Just east of Albuquerque are the Sandia Mountains, named for their pinkish glow at sunset. Sandia is Spanish for watermelon. There are quite a few hiking trails all through the Sandias. We recently explored one that took us up over 500 feet and through a few different environments called the Tunnel Canyon Trail.
If you head east of Albuquerque on I-40, you will eventually come to exit 175. This is the town of Tijeras. Exit here and head south on NM 337 for about 2.5 to 2.6 miles. The parking for the trail head is on the right just before a curve. It is an area that seems like it could fit 8 to 10 cars and is a gravel parking area.
Mama Nomad and I read reviews that this trail would be rocky. Be forewarned, the reviews were correct. There are quite a few rocks that make up the trails and many of them are loose. Be careful as you could easily twist an ankle. The Tunnel Canyon Trail, as we found out when we arrived, is not a loop. In order to do a loop, you will need to take 3 trails.
As soon as we started down the Tunnel Canyon Trail we saw a sign for Birdhouse Ridge Trail. I remembered it from the map as 1 of the 3 trails. This trail took us to the right an almost immediately uphill. This leg of the trail is about 2.5 miles and will give you an elevation gain of 200 to 300 feet. The gain on this trail seems to be quite steep and the trail is quite rocky.
At the end of this trail, it will dead-end into the West Ridge Trail. If you go to the right, you will go deeper into the mountains. On the other hand, if you head to the left, you will walk in the direction of the Tunnel Canyon Trail. This leg is not very long as you will reach the Tunnel Canyon Trial in about a 1/2 of a mile or so and gain another 200 feet.
At the end of this trail, you will dead end into the Tunnel Canyon Trail. If you follow the Tunnel Canyon Trail to the right, once again you will go deeper into the mountains. If you follow it to the left, you will begin to head back to the parking lot.
We took a left and began heading back. This final leg is about 2.5 miles and since you are starting at the high point, most of the trail is down hill or flat ground. This leg is less rocky than the Birdhouse Ridge Trail and easier on the feet. At times you will shadow a riverbed. When we hiked, it was dry.
Ultimately, this ~5 mile hike took us from a rocky area up through wooded lands and, at the height, we were among what looked like grasslands. More than 1/2 of the journey had us covered in trees and almost no people on the trail. Although the hike took us up about 500 feet and it was around 5 miles long, it was a quiet and peaceful hike with great views of the Sandias. It is worth a few hours of your time. Safe Travels.