Rio Rancho and Bernalillo are found on the far north end of Albuquerque and are considered part of the Albuquerque metropolitan area. They have a lot to offer families while still being close to big city amenities.
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Rio Rancho is for people who want to live in the city, but also want to feel disconnected from a big city. That was the experience for our family when we decided to move to the Albuquerque area from Las Cruces. My husband’s job made this the right move for our family because of the proximity to Los Alamos National Lab. We love our neighborhood, we love our school, and we love our city.
Rio Rancho has a 2023 population of 109,060. Rio Rancho is currently growing at a rate of 1.51% annually, and its population has increased by 4.61% since the most recent census, which recorded a population of 104,257 in 2020. The median property value for Rio Rancho is $387,558. The average apartment cost is around $1,400 monthly.
Parks, Recreation, and Family Fun
The City of Rio Rancho has five community centers, three libraries, and three public pools. A Park Above is a huge, fun park that’s accessible for all kids. Cabezon Park and Rainbow Park are other favorites in the area with swimming pools. There is an off-roading desert near West Southern Street that has accessible dirt trails for UTVs, dirt bikes, and ATVs (sometimes people meet up here and take a day trip to Route 66 Casino).
The City of Rio Rancho likes to sponsor various events for the community throughout the year. They’ll sponsor a Sunday Funday during the summer, a fourth of July parade/celebration, summer movie nights, and “the biggest garage sale.” There is a winter light parade and festival. They also do a city-wide cleanup a few times a year. Community centers and libraries also offer a variety of activities for all ages, such as sports, aquatic classes, arts and crafts, and fitness classes.
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Rio Rancho Public Schools is a highly rated public school district. It has 17,292 students in grades Pre-K through 12th grade with a student-teacher ratio of 20 to 1. According to state test scores, 48% of students are at least proficient in math and 73% in reading. Rio Rancho has three high schools, four middle schools, and eleven elementary schools. Shining Stars Preschool is the only RRPS preschool. Enrollment is done by a lottery, and applications are submitted almost a year beforehand. If you are not selected during the lottery process, the city also offers a Kid-zone preschool program at various community centers for a fee. Many families choose to live in Rio Rancho because of the school system.
Located in the heart of Rio Rancho, Loma Colorado houses a very large 9-acre park with various sports, amenities, and a walking trail. This neighborhood also hosts the city’s main library, “Loma Colorado Library.” It funnels into Ernest Stapleton Elementary and Eagle Ridge Middle School and is closest to Rio Rancho High School.
Located in Southern Rio Rancho, Cabezon borders the City of Albuquerque. The neighborhood of Cabezon has its own community center, pool, and a huge park that also hosts the city’s “Movies Under the Stars” in the summertime. It’s very close to shopping centers and restaurants. This neighborhood funnels into Maggie Cordova Elementary, MLK Elementary, Lincoln Middle School, and Rio Rancho High School.
Enchanted Hills/Lomas Encantadas
This neighborhood is located in far North Rio Rancho. It connects with Bernalillo, NM. Enchanted Hills has its own newly opened library, “The Hub”. It’s very close to shopping centers, restaurants, and grocery stores with close freeway access to 1-25 and Hwy 550. It funnels into Vista Grande Elementary and Sandra Vista Elementary, Mountain View Middle School, and Cleveland High School.
If you live in Northern Rio Rancho, you can access 1-25 easily via Bernalillo. If you do not, commuting to ABQ can be difficult. Hwy 528 is the main highway that runs through Rio Rancho from North to South. This road is often heavily trafficked, especially during rush hours. There is also not a lot of infrastructure in the city. Intel is the biggest infrastructure and job producer in the city. Rio Rancho is also predominately homes, and there are very few apartment complexes in the city.
Why I Love Living Here
Rio Rancho is growing rapidly. There are new homes going up daily, and shopping centers/businesses opening up almost weekly. It’s definitely a city that will continue to grow. There is always something going on, and the sense of community is very strong.
When asking fellow residents why they chose Rio Rancho, the top reasons were, “lower crime rate,” “better schools,” “the city is only a 20-minute drive away,” “easier to commute to Santa Fe/Los Alamos,” and “close to Intel, which employs 2,100 people.”
Personally, I think Rio Rancho has that small-town feel while still being close enough to all that the city has to offer. Rio Rancho is predominately homes, and the pace feels slower. The people in Rio Rancho are so supportive of one another, and they will do what they can to help out their community. It’s a great place to raise a family.
Bernalillo is your place if you want to move to a town where everyone feels like family and there is a strong sense of community and Hispanic Heritage. If you are looking for an agricultural area that has great access to the Rio Grande, then you will enjoy Bernalillo.
Bernalillo is the County Seat of Sandoval County. The county is expected to grow at an annual rate of 2.77 percent from the year 2000 to the year 2025 with much of the growth expected to occur in the City of Rio Rancho. The town expects to grow 2.00 percent annually from the year 2000 to the year 2025 reaching a population of 10,852 in that period. The population in the 2020 Census was 8,977. The median property value in Bernalillo since June 2023 is $387,558.
The towns of Placitas and Algodones hug the boundary for Bernalillo. Placitas has a population of around 5,000 since the last census. Algodones has a population of 993 since the last census. These towns have the most accessible commute with 1-25 running right between the towns and the major highway of 550 also running through the towns.
Parks, Recreation, and Family Fun
The Town of Bernalillo has one community center, one library, and one pool. The town recently got a skate park that has become a top attraction for youth. Top parks are Rotary Park and Athena Park. Coronado Campground is a great recreational area with access to the Rio Grande Bosque River. Placitas is also popular for hiking and off-roading.
The Town of Bernalillo hosts various events throughout the year, including movies in the park, Music y Man, 4th of July Mayo’s Benefit, Eggstravaganza, Holiday Social, and Christmas Light parade. The town also offers adult and youth sports.
Bernalillo Public Schools is a public school district that has 2,852 students in grades preschool through 12th grade with a student-teacher ratio of 16 to 1. Bernalillo has one high school, one middle school, and one elementary school. BPS also serves the towns of Placates and Algodones which each have their own elementary school. The Pueblos of Santo Domingo and Cochiti are also blanketed into this district.
Bernalillo is predominately homes. A lot of the homes in the Bernalillo, Placitas, and Algodones areas are bigger lots of land. It is also a popular farming area because of its proximity to the Rio Grande. There are not very many neighborhoods within these small towns, but homes along the bosque are the most sought-after properties. Placitas is also well known for its shopping center that houses The Merc, Placitas Cafe, and Placitas Pizza Co. This center draws people from Bernalillo, Algodones, and Rio Rancho.
There are not a lot of places for rent in these areas if you are a renter. The traffic could be congested depending on the time of the day because the main highway in the town is also the connecting highway between I-25 and Highway 528. Bernalillo does not have many entertainment options. Popular attractions are the casino in the neighboring reservation of Santa Ana and the breweries.
Why People Love Living Here
When asking local residents of Bernalillo why they like living here, these were some of the responses: “Everyone feels like family,” “It’s a small town, and we like to keep it that way,” “It’s quiet and relaxing,” and “It’s close to Santa Fe.”
We hope this guide is helpful as you consider a move to Rio Rancho or Bernalillo!
For information about other areas in and around Albuquerque, check out our Ultimate Guide to Moving to Albuquerque.
The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ABQ Mom, its executive team, other contributors to the site, its sponsors or partners, or any organizations the aforementioned might be affiliated with.