Guide to Family-Friendly Hikes in the Albuquerque Area


I have always been and will always be an indoorsy girl. My favorite outdoor activities include eating on a patio and going to baseball games. I married a wildlife biologist. We have one son at home and another on the way. While I may never be fully outdoorsy, I have learned to like going on family hikes. 

My husband goes on week-long backpacking trips. That will never be me, and my two-year-old won’t be ready for those for a long time. That being said, we have some really great trails in and around Albuquerque that are great for the whole family. 

I asked for suggestions and put together a list of some of the best family-friendly hikes in and around Albuquerque.

Petroglyph National Monument

This was recommended to me as being a really great scavenger hunt for little kids. Petroglyph National Monument is one of the largest petroglyph sites in North America. It features designs and symbols carved onto volcanic rocks by Native Americans and Spanish settlers 400 to 700 years ago.

There are four different entrances, depending on what level of difficulty you are looking for:  

  • Boca Negra Canyon Trails: This canyon provides quick and easy access to three self-guided trails (Mesa Point, Macaw, and Cliff Base) where you can view approximately 100 petroglyphs. Combined walking time is approximately 1 hour. Although each trail is very short, they vary in difficulty as follows: Mesa Point – strenuous, Macaw – moderate, Cliff Base – moderate. For more detailed information about hiking this area with kids, click here.
  • Rinconada Canyon Trail: The Rinconada Canyon trail follows the northern escarpment, allowing the hiker views of a variety of petroglyphs. The trail is 1.1 miles long to the back of the canyon (2.2 miles roundtrip) and is moderately strenuous.
  • Piedras Marcadas Canyon: Choose between the Petroglyph Trail (1.8 miles round trip) or the North Rim Trail (1.4 miles one way). Both are listed as easy to moderate and offer great views of the surrounding areas and the opportunity to view up to 400 petroglyphs.
  • Volcanoes Day Use Area: Choose between four different easy to moderate trails that offer incredible views of Albuquerque.

Jemez Falls Trailhead

This one is a little bit of a drive, but well worth it.

To get to the trailhead, use the Jemez Falls Campground turnoff and follow the road past the campground and day use area. A short 1/4-mile hike will get you to the Jemez Falls Overlook, the highest falls in the Jemez Mountains.

The hike itself offers some really great views of the Santa Fe National Forest and ends at the Jemez Falls. The falls themselves offer some really beautiful views and are a great place to spend the day before heading home. 

Sandia Foothills Open Space

This is probably one of the quickest to get to. We have done this a few times, and it requires little planning ahead, which is nice sometimes. The foothills offer nine different trailheads, all leading to the foothills and the Sandia Mountain Wilderness Area. 

There are picnic areas at Elena Gallegos Picnic Area, Menaul Trailhead, and Embudo Canyon. Other recreational opportunities include biking and horseback riding. There are also some really great geocaching opportunities and rocks for littles to climb. My wildlife biologist husband would also like me to add that the foothills are a great place to see wildlife and native plant species. 

Willow Creek Bosque

Just a short drive to Rio Rancho, the Willow Creek Bosque offers two different hiking loops, both with low levels of difficulty. Loop one is only .78 miles and loop two is a longer 1.72 miles. 

The area is on 3.1 acres and includes scattered benches and several wildlife habitat viewing locations. Perfect for a picnic or for little ones who may need to stop and rest their feet. 

Carlito Springs

Located just outside of Albuquerque near Tijeras, the newly renovated and reopened Carlito Springs Open Space is a favorite of ABQMom contributors. The hike features a 1.75 mile loop filled with greenery, an apple orchard, and ornamental gardens. You can hike to the spring head and catch a view of some older cabins (hopefully to be restored), as well as streams. 

The space is open Wednesday through Sunday and is the perfect place to take your kids of any age. Be sure to pack water and a picnic (I’m motivated by food) and be ready to explore. 

Cienega Picnic Area

Nestled in Cibola National Forest is the Cienega Picnic Area. It is fairly flat, accessible, semi-private, and accommodates up to fifty people. There are grills, bear-proof trash containers, and vault toilets provided. There is no shelter other than the surrounding shade trees. A stream, which draws birds and other wildlife, runs through the area.

If you want a table or a campsite, you do need to make a reservation. Reservations can be made on the day of arrival or can be made up to 12 months in advance. There is a $40-$60 fee to use this picnic area: $40 for a weekday, $60 for a weekend (Friday – Sunday) or holiday. This fee includes 10 day-use passes. 

A variety of hiking and horseback riding trails are available from within the picnic area, including one leading to the mountain crest. The nearly 10-mile round-trip trail winds through a fir forest, abundant with wildflowers. Much of the hike is in the shade, although the terrain can be rough. (Ten miles is a lot for littles anyway.) Day hikes are available along the route. In non-drought times, the trails follow a mountain stream with a beautiful travertine waterfall.

Doc Long Picnic Site

Doc Long Picnic Site is named for Dr. William Henry Long. He was one of three forest pathologists in the USA who conducted pioneering research of tree diseases.

The original pavilion and picnic ground were constructed in 1935 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, also known as the CCC. Pavilions ‘A’ and ‘B’, which are replicas of the 1930s Civilian Conservation Corps design, are accessible and can accommodate up to 30 people. They are equipped with multiple picnic tables and grills. The site also features a playing field area near the group shelters and interpretive displays toward the interior of the site.

Again, to use the picnic areas in Pavilion A or B, you do need reservations costing $40-$60. Camping is not allowed.

There is access to hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding trails from Doc Long. Bill Spring Trail, Oso Corridor Trail, Faulty Trail, and a short pathway leading to Sulphur and Cienega picnic sites are connected to Doc Long for easy access. The Sandias are home to mule deer, black bear, and many other species of wildlife and birds, including the red-tailed hawk, predator of the playful Abert’s squirrel, who is a year-round resident of the Doc Long site.

Arroyo Loop Trail

Enjoy this 2.5-mile loop trail near Cedar Crest, New Mexico. Generally considered an easy route, it takes an average of 58 min to complete. This is a popular trail for hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking, but you can still enjoy some solitude during quieter times of day. 

Reviews say that this is a great, easy hike for kids and is equipped with lots of shade. 

Travertine Falls

Experience this 1.1 mile out-and-back trail near Tijeras, New Mexico. Generally considered a moderately challenging route, it takes an average of 34 min to complete. This is a very popular area for hiking, running, and walking, so you’ll likely encounter other people while exploring. The best times to visit this trail are March through October. 

Have I mentioned that I am motivated by good food? Trail Rider Pizza is a short drive away for an after-hike lunch. Making the hike well worth it.

Las Conchas Trailhead

This was probably the most recommended trail. It also seems to be the one I see any time I get on Instagram. This hike is at the top of my list and for a good reason. Located just a short drive from Albuquerque in the Jemez Mountains, this trail follows the Wild and Scenic East Fork Jemez River and provides views of meadows, wildflowers, and wildlife. The trail is rated as easy for the first 2 miles and becomes moderate for the rest of the way to the East Fork Trailhead (5 miles).

Las Conchas is a very popular trailhead and trail. During the winter months, the trailhead provides forest access for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. The cliffs along the trail are popular rock climbing areas. Watch out for ropes and climbing equipment along the trail. 

I have to admit, I never would have thought that I would be putting together a hiking guide. I mentioned it to my husband and he laughed. As I was writing this, I got more and more excited about all of the family adventures we can have just a few miles from our home.

I also like to check out fun local restaurants, shops, and family-friendly breweries after a hike. I love to see my little guy explore nature and learn more about the wildlife and world around him. Admittedly, it is nice to be out in the fresh air, check out for a while, and just enjoy the time with my people. 

Pack your lunches, grab your sunscreen, fill up your water bottles, and hit the trail! I hope to see you out there soon!