Recreation in our Open Space

Photo; Roger Harmon / mid Rio Grande Times

The City of Albuquerque Parks and Recreation, collaborating with Mid Rio Grande Conservancy District, Bernalillo County, the US Forest Service, State Parks, and National Park Service, has developed an overall Open Space experience for those living in the mid Rio Grande watershed. Currently there are 29,000 acres in the combined program managed by these different entities. For an overview, you might want to start at the Open Space Visitor Center

This center has information about the locations and features of all the Open Space sites. They have workshops for adults and children, nature-themed art displays inside, and fascinating eco-art installations scattered around the parking area and nearby trails in the bosque. There is a field planted with grains for migrating birds and a viewing tower. You can volunteer at the visitor center or join some of the work days to clean trails. Then you can head out. Here are some places you might want to consider:

Rio Grande Valley State Park (RGVSP) – This park is on both the east and west sides of the river and covers a total of 4,300 acres of bosque. It was originally envisioned by Aldo Leopold in 1918 when he lived in Albuquerque; however, it was not established until 1983 when the state legislature allocated funds to begin the purchase of land. The Paseo del Bosque Trail is the best known trail on the east side. The Rio del Norte Trail on the west side includes Calabacillas Arroyo and the overlook for the San Antonio Oxbow Wetlands. These north/south trails essentially extend from Sandia Pueblo to Isleta Pueblo.

Aldo Leopold Forest – This area of bosque is on the east side of the river and under development with many interpretive stations planned. It goes north from the Nature Center to the Montano Bridge where the trail connects across the river to the west side trails at the Montano Pueblo Picnic Area.

Boca Negra Canyon – This canyon is part of the Petroglyph National Monument and is easily accessible by car. It has three different self-guided trails.

East Mountains – These four sites of Open Space are due to joint planning with the City of Albuquerque, National Park Service, and United States Forest Service. Tres Pistolos, Gutierrez Canyon, San Antonito, and Juan Tomas trails are scattered through the mountains. Directions to the parking areas can be found on the Park and Recreation website

Carolina Canyon – Plan your family reunion! This wooded area in the Manzano Mountains can accommodate 250 people. It has horseshoe pits, tether ball, a volley ball area, plus grills. Reservations are necessary; call 768-4200 or book online at

Open Space Farmlands – The city has purchased five parcels of land being farmed. They produce food, provide habitat for wild animals, and help recharge our aquifer as well. Candelaria Farm near the Nature Center and Rio Grande Community Farms on Los Poblanos Fields are the best known. They are open to the public for activities at various times.

Montessa Park – These 570 acres have many rolling hills. This site is the only Open Space available for off-road driving; however, there are rules for off-road vehicle usage so check with Park and Rec at 768-4200 or There is also a disc golf course and an off-leash dog park at this site..

Paseo del Bosque Trail – This 16-mile trail for hiking, cycling, and horseback riding extends from Alameda on the north to south of Gun Club Road. It follows the river, and there are no roadways to negotiate because of underpasses. There are many parking areas for access.

the Albuquerque Volcanoes – These volcanoes were active 100,000 years ago, leaving us with their cones and a lot of black basaltic rock from their eruptions. This site is managed by the National Park Service and there is a visitor fee.

This is only an abridged listing; there are many more Open Space sites, such as the Elena Gallegos picnic area and all the Foothills trailheads! Explore the Open Space website to discover more opportunities to get out into the open.

2 thoughts on “Recreation in our Open Space

    • There is another place under EXPLORE>recreation you might want to check out that most people don’t think about, albeit south of here. All are invited to post their favorite places to hike in the mid Rio Grande Watershed.

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