Albuquerque is a beautiful city, but it’s easy to lose sight of nature in the urban areas. If you find yourself yearning for a nice walk or a good viewpoint on the city, here are a couple of suggestions: the Paseo del Bosque – a walking trail that runs along the green banks of the Rio Grande river, and West Bluff Park – a postage-stamp-sized plot of land that provides a breathtaking panorama of the Sandia Mountains.
After just a couple of hours on the ground in Albuquerque, I was stuffed full of enchiladas and green chile from Sadie’s restaurant, and I needed a place to burn off a few of those calories. On previous visits to Albuquerque, I had always intended to check out the Paseo del Bosque, but I never made it there. This time seemed like the perfect occasion to check out this special place.
I chose to access the Bosque at the Alameda Boulevard parking area. Alameda is at the northern end of the 16-mile paved portion of the trail, but a dirt path continues northward. In fact, there’s more than one trail here – a high road and a low road. I decided to go low at first, and follow the dirt trail through the big trees that line the edge of the river.
My visit in late February was just a few weeks too early, to see any sprouts of green on the trees. Later in the spring, this would be one of the greenest areas in the city.
In places, there are some old steel beams and cables, apparently put into place to shore-up the banks of the river. Sometimes the river is dry, and at other times, it could flood this area.
My visit was timed perfectly, to see a flowing river, that wasn’t out-of-control. Numerous paths split from the main trails, and run out to the water’s edge.
Eventually my “low road” ended, and I climbed up the embankment to the high road — which is also dirt at this point, but it’s wide and smooth enough to accommodate hikers and bikers with ease. I walked far enough to round a corner, bringing the beautiful Sandia Mountains into view.
It was a pretty scene, but I was convinced that I could find a better viewpoint, if I put some effort into it. So, I did some driving around town, and found my way to…
… West Bluff Park. The West Bluff is the hillside on the west bank of the Rio Grande. When you cross the river on Interstate 40, you can’t miss it. I thought the neighborhood on the edge of the bluff looked like it might provide a good photography spot, so I wandered around until I came upon this park.
I couldn’t have been happier with what I found. This small plot of land provided a pathway that led out to the edge of the bluff, where a small picnic area awaited.
A new tradition is attempting to take root here. Much like on the Pont des Arts bridge in Paris, happy couples are leaving love locks here, attached to the fence.
Click on the image for a larger version.
The viewpoint offers an incredible view of almost all of Albuquerque, from the river and the Sandia Mountains…
… to downtown Albuquerque, which is just slightly to the south and east.
New Mexico often provides some spectacular sunsets — but you won’t have a great view to the west from West Bluff Park. After all, there are houses and a Walmart directly west of here.
The real treat at sunset is the view to the east, when the glow of the setting sun turns the Sandia Mountains pink and purple.
This spectacle only lasts for a few minutes, and it doesn’t happen every day. But when the mountains start to glow, it’s a magical experience — and one that fills Albuquerquians with pride.
The Bottom Line
West Bluff Park is a great spot to catch a sunset, and the glow of the Sandias. Paseo del Bosque is a nice place to go for a walk or a bike ride, if you don’t have time to escape the city.
It’s fairly easy to find the Rio Grande – it runs north-south through Albuquerque, on the west side of town. If you can find the river, you can find the Paseo del Bosque trail. Access points (most with free parking) are located along (from north to south) Alameda Boulevard, Paseo del Norte, Montano Road, Campbell Road (south of Candelaria Road), Central Avenue, Tingley Drive (north of Bridge Boulevard), and Rio Bravo Boulevard.
To reach West Bluff Park, cross the Rio Grande on I-40 headed westbound, then take the first exit (155). Take Ouray Road into the neighborhood behind the Walmart. Circle around this neighborhood (you’ll know where the bluff is, so head towards it) until you find Vista Grande Drive, and then, West Bluff Park. You can park on the street and walk into the park.
Check out this time-lapse, dash-cam video of a drive from a previous trip, that includes Albuquerque: