Tag Archives: hiking

Petroglyphs, Volcanoes and the Bosque – playing outside in Albuquerque

Looking for something to do outside in Albuquerque? There’s no end to the options! How about a trek through a boulder-strewn canyon decorated 400-700 years ago by American Indians and Spanish settlers? Or consider strolling around the Three Sisters, a collection of volcanoes on the West Mesa. Both sites are part of the Petroglyph National Monument, a wonderful collection of trails managed by the National Park Service. Bike enthusiasts will find a 16-mile trail through the “bosque” (pronounced BOSS-key), a cottonwood forest along the Rio Grande River.

Tony and I started each day in Albuquerque with a hike or bike ride (after eating a ridiculously indulgent breakfast at our B&B, that is), and we truly loved being outdoors under that vast blue sky.

Rinconada Canyon
For our first outing, we headed to Rinconada Canyon. This description comes from the National Park Service website:

Rinconada Canyon offers an insight into the geologic, cultural, and natural resources of this region. From the parking lot a sandy path follows the northern escarpment, carrying you over sand dunes. As you walk into the canyon, the sounds and sights of the city fade away and may be replaced with the coo of a mourning dove or a collared lizard sunning itself on a basalt boulder. Here you see prehistoric and historic petroglyphs, rock wall alignments and shelters, and wildlife living in the vegetation growing throughout the canyon.
The geology of the area shows the remnants of volcanic eruptions of 200,000 years ago. The basalt from these flows caps the sandstone of the Santa Fe Formation. As the softer sandstone erodes away, the basalt breaks off and tumbles down the hillside. This action provided the escarpment where the petroglyphs were carved.

Archeologists believe most of the 1,200 petroglyphs in this canyon were pecked into the basalt boulders using a hammerstone to remove the dark color on the surface and reveal a lighter color underneath. Pueblo Indians use the images to pass on stories about history, culture and spiritual beliefs.

Checking out some petroglyphs.


Unfortunately, some relatively modern visitors felt compelled to carve their own petroglyphs. This guy visited Rinconada Canyon on my birthday in 1919!

Some petroglyphs and rock formations hint at what life was like for the Spanish explorers and Mexicans who arrived here in 1540. We saw petroglyphs of Catholic crosses and what archeologists think could be livestock brands.

We had just started out on this trail, when a snake crossed the path. He took his sweet time, but Tony and I were too slow getting out our cameras, so we missed his face. Beautiful!

The canyon is ringed with boulders, but the center is sandy with clumps of scrubby plants and lots of scrambling lizards.

The Volcanoes
Here’s the scoop from NPS:

Known locally as the Albuquerque Volcanoes or the Three Sisters, they are a classic and rare example of a fissure eruption. In fissure eruptions magma rises along thin cracks in the Earth’s crust unlike most volcanoes in which magma rises through a vertical central vent. Here the fissure is over 5 miles (8km) long. Very long cracks like these may result in a row of aligned eruption craters—all active at the same time. Such eruptions create “curtains of fire” like those that occur today at Kilauea in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

According the the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, all volcanoes in the state are “probably” extinct, meaning they are “unlikely” to erupt again. I guess I prefer a little more certainty about such things. Still, it was fun to walk around the volcanoes. We climbed up two of them, only to learn later that doing so was insensitive to the Pueblo Indians, who “believe the volcanoes and the petroglyphs pecked into the volcanic boulders provide a direct spiritual connection both to their ancestors and to the Spirit World, the place where time began,” according to NPS literature. Brochures urge visitors not to hike to the peaks. Dang.

Tony with the JA Volcano in the background.

On the top, overlooking ABQ.

Too late to pretend we were culturally sensitive at the volcanoes. The big rocks are light because they’re filled with air! Tony looks so virile, eh?

On top of the Vulcan Volcano, you can see forever.

Walking back to the car. I love this landscape!

Tiny cactus flowers.

Biking the Bosque
Albuquerque’s Paseo del Bosque recently made Sunset magazine’s list of the 20 best bike paths in the West. We concur. It’s pretty fantastic.

We rented high-quality mountain bikes from Routes Rentals & Tours. The bikes were a bit small for us, but they did the trick. We picked up the trail very close to our wonderful B&B and rode north to the Alameda trail head (for a roundtrip total of about 17 miles). Paved, flat and quiet, the trail never crosses roads or encounters motorized vehicles. We saw about 20 hot-air balloons rising into the early morning sky. Stunning!

Here’s more info on the Paseo del Bosque, aka Riverside Trail. This article describes a fire that broke out while we were there, and we’ve heard they since closed the trail until the “fire season” ends.

There is WAY more to do in Albuquerque if you love being outdoors. We look forward to exploring other trails on our next visit.

Partnachklamm – a little hike in the Alps

Bundled up and dizzy with excitement over the pristine Bavarian wonderland, we tackled the Partnachklamm hike on our first full day in Garmisch. Just a short distance from our hotel, we parked at the Olympic Ice Stadium, built for the 1936 Olympics and home to an annual ski jumping competition. We followed the river on a cleared trail past vast fields of unspoilt snow, postcard-perfect log homes with lace curtains and antlers over the doorway, fence posts capped with tall snowy towers, and evergreens powdered white. Occasionally, a branch would shake off its load, sprinkling us with snow (sometimes with a little help from Mike).

In the stadium.



Walking to the gorge.

After about half an hour, we reached the Partnach Gorge.

The gorge, carved by a mountain stream, is about 70 meters (230 feet) long and up to 80 meters (260 feet) deep. A path carved into the rock weaves up and down, in and out of tunnels, along the sheer rock faces dripping with icicles. We could imagine the danger faced by 18th-century residents of the valley who sent firewood through the gorge on timber rafts down to the town of Partenkirchen. In fact, a crucifix marks a memorial for men who lost their lives in the river. In 1912, the gorge was designated a natural monument.






Summer escorted Mom back through the gorge to catch a gondola to the top, while the rest of us continued the hike. The gorge trail emerged in a beautiful forest, where a steep track led to several guesthouses.


We ultimately reached an altitude of 888 meters (almost 3,000 feet) for lunch at Forsthaus Graseck, a gorgeous guesthouse decked out like my parents’ basement (lots of pelts and antlers). After warming up with gulasch soup and gluhwein, we caught the gondola back down the mountain.