Golden Open Space in the East Mountains

Golden Open Space, Sandoval County, New Mexico
The Sandia Mountains as seen from the top of the Arroyo Seco Trail.


Golden Open Space is maintained by the City of Albuquerque, but it’s not even close to the city (it’s not even in the same county). This has to be the most remote and least visited of the city open spaces—for some people, a plus. The trails are obvious and carefully marked, so you won’t need a GPS unit. Hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders are all welcome. The area is high desert, not mountains, so best visited when it’s not blazing hot.


From Albuquerque, depending on where you live, the drive to the open space will last about 45 minutes to an hour. Head east on I-40 and then north on NM 14 (the Turquoise Trail). A mile past the turnoff for the Sandia Crest Highway (NM 536), turn left onto La Madera Road. As you patiently wind your way through the foothills, past scattered residences, use the street signs to stay on the proper road. Once you leave the residential area, the pavement ends. The remainder of the access route (still La Madera Road) is graded and most of the time it should be passable for high-clearance passenger vehicles. Soon you’ll see an obvious, well-marked parking lot to the right.


Golden Open Space, Sandoval County, New Mexico
The official open space map


I’ve included a copy of the open space map; you can download a PDF of the map here. Note that the city open space is bordered by BLM land (which you can walk onto, legally) as well as state and private land (both verboten without prior permission). As you leave the parking lot you’ll need to decide whether to turn left (and hike clockwise) or right (and hike counterclockwise). If you drove all that way for a quick-look-see, turn left and walk to the scenic overlook and back (1.8 miles round trip). By turning right and doing the full loop, you’ll extend your walk (including the scenic overlook, 2.4 miles). This second option includes multiple views of the canyons drained by Arroyo Seco. Either way, most of the time you’ll be strolling on an unexciting near-flat mesa top but one with views of distant mountains. 


Golden Open Space, Sandoval County, New Mexico
Wiyo on Los Duendes Loop, with the Jemez Mountains in the distance


Since you drove this far out, I recommend that you hike at least the first half-mile of the Arroyo Seco Trail, down into one of the local canyons. As soon as you drop off the mesa, the place has a whole new feel. If you’re so inclined, you can hike all the way to San Pedro Creek and back, a roughly 10 1/2 mile in-and-out from the parking lot.