Carlito Springs Open Space

Golden columbines at Carlito Springs
Golden columbines at Carlito Springs

At the south end of the Sandia Mountains, partway up Tijeras Canyon, Carlito Springs Open Space features spring-fed historical water gardens. The arroyo below those features captures the runoff water, so the vegetation there is also lush. The paths aren't long or difficult but to see anything worth seeing, you have to walk away from your. This is a great place to bring dogs, little kids, and non-athletic friends. The area is open to the public from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM, Wednesday through Sunday. For more information, visit the web site.


To get to Carlito Springs from Albuquerque, head up Tijeras Canyon on old Route 66, most of the way to Tijeras. At the intersection with Public School Road (on the right), take a left. To get there a bit faster (but why?), use I-40 to get to Tijeras, backtrack on Old 66, then turn right when Public School Road appears on the left. Either way, duck under I-40 and turn right onto the frontage road on the north side of the freeway. Ninety meters later, turn left onto the access road for the open space. About 400 meters after that, a parking area will appear to your left. Park there if you can; otherwise, continue to the overflow parking about 160 meters later. Beyond the overflow parking area is a locked gate, blocking public vehicular use of the final 650 meters of access road (unless you arrange in advance for ADA access).


At the first (lower) parking area, cross the road to begin walking the open space loop trail (for the map, click here). If you want to do the full loop, I recommend that you turn right once you're across the road. The trail will take you onto the local hillslopes before leading you to the historical water gardens. On your way back, continue on the loop as it drops along a wooded arroyo. By the time you get back to your car, you'll have covered about 1 3/4 miles. Keep in mind that the local slopes are south-facing, so the full loop isn't a great midday option in the summer.


Most people turn left onto the loop trail, head up the wooded arroyo to the spring area, then head back down using the same route—a shady option, and fairly short (under a mile). You can also walk the gated-off portion of the access road. Whatever route you take, your goal is to reach the historical water gardens. One building there has been renovated and includes modern bathrooms. If you make it that far, make the slight extra effort needed to walk up the side path to where the spring comes out of the mountain.