The Embudo Canyon Trail: A Winter’s Landscape in the High Desert of New Mexico

by Dr. Denise R. Ames

I am going to sidetrack from my recent blogs about different ports-of-call during my Baltic Sea Cruise. I just took a fun hike along the Embudo Canyon Trail in the foothills of Albuquerque, New Mexico and I would like to share with you my experience and some pictures. I will get back to the Baltic Sea cruise on Tuesday.

Embudo Canyon, Albuquerque, New Mexico photo Denise Ames

The foothills are a name given to the area at the base of the Sandia Mountain, which stretch across the eastern flank of Albuquerque. The Sandia Foothills Open Space, its official name, contains approximately 2,650 acres of steep sloped hills intersected by gravelly drainages at the base of the Sandia Mountains. The highest point on the Sandia range is 10,679, located at the Sandia Crest. However, elevation ranges from 5,720 to 6,800 feet above sea level in the area where we hiked the Embudo Canyon just south of the Crest.

overlook of Albuquerque, NM from Embudo Canyon Trail photo Denise Ames

When it comes to hiking in the Sandia Foothills, it seems as though most of the attention is given to the La Luz Trail and Elena Gallegos area (my favorite), but the Embudo Canyon Trail gets less attention. Although not as dramatic as the other trails, it is fun to hike its barren landscape and view the city from different vantage points.

There is no forest cover in the area we hiked, so early February is a perfect time. It was also a cloudy day, so no intense sun to sap your energy. But it is the high desert, and there is plenty of cacti ready to snare you in their steely grip, so we had to pay attention to staying on the trail. The plant species include a variety of grasses, cane cholla, and prickly pear cactus. Single-seed juniper and piñon trees dot the landscape.

Wildlife in the foothills includes mule deer, coyote, black bear, cougar, rabbit, rock squirrel, lizard, and rattlesnake—plus a wide variety of birds. Although we didn’t see any of the wildlife, I have encountered hair-raising rattlesnakes on different segments of the foothill trails.

The Embudo trails crisscross a big swath of the canyon, so it can be disorienting if you want to stay on one particular trial. However, the parking lot is visible from the heights of the canyon, so no fear of losing your way.

Embudo Arroyo during a flash flood

After parking, we paced ourselves as we hiked a moderate incline up to the flatter area of the canyon. There was a huge catchment basin for the water that cascades down the mountains. During intense rainfall when the water overflows in the basin, it channels into the Embudo Arroyo, one of the numerous concrete arroyos that flows downward to the Rio Grande River, helping prevent Albuquerque from being inundated from flash floods.

Albuquerque view, Mt. Taylor in the background

Although I love the azure blue skies in Albuquerque, it was mesmerizing to see the different cloud formations ebb and flow across the gray southwestern sky. Indeed, the sky seemed to expand as we climbed upward. It was a mind-expanding perspective that I don’t get when I am at a mere 5,000 feet above sea level in my home in the middle of Albuquerque.

As we meandered up and down the trails, I reminded myself to be grateful that Albuquerque affords us so many natural areas that are located within a short distance from my home. Especially during the coronavirus over the last year, being out in nature has been a godsend for me and my partner, Jim. The foothills are truly spellbinding and the many trails that interlace its terrain are a great way to enjoy nature and receive its wonderous gifts.

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Denise R. Ames’ varied life experiences—teaching, scholarly research, personal experiences, extensive travels, and thoughtful reflections—have contributed to her balanced views and global perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded Center for Global Awareness, an educational non-profit that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for educators and students grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units.

Along with CGA’s Gather program, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a study and conversation program for self-organizing groups of lifelong learners and, Global Awareness for Educators, Dr. Ames is developing a new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, & Reflection Network. Turn encourages life-long learners to see with new eyes, learn from the past, understand others, and recognize the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.

Dr. Ames has written 8 books for the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books 

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