Kids and Seniors have discounted rates
  • More Information: Sandia Peak Tramway website

Narrative

One of the things that is a must when visiting Albuquerque, New Mexico is take a ride on the Sandia Peak Tramway.  Albuquerque sits at the base of the Sandia Mountains in a high desert environment along the Rio Grande River.  Like other high mountain ranges in the American Southwest the Sandia Mountains are a “Sky Island” of green alpine scenery in this vast desert.  There are few tramways in the worlds that allow riders to experience two totally different environments in the matter of minutes like the Sandia Peak Tramway does.  The tramway is located in southeastern Albuquerque which was actually quite easy to find due to all the signs on the major streets in Albuquerque pointing visitors to the tramway:


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As we followed the signs to the tramway we were impressed by the views we had of the Sandia Mountains on this beautiful day:

The road to the tramway traverses through a very nice neighborhood of adobe homes that are a popular architectural design in New Mexico that reflects the region’s Native-American and Hispanic heritage:

After a short drive through the neighborhood we arrived at the tramway station at the base of Sandia Peak:

Tickets on the tramway are not cheap and cost $20 for an adult to ride on.  Teenagers are $17 and younger kids cost $12.  So depending on how many kids you have this could be an expensive outing for a family but I think the experience will ultimately be worth the price.  You can see the complete ticket prices at this link.

There was actually quite a long line to get on one of the trams to the top of the mountain when we visited so we had to wait about 20 minutes before we were able to board one of the trams:

Here is a view of the tram station at the base of the mountain as we began our ride up Sandia Peak:

Right from the start of the tram ride to the 10,378 foot summit of Sandia Peak, there was awesome views of Albuquerque:

The various rock formations that are visible as the tram travels up the Sandia Mountains are truly incredible when viewed from this perspective:

I really have to do some hiking up here in the Sandias some day:

We also saw a few other trams traveling back down the mountain as we traveled up it:

Here is the view as we approached the crest of the Sandia Mountains:

Once at the tramway station at the summit of Sandia Peak we exited the tram and were immediately impressed by the view from the station:

After admiring the view we walked towards the tramway station where we were welcomed by this sign letting those that don’t already know that they are standing at 10,378 feet in altitude:

Inside the tramway station they had a small display about the geological history of the Sandia Mountains.  Granite forms the core of the Sandia Mountains and is exposed along its rugged western face.  About 1.4 billion years ago this granite formed when a large mass of hot rock cooled more than 25,000 feet below the surface of the Earth.  The inside of the mountains may be granite but the crest of the mountains used to be a seafloor if you can believe it.  300 million years ago a shallow sea covered most of New Mexico.  What is now the Sandia Mountains was then a seafloor.  Chemicals dissolved in the seawater and the shells of marine organisms accumulated to form the layers of limestone that now cap the mountain range.  Fossils of sea creatures can still be found in the rock today.  This limestone phenomenon is not isolated to just the Sandias and can be found in other areas across the Southwest. A short walk from the tramway station on the summit of the peak is this lookout that provides incredible views of the ancient sea floor that composes the limestone rock at the crest of the Sandias:

During the past 25 million years great fractures in the Earth’s crust developed along what is now the Rio Grande Valley.  Between the fractures the crust dropped and outside of them the crust was pushed up.  One of the the pushed up pieces is the giant block of crust tipped up sideways that is now called the Sandia Mountains and can be seen in all their glory from the lookout.  Here is a view of the tramway station as seen from this lookout:

Here was the view from the tramway station at the top of Sandia Peak:

All of Albuquerque down below in the vast desert was visible.  The green line running through the center of the photograph is where the Rio Grande River is located.  This river cuts a swath of green during its entire course through the deserts of New Mexico and Texas.  Here is a closeup look at downtown Albuquerque that is visible from the peak’s summit:

Here is the view looking towards the northeast of the small ski resort located on the top of Sandia Peak:

Out in the distance beyond this mountains is where the New Mexico state capital Santa Fe is located:

From the tramway station at the top of Sandia Peak there is a number of hiking trails for visitors to check out.  My wife and I decided to take a short walk along the trail that follows the crest of the mountain to the south:

Along this trail there are a number of opportunities to take an up close look at the limestone that composes the mountains’ crest:

The top of the Sandia Mountains is also home to a number of aspen trees that can only grow at high altitudes with plenty of moisture:

Along the trail I also saw a number of beautiful wild flowers:

Besides the natural features to see the trail also has a number of lookouts with even more great views of Albuquerque sitting over 5,000 feet down below:

Here is a view looking south towards the rest of the Sandia Mountains:

Conclusion

Overall, my wife and I had a great time riding the Sandia Peak Tramway, but like I mentioned in the posting it may be too expensive for some families.  If this is the case there is a highway that also can be driven up to the top of the Sandias.  Either way you go I can ensure you will enjoy your visit to these beautiful mountains.

Have you rode the Sandia Peak Tramway?  If so please leave a comment and let others know what you thought about your visit.

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