Easy Way Up: New Mexico Tram Ride

Sandia Tram

That’s how we all start our hiking trips, right?

Normally I am a snob about easy ways to the top of a mountain, but I had a fantastic jaunt in New Mexico that began in this manner.  In years past, I have scoffed at those who drove up peaks (Whiteface)  or took a cog railway (Mt. Washington).  Of course, that may simply have been jealousy.   As I age, I find that I’m willing to take a few sweat shortcuts.  Consider this post a testament to the short cut.

To begin a trip into an alpine environment by taking a tram is a new experience, but the offer was too enticing to ignore.  I’d heard of the Sandia Mountains  for years, and had long wanted to hike or climb there.  The range dominates views to the east from Albuquerque, reaching well over 10,000 feet and offering multiple life zones in which to hike.  So when I had a brief window of time to visit the area with my bride, I jumped at the chance to take what is advertised as the world’s longest tram ride.

Sandia Peak tram

Strangers passing over a vas

We arrived about noon and had to wait 20 minutes for a ride.  50 people crammed into the tram and listened as a guide gave us a play by play of the scenery, pointing out Totem Pole Rock, Echo Canyon, and more, giving information and adding plenty of wit.  It was a good ride, taking about 15 minutes.  Views the whole way were amazing.  The top itself was sublime, a long rocky and well treed ridge.  I almost salivated at the thought of hiking all over.

Albuquerque is just a stone's throw, really

Albuquerque is just a stone’s throw, really

I learned that the back side of the Sandia range has a ski area, aptly named Sandia Peak.  A long and winding road climbs all the way up to access it, but it takes over an hour.   I like our route better.  Either way, the views are stunning.

The tram's upper terminal

The tram’s upper terminal. Don’t drop your keys here….

It was slightly amusing that there was a full service restaurant on top (supposedly the nation’s highest), which reminded me of a restaurant (since destroyed by avalanche) perched on top of Bridalveil Falls in Utah which I’d visited ages ago.  That felt out of place, and so did this, but what the heck. We would later eat and drink there after hiking.  So much for snobbery.  I must be getting soft.

Looking down the ski slopes

Looking down the ski slopes

Odd but nice feature:  each pipe points at a different landmark, identified below

Funky feature: each pipe points at a different landmark, identified below

All in all, it made for a happy man before I even set foot on the Sandia Crest Trail.  The top of the Sandia Range offers a beautiful environment, completely different than the high desert below surrounding Albuquerque.  The temperature up top must have been at least twenty degrees cooler, and the ridges were was cloaked in pines, maples, and aspens as well as  a lot of rock.  This turned out to be an almost perfect day.   Stay tuned for more.

Happy dude

A happy hiker in his native habitat

About Josh Baker

"The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.” ― John Muir

Posted on July 29, 2013, in Adventure, Alpine Hiking, Family, Flora and Fauna, General Hiking, Mountains, Outdoors, vacations and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Sometimes the shortcut is all you have time for. And sometimes you have broken ankles and can’t do a hike but want the views. I speak from experience. There’s a time and a place for these things 😉

  2. Hi Josh. If you like New Mexico and “tram hikes,” you HAVE to come to Italy and hike in the Dolomites. I just wrote a couple of posts about our hikes in the high country. There was plenty of challenging hiking even after the easy ride up, and you won;t believe the little refugios and their fine dining at 6000+ feet!

  3. I love that area but have yet to take the tram to the top. Putting it on the list now!

  4. Reblogged this on per mare… and commented:
    Loved my visit to New Mexico…we were based in Santa Fe and day-tripped out to places like Chimayo, Pecos and Taos for starters. Crossed the Rio Grande and drove along the historic Route 66. Before the visit these places were just names in a book, now I can say, “been there, done that! ;)” Very beautiful country indeed with wild animals, like…bears. 😐

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