The Famous Sandia Peak Tramway


I don’t tend to write about major tourist attractions.   You will never see Disneyworld or The Eiffel Tower featured here.  Today, however, I’m making an exception.  The biggest tourist magnet in Albuquerque is the Sandia Peak Tramway.  It thrills about 250,000 passengers each year.  Ruth and I had never been on it until the summer of 2016 when we were traveling with friends who used to live in Albuquerque.  They wanted to ride to the top so we went along. As an attraction, it exceeded expectations; and I learned something about a friend that I didn’t know.   There was a special reason why she wanted to soar 3,819 feet in the time it takes to have a quick shower.

We stayed at a Holiday Inn Express together and met Harris, the hotel’s Director of Sales.  He graciously took the 4 of us aside and told us about several things to experience in his city.   Thanks to Harris, we drove The Singing Road, ate at Pueblo Harvest, and learned about the University of New Mexico’s adobe style buildings. He didn’t mention Sandia Peak Tramway.  Our friend didn’t mention her trepidation about it.

This is no simple tram.  It’s a double reversible jigback aerial tramway installed by a company from Lucerne, Switzerland, for $2 million in 1966.   The span between the 2nd tower and the top is 1 ½ miles, one of the longest in the world.  The terrain at its base is desert-like Sonoran.    At the top are fir, pine, and aspen trees.  There are restaurants on both ends.  This 3rd longest tramway in the world is such a complex system that it’s closed for maintenance for 10 days in November and April.  Remarkably, there has never been an accident resulting from its operation. However, a plane crashed into this peak in 1955 and it has not been removed.  Those who know where to look can still spot some of the wreckage.

Sandia is the Spanish word for watermelon.  This impressive peak unusually close to a major city is called Sandia because it takes on a pink glow at sunset. This mountain is considered one of the most significant upthrusts caused by magma in the Unites States.  It’s the quartz, mica, and other minerals in it that causes it to glow like a ripe watermelon as the sun sets.

The Sandia Peak Tramway celebrated its 50th birthday in 2016.  In the summer of each year this 2.7 mile ride provides access to a 10,378-foot peak and a 30-mile mountain bike trail system.  In the winter it gives access to the 1st ski area in New Mexico with 1,700 vertical feet of skiing, 4 chairlifts, etc.


This tram takes 14 minutes to reach the summit, but if you fear heights that can seem like an eternity.  And that’s exactly the way it was for our brave friend. This was her 3rd time aboard.  On the first she was petrified. On the third she was mostly calm.  That’s admirable.


About roadsrus

Since the beginning, I've had to avoid writing about the downside of travel in order to sell more than 100 articles. Just because something negative happened doesn't mean your trip was ruined. But tell that to publishers who are into 5-star cruise and tropical beach fantasies. I want to tell what happened on my way to the beach, and it may not have been all that pleasant. My number one rule of the road's disaster is tomorrow's great story. My travel experiences have appeared in about twenty magazines and newspapers. I've been in all 50 states more than once and more than 50 countries. Ruth and I love to travel internationally--Japan, Canada, China, Argentina, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, etc. Within the next 2 years we will have visited all of the European countries. But our favorite destination is Australia. Ruth and I have been there 9 times. I've written a book about Australia's Outback, ALONE NEAR ALICE, which is available through both Amazon & Barnes & Noble. My first fictional work, MOVING FORWARD, GETTING NOWHERE, has recently been posted on Amazon. It's a contemporary, hopefully funny re-telling of The Odyssey. View all posts by roadsrus

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