As drivers approach Albuquerque on I-40 from the east, on I-40 one of the last things they see (or fail to see) is a public sculpture, the Aluminum Yucca, dating from 2003. During the day it looks like a giant yucca plant, only shiny and silver. At night the sculpture is bathed in changing colors. The artist, Gordon Heuther, has a web page on the sculpture, which you can visit by clicking here. The Aluminum Yucca was to be the first in a series of public works in an “East Gateways Cultural Corridors Project” that fizzled after the yucca was installed. A close encounter with the Aluminum Yucca requires a half mile ramble each way, mostly on easy paths, but with a bit of scrambling at the end. It’s not a quiet hike, due to the road noise from I-40.
To get to the trailhead, head north on Tramway Boulevard from I-40, and take the first right, onto Encantado Road NE. You’re now in the Supper Rock* neighborhood with its non-intuitive road grid, so consider asking your phone to guide you to Sierra Court NE. Don’t turn into that cul-de-sac, however; continue south 50 meters (on Camino de la Sierra NE) and the trailhead will be on your left. For Luddites like me, here are more traditional instructions. Follow Encantado around a curve, to where it forms a Y with Oakwood Place NE. Turn south (right) onto Oakwood and at the triangle intersection, turn left (east) onto Piedras Road. At the T intersection, turn south on Camino de la Sierra NE. Continue 50 meters past Sierra Court NE to the trailhead, and park on the street.
The area includes a spiderweb of trails; here I’ll describe the shortest route from car to artwork. From the trailhead, head southeast to a saddle (about 100 meters). From there you can see the trail continue southeast, another 500 meters or so, to an obvious saddle. At the saddle, find a trail that heads south along the east slope of the local hill. This trail segment does involve some scrambling, as you drop toward I-40. A final scramble will take you to the highway fence, with the Aluminum Yucca a few feet away. Since it’s huge (22 feet or 6.7 meters tall), most people are content to come no closer.