The scene shown above looks like the middle of nowhere, but the photo was taken within the Albuquerque urban area. For "Burqueños" the Rio Grande and its bosque ("bos-keh," riparian woodlands) are a blessing of city life. The developed trails and lack of grades mean that "hikes" along the river are easy strolls. "The Bosque" is heavily used so expect to see other strollers (with or without dogs), horseback riders, and bicyclists. But this ain't Central Park; you'll also find unofficial paths and extended moments of solitude, even hazards. The Bosque is accessible year-round, including when winter has made rural roads a dicey proposition.
In Albuquerque, “the Bosque” is managed as the 4,300 acre Rio Grande Valley State Park. On this web page I’ll list my favorite access points, from north to south. The list shows my bias: I live east of the river. For the full set of parking areas and trails, see this map. A separate page describes the Corrales Bosque.
Starting from Bachechi Open Space
This access point is on the east bank of the Rio Grande, next to Alameda Boulevard. If you live east of the river, head west on Alameda and turn left (south) into the large parking lot after Rio Grande Boulevard and before the river. From west of the river, head east on Alameda; right after crossing the river, turn right (south) into the parking lot.
Once parked, head to the northwest corner of the lot and duck under the east end of the new Alameda Bridge. As soon as you do, you’ll encounter a pedestrian bridge across the local drainage canal. After crossing you have several options.
It's also possible to do a loop hike along both banks of the river, by making use of the Old Alameda and Paseo del Norte Bridges.
There are two small parking areas at the west end of the Alameda Bridge, one for westbound traffic and one for eastbound traffic. There are no deceleration lanes, however, and the person behind you won’t be expecting you to slow for a turn. If your goal is to hike the west bank of the Rio Grande, it’s wiser (and more fun) to park at the Bachechi Open Space and cross the river on the old Alameda Bridge.
Starting from the Rio Grande Nature Center
This access point is a state park unit on the east bank of the Rio Grande, at the west end of Candelaria Road. I'll provide links to the web site and map. There’s a day use fee and a self-serve station for parking, so bring dollar bills. The visitor center includes exhibits, a pond for observing waterfowl, a gift shop, and indoor plumbing. Just to the west is a pedestrian bridge that will take you over the local drainage canal and into the Bosque. Once there you can hike either north or south along the east bank of the river. If you need an introduction to the Bosque, this is a great place to get it.
Starting from the end of Lead Avenue
West of downtown Albuquerque, Lead Avenue bends left and morphs into Alcalde Place. A few blocks later, Alcalde Place crosses the Riverside Drain and ends at Tingley Drive, which borders the Bosque. Just before you reach that point, parking is available at the south end of Kit Carson Park. The sidewalk across from the parking (on the southeast side of Alcalde Place) will get you across the drain and leads to a marked crosswalk across Tingley Drive.
If you use this access point, be sure to check out the two large nature ponds. Head straight into the Bosque to encounter the south end of the first pond. The second pond is northwest of the first.
Starting from Valle de Oro (Not?)
The Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge is going through a lot of construction, so access to the Bosque is dicey. When access is possible, you can park at the southwest corner of the refuge and use a bridge to cross the Albuquerque Riverside Drain. For the time being, it’s probably best to contact the refuge before planning any local Bosque hikes.
The wildlife refuge is worth visiting in itself—especially in the winter, when cranes and geese flock to the refuge’s open fields. I’ll provide links to the web site and to a brochure and map. You can preview your winter visit by checking out this YouTube video. To drive to the refuge, take Interstate 25 to the Rio Bravo exit (Exit 220). Head west on Rio Bravo, turn left (south) onto Second Street, follow that street 3 1/2 miles south, and turn right (west) into the refuge entrance.
An unsolicited plug: if you’d like some pan dulce to go with your thermos of coffee, I recommend getting off I-25 at the Gibson exit and heading west. The El Dorado Bakery is on the northwest corner of Gibson and Broadway. Once stocked up with Mexican style sweet rolls, head south on Broadway, west on Rio Bravo, and south on Second Street to get to the wildlife refuge.