From I-25, Cerro Tomé (Tomé Hill) doesn’t look like much—if you notice it at all. It’s a taller and more extensive hill than you’d guess from the freeway. When it’s not too hot or cold or windy, the half-day it takes to drive there from Albuquerque and explore the hill makes for a fun outing.
The main parking lot (of which, more in a bit) is at 4860 feet, and the summit is at about 5230 feet, so the walk to the top involves a 370 foot gain. The hill itself is what’s left of a volcano that erupted during the Pliocene, about 3.5 million years ago. For a little more about the geology, click here.
The Tomé area was granted to Tomé Domínguez de Mendoza in 1659, abandoned by the Spanish at the outbreak of the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, and resettled in 1739. At some point during that history, the hill became a Catholic religious shrine. Specifically, it serves as a calvario, standing in for the hill where Jesus was crucified. Each year on Good Friday, hundreds of pilgrims walk to the three crosses at the top. During the rest of the year, Cerro de Tomé sees a modest trickle of visitors. Some are there to worship but many are there for exercise, fresh air, and the views from the top. During your visit you’ll see the local stretch of the Rio Grande Valley, the Manzano and Sandia Mountains to the east and northeast, the Jemez Mountains to the north, the Sierra Ladrones to the southwest, and the Magdalena Mountains to the south.
To get to Cerro Tomé from Albuquerque, head south on I-25, take the Los Lunas exit, and turn left to head east on Main Street (NM 6). After crossing the river, turn right immediately after the Taco Bell and head south on NM 47. Cerro Tomé will loom before you. As you approach it, turn left (east) onto Tomé Hill Road. That street ends at a T intersection at the base of the hill. Take the right turn and follow La Entrada Road to the parking area on the south side of the hill. If you look for the big outdoor sculpture, you can’t miss the parking lot. A trail leads up the south side of the hill to the calvario at the summit.
Some people prefer the longer, gentler climb from the west end of the hill, which involves parking a little to the left of the end of Tomé Hill Road. Only limited parking is available there. There’s at least one other way to get to the top. One option when visiting is to go up one trail, down another, and along the roads at the base of the hill to return to your car.
It’s no secret that there are petroglyphs on Cerro Tomé. Those are not along the trails, however.
Tomé Hill is open to the public but belongs to the descendants of the Tomé land grant. In other words, it’s private land, and you’re there as a guest. It’s also a place of worship, especially on Good Fridays. The petroglyphs found on the hill show that its religious importance dates from before the arrival of the Spanish. Please consider these facts when you visit Cerro Tomé.