Enjoy the Drive Along The Turquoise Trail
Although we were in Albuquerque for the Balloon Fiesta, after a few days we needed a break from balloons. We considered visiting the Albuquerque city centre but decided instead to head north to Santa Fe. The last time I had been in Albuquerque, I remembered a scenic drive through the mountains and with a little searching we easily found directions to the Turquoise Trail.
Heading east on Hwy 40, we watched for the exit to Hwy 14 (aka the Turquoise Trail). The road was a picturesque ride heading slowly higher and higher in altitude through switchback roads.
In early October the leaves were fully in the midst of changing colours. The higher altitude and morning frosts were hastening the colour change and many trees were already fully bare.
When David had picked up our decadent cupcakes at xx, the young man strongly recommended we detour off of Hwy 14 and go up to the Sandia Peak. David thought this was noted as a 15 minute detour but we took almost 2 hours to go up to the peak, enjoy the vista and then come back down the same road to Hwy 14.
About halfway up we came to the ski area at Sandia Peak. The chair lift was open for a ride to the top. We saw a guy unpacking his mountain bike to take the chair lift up and ride back down. We decided to pass on taking the chair lift up and instead kept going higher towards the peak.
Climb High to Sandia Peak Along The Turquoise Trail
We finally hit the parking lot at Sandia Peak. We knew we were at the peak by the vast array of antennas. This would give us a great landmark to know where we had been once we got back off the mountain.
Paying our $3 for a park pass, we went in search of the view. On one side we could see out to the mesa going out for miles on the horizon and on the other, far down the mountain to the plains and the city of Albuquerque. It was easy to pinpoint the Balloon Fiesta Park, empty at this mid-day time.
As we sat in the sunshine eating our decadent cupcakes, the clouds quickly moved across the mountain. We were happy that we had not dawdled on our way up.
From Albuquerque, you could head to Tramway Road to get the gondola up Sandia mountain. There is a restaurant at the base and another at the top. We had contemplated taking that gondola up during the Balloon Fiesta but the crowds resulted in 2 hour line ups and we were told that the food quality suffered with the crowds. From the peak where we had parked, you could walk down to reach the point where the gondola would have brought us. With the clouds rolling in, we figured there would be no view if we walked down the path.
Heading back down from the peak with our foot on the brake, we enjoyed the fast twisty turny road. But maybe not quite as much as the bicycle riders who gained so much speed racing down that they went past us at several points.
Along The Turquoise Trail You Will Find Santa Fe
Back on Turquoise Trail we continued towards Santa Fe. If you want to join the other tourists, you can plan on making a stop at Madrid. There is a vast array of restaurants, coffee shops, art galleries, turquoise jewellery stores and other souvenir shops for you to visit as you walk the small town.
We stopped a couple of times along the way to take pictures of the stunning landscapes and some interesting roadside art.
If you continue along Hwy 14 you will head directly into the heart of Santa Fe. We spent the afternoon taste testing the colour and art of Santa Fe.
It had been a very full day on the Turquoise Trail to Santa Fe. It was great to go high on the mountain to really experience the contrast in the natural environment around Albuquerque. Nature provided us a great scenic colourful break from the Balloon Fiesta!
Have you travelled to Santa Fe along the Turquoise Trail? Did you detour to see the vista from Sandia Peak?