Great Runs in Albuquerque, New Mexico
While not the capital of New Mexico, Albuquerque is the Zia State’s biggest city. The desert metropolis has a population of just over 500,000 and at 200 square miles within the city proper, is very spread out. The city is framed by the Rio Grande River downtown, and the gorgeous Sandia mountains to the east, where timing some runs to enjoy the unique colors of desert mountains can be a special treat. Note that downtown Albuquerque sits at about 5,200 feet: like Denver or Salt Lake City, running at altitude is a particular running challenge, or training opportunity, depending on your perspective.
The centerpiece of central Albuquerque running is the 16 miles of trails along the Rio Grande River. We’ve also included some of the more accessible and pretty runs in the Sandia Mountains, where there are some 150 miles of trails to hike, run and explore. There’s also some nice running near the University of New Mexico. Albuquerque has recently hosted the NCAA Indoor DI and DII National Championships for collegiate competitions and the USATF Indoor Track and Field Championships for elites at the indoor track facility at the Convention Center.
With its dry climate of moderate winters, and pleasant fall and spring temperatures, Albuquerque is among the more runner-friendly weather spots in the U.S. The summer months of May through August do produce some days over 100 °F and the sun will feel stronger to those visiting from lower elevations. Wearing sunblock and running early in the morning or in early evening is recommended. Because of its location in the desert, the weather is arid and dry, yet July can feature a mini monsoon season with heavy rainfall. Additionally, for those coming into The Land of Enchantment (as the city is known) for skiing, December produces the highest snowfall. Yet again, with the strong sun and dry climate most, snow melts within the city quickly. Winter are cool to cold and dry, with highs averaging in the 40s and lows dropping off into the teens — so if in Albuquerque in the winter, pack extra layers and be prepared for occasional ice/snow.
Albuquerque has no subway, but does have an extensive bus system that takes passengers throughout the city. ABQ RIDE offers a free ride for those flying into Sunport International Airport to Downtown. The Route 66 line takes passengers up and down famous Route 66 through Downtown, up to the University of New Mexico, the trendy Nob Hill neighborhood and beyond to The Heights.
The Iconic Routes
- Rio Grande Trails
- Bear Canyon Loop
- Rio Grande Nature Center State Park
- Copper Trailhead
- USS Bullhead Memorial Park
- UNM Campus Run
- Academy High School
- Old Town Plaza
The Rio Grande River runs through western Albuquerque and has a plethora of flat bike paths and running trails to enjoy. Stretching from the South Valley to just north of Los Ranchos De Albuquerque, the Paseo del Bosque Trail is paved for 16 miles with a side dirt trail extending an additional five miles. If pacing out a long run or tempo workout, the paved path provides quarter miler makers to help track distance. The trail is most developed on the east side of the river, especially as you head north. Highlights along the trail include the Rio Grande Nature Center the Albuquerque BioPark and the National Hispanic Cultural Center.
The trail itself has 7 access points along the paved path length. Some key distances, from National Hispanic Cultural Center (Bridge Rd.), along eastern side.
Nice ~5 mile loop:
A great place for easy parking, access to the river trails and a post-run museum tour is the Albuquerque’s National Hispanic Cultural Center, right near downtown. From the parking lot, head west towards the bridge hovering over the Rio Grande on Bridge Boulevard. Before heading to the other side follow the bike path beneath the bridge and to the right. On the other side of the bridge you will find yourself with the option of a beautiful soft dirt trail or a bike path. In picking your path, the dirt trail will provide less pounding on the joints, yet the bike path will take you a half mile up past the Albuquerque Zoo where you’ll see the smiling faces of children riding on the small locomotive taking kids from one exhibit to another. Keep an eye out for cyclists as they ride long, fast and hard along the Rio Grande trails that extend nearly all the way to Santa Fe. The aromas of South Valley farmers growing and roasting green chile in the neighborhood may cause great hunger!
Rio Grande Nature Center State Park
Bosque Loop. Distance 2.17 Miles MAP
The Rio Grande Nature Center State Park is on the Rio Grande bike trail, 7 miles north of the Hispanic Cultural Center. There are exhibits within the park detailing the wildlife, plants and history of the area. It’s a great place to learn, as well as to exercise. The Visitor Center in the park even has an observation room, overlooking the geese and birds that inhabit the 3 acre pond within the area. A hundred meters beyond the visitor center, the bike path stretches to the north and south. The route we’ve detailed is just beyond the bike path, where a soft surface loop within the Bosque nature center provides great views of the wildlife and the Rio Grande. The loop is popular for many runners, as a warm-up before a tempo run along the Rio Grande bike path.
Old Town and West Park
3.2 Miles. Start at Old Town Park MAP
A run through Old Town (the old Spanish colonial town) is a great way to experience some of Albuquerque’s history. See folk art sites and two hundred year old churches, and enjoy the sounds of Mariachi bands and Flamenco dancers. There is also a variety of restaurants, art galleries and bars to explore in the area as well. Our route starts at the Old Town Park, adjacent to the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History, and takes you a quarter mile down on the sidewalk past the San Felipe de Neri Church and down to the Rio Grande, looping back up through West Park. For variety, you can run on a couple of the interior Old Town streets, Romero St. and San Felipe. Enjoy this is a standalone run or add on with some of the Rio Grande pathway sections.
