Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA

 

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We explored Albuquerque, New Mexico in April 2015 during spring break. I was excited to take on the many National Parks and Monuments that dot the area surrounding both Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Our trip to New Mexico came out to be one of the least expensive we have had thus far, grand totaling at just under $700 for a whole week of exploration for our family of five (includes flight, hotel and rental car). Feel free to check out our family travel budget tips and budget friendly tips - New Mexico!

St. Felipe de Neri, Albuquerque, NMSt. Felipe de Neri Church, Albuquerque, NM

Plaza Don Luis with Chili Ristra, Albuquerque, NMPlaza Don Luis with Chili Ristra, Albuquerque, NM 

 

Albuquerque itself has an old town with history and charm. The Old Town dates back to 1706. In Old Town, there is a church built in the 1700s, St Felipe de Neri. There is a gift shop at the church that is great for religious souvenirs at a reasonable price. In the middle of the plaza is a park with a small gazebo, which sometimes holds live musicians playing music. We saw them on a Saturday morning. We also used the gazebo as a picnic area when we got pizza from a restaurant around the corner. Saturday mornings are also when the plaza comes alive with craft vendors, live music and open shops. Shops close early, most by 5:30pm, a handful by 8pm.  Across the street from the park is a Plaza called Plaza Don Luis. It is a cute plaza with small shops and bunches of red chilies hanging from the ceiling. We found a store near the front of the plaza that sold red and green chili cookies and peanut brittle. They were delicious! The plaza is also a good place for souvenir shopping.

Walking distance from Old Town is the New Mexico Natural History Museum. We got free entry through our membership with San Jose Tech Museum, which is an ASTC museum member. Interesting exhibits included local dinosaurs found in the New Mexico area. For parents with young kids, there is a playground in the city park across the street. There is also free street parking around this city park.

Hiking in the shadows of Tent Rocks, New Mexico Hiking in the shadows of Tent Rocks, New Mexico

View from Above - Tent Rocks, New Mexico View from Above - Tent Rocks, New Mexico

 

Between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, is a National Monument called Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks. Entrance fee is $5 - free if you have an annual National Parks pass. The Canyon trail takes you into beautiful slot canyons made of white volcanic tuff formed from volcanic ash of the nearby super volcano. Over time the volcanic tuff was shaped into cones, like tents. It is quite a strenuous hike, with some rock scrambling and quick elevation changes. Our youngest, who was 3 1/2 at the time did the hike with some help. The almost 4 mile trail is definitely worth the view, to and from the top. Hold on tight to your kids as there are big drops.

Bandelier National Monument - Climbing into the Cliff DwellingClimbing into a Cliff Dwelling at Bandelier

Bandelier National Monument - View from the Cliff Dwellings

View from a Cliff Dwelling at Bandelier

Another park we visited is the Bandelier National Park. Entrance fee $12, free with an annual National Parks pass. There are 2 main areas: the Main loop and Tsankawi Trail. The main loop is a 1.2 mile loop that is paved with side trips into cave dwellings. Side trips require ladder climbing to look inside the cave dwelling but you can easily skip this and still complete the loop. This short hike also includes an excavated area of an ancient pueblo round house and a kiva. (A kiva is a circular chamber, usually partially underground, used for ceremonies by the Pueblo people). It is always interesting to see how people of different cultures live. This hike also boasts amazing views of petroglyphs and amazing hoodoo like rock structures made of volcanic tuff. Along this trail, there is a side trip. Alcove House trail, requires 140ft of climbing tall ladders, not recommended for those with fear of heights, dizziness or low physical fitness. There are nice views along the way.

Tsankawi Trail at Bandelier - Along Ancient FootpathsWalking along the Ancient Footpath at Tsankawi

Tsankawi - Cave Dwellings along Ancient FootpathCave Dwelling along Ancient Footpath at Tsankawi

 

A little ways down the road (12 miles) there is another trail called the Tsankawi Trail. Stop by the visitor center to get a map and directions to the Tsankawi Trail as there was no signage along the road. There is a short ladder climb at the very beginning of the hike.   It can be a loop trail but requires being able to climb 2 ladders. One ladder is 12 feet tall, the other slightly shorter. If you can't climb the tall ladder, you can still do the trail, you'll just have to go back the same way you came, but you will have to climb the short ladder at the beginning. At the top of the mesa, near the middle of the loop, there is an ancient round house, though unexcavated. Look around for ancient broken pottery along trail near this area. If you look carefully, you can see the remains of the roundhouse encircling you. The second part of this trail takes you on narrow ancient foot paths carved into the white volcanic tuff that makes up the cliff. As you enjoy these amazing views, try to picture those Native Americans making this daily commute from the fields below on these very paths over 800 years ago. Pretty cool, huh? Along these ancient footpaths are petroglyphs and alcoves dug into volcanic tuff used for dwelling.

Tsankawi - Pottery at unexcavated roundhouse on top of mesa

Pottery at unexcavated roundhouse on top of mesa at Tsankawi

Just an hour away from Albuquerque is El Malpais National Monument. We saw the La Ventana Arch, the biggest freestanding arch in New Mexico. The walk in to see it was short, just 1/4 mile each way. Close by, Lava Falls Trail is a 1.1 mile easy to moderate trail over black lava bed. Bring lots of water, it can get hot... We had a simple picnic on the trail. There are no picnic tables, just a rugged terrain for a quick stand-up bite. The Continental Divide also runs through this area if you'd like to marvel at the wonders of the CD. There are many other volcanic features with longer hikes available as well.

El Malpais - View from Sandstone Bluff

View from the top of Sandstone Bluff, El Malpais

Along the Lava Falls Hike at El Malpais, NM

El Malpais - Along the Lava Falls Hike

 

Our last morning in New Mexico we spent at Petroglyph National Park. It is located about 15-20 mins out of downtown Albuquerque. It is a good place for a short easy hike (1-2miles) when you only have a couple of hours to spare. The kids had fun looking for ancient drawings (or grafiti) along the trail.

 

Warning: The safety of these adventures are dependent on a variety of factors including but not limited to: terrain, weather, wildlife, hiker skill level, human error, and other foreseen and unforeseen circumstances. Although care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information provided at the time of publication, we do not assume any liability for the accuracy and completeness of the information provided.  As such, we will not be held responsible for any harm, injury, and/or loss that may result. Your personal judgement on the safety of each adventure is required at all times. Please use your own discretion and be safe.

 

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