Bear Canyon Loop
4.17 Miles RT. Start at the Starbucks at Tramway and Academy Blvd. MAP
Albuquerque’s Sandia Mountains offer over 150 miles of enchanting, yet often challenging trails. For runners looking for a smoother and more gradual incline, the trail at Bear Canyon is a great, and gorgeous option with smoother footing compared to the ankle twisting trails higher up. The open space in the arroyo will give a taste to the seemingly endless trails beyond. There is a Starbucks at the corner of Academy and Tramway that’s great for parking and meeting other runners. The Bear Canyon Trail will take you to the Spain Trailhead where the incline gets steeper and the continuing trails seem endless. Those just visiting should exercise caution because of the increasing altitude, which starts at 6,000 feet. Our loop takes you to the top of Bear Canyon before the entrance into the Sandia Mountain trails at the Spain Trailhead, just high enough for newcomers to get a taste of the high altitude.
5.83 Miles, 1186 foot Elevation Gain. Start at top of Copper Blvd. MAP
The Copper Trailhead is a great option if you’d like a technical and hilly trail near the city. Located at the top of Copper Boulevard in the Northeast Heights neighborhood about 8 miles east of downtown, the trail overlooks the whole city. The run starts with a steep incline for a few hundred meters before dipping down to the other side of the Sandia Mountains. The panoramic views, the abundant cacti, and the winding trails all make up a spectacular run. As mentioned earlier, the trails seem endless in the mountains, going for more than 150 miles, so there is certainly opportunity to plot routes of various distances. For runners and hikers, the trails have signs at every crossing, so as to not jump on the wrong path.
USS Bullhead Memorial Park
5.45 Mile Loop. Start at park entrance. MAP
Located adjacent to the Sunport International Airport, Bullhead Park is a great option for an easy run. Surrounded by sidewalks and dirt paths, Bullhead Park’s grass fields are a nice change of pace from the Rio Grande and Sandia Mountain trails. The planes from Sunport International and Kirkland Air Force Base may interrupt conversation with a running partner, but with 7 soccer fields across 44 acres, the park makes a great site for cross country intervals, and is a common workout grounds for the 2015 NCAA DI Championships University of New Mexico team. About half of this 5.5 mile run is within the paths and fields of the park. There is a parking lot located adjacent to the fields, to the left of the USS Bullhead submarine torpedo exhibition.
University of New Mexico Campus Run
4.43 Mile Loop. Start at Johnson Field. MAP
The University of New Mexico campus, 2 miles east of downtown, is a popular place to run and exercise for many in the city. Located at the junction of the I-40 and I-25 highways, the campus is central city. Johnson Field is our starting point for the Campus Run and a great place for warm-up with a half mile cinder trail around the perimeter of the grass field. Heading east with a view of the Sandias provides a beautiful backdrop. Running in the evening can be particularly pretty, with the mountains turning into a pink shade before nightfall. Sandia, Spanish for watermelon, is what the Spanish conquistadors named the mountains because of their color at sunset. The campus has a mix of modern design and Spanish architecture. Our loop around the University of New Mexico North Golf Course hugs the streets of Indian School and University Boulevard within the campus, and has a 1.9 mile cinder path loop along the golf course’s edge. Running around the golf course makes for a great additional add on to a run and has some spectacular sunset views over the South Valley. One can also add on with some of the pathways within the pretty UNM campus, such as the serene Duck Pond located off Las Lomas Boulevard.
Academy High School: Train with the Elites
3.51 Mile Loop. Start at Whole Foods on Wyoming Blvd. MAP
Albuquerque’s altitude, year round moderate weather, and great trails make this area a popular place for elite runners to train. The dirt path that encompasses Albuquerque Academy is where some of the world’s best, among them Paula Radcliffe and Hicham El-Guerrouj, have zipped along this path. The trail is popular for runners of all levels and is a great place to run with a bit of incline running east towards the Sandias. Easy parking is at the Whole Foods on Wyoming Blvd. Nearby, the arroyo trails channel the water in the monsoon season, and there is also good access to the foothill trails of the Sandias if you’d like to add on to the run.
Your best bet for staying near good routes in Albuquerque is to stay in the hotels in or near downtown. There is a good cluster just to the west of I-25, between 2nd St. SW and 8th St. SW, and along Central Ave., stretching to West Old Town. Here, you’ll be within 1/2 mile of the Rio Grande trail. There are many upscale hotels located in Old Town. Additionally, there are many hotels and motels located near the University of New Mexico and further up Central Ave, part of historic Route 66. For easy freeway access, there are lots of hotels along I-40, but they are less proximal to good running routes.
Stores and Group Runs
Heart and Sole Sports has been serving the runners of Albuquerque for the last 25 years. The owner, Stan Hockerson, has developed some of concepts and technology for over 67 shoe brands. With a treadmill at both their locations, the staff will film your running gait to suit you in the best shoe appropriate to your form. With two locations in the Northeast Heights, the stores have a great selection of footwear, as well as many local runners happy to recommend running help.
Bosque Running Shop: Located in the Northwest quadrant of the city, the shop is a thriving part of the running community of Albuquerque. Group Runs Saturday 7 AM
La Luz Trail Run A lottery entry trail race with over 10,000 runners climbing to over 10,000 feet. One of the most prestigious trail races in the US.
Duke City Marathon Marathon, marathon relay, half marathon, 10k and 5k run serving runners of all abilities. Boston Marathon qualifier drawing the biggest crowd of runners in New Mexico every year.
USATF Indoor Track and Field Championships Hosting the elite runners for the 2017 National Championships.
Albuquerque Road Runners Information on running in town and throughout New Mexico, including a race calendar.