Each season on the Mt. Taylor Ranger District provides different opportunities for the forest visitor. In late spring, summer and early fall, hikers and backpackers can enjoy the beautiful vistas along Gooseberry Spring Trail as they approach the summit of Mt. Taylor or Strawberry Canyon Trail on the way to McGaffey Lookout Tower in the Zuni Mountains. Fall offers warm, clear days and crisp, cool nights and brings with it abundant hunting opportunities in the Zuni Mountains and on Mt. Taylor. Stands of aspen across the district provide beautiful gold and red foliage. Winter sports include snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. The well-known Mt. Taylor Winter Quadrathlon offers the adventuresome a challenging endurance race every February. In summer, skies often display single and double rainbows after seasonal monsoons.
Developed recreation sites include Quaking Aspen, McGaffey, and Ojo Redondo in the Zuni Mountains and Coal Mine and Lobo Canyon on Mt. Taylor. Photographers and history buffs alike can find many sites and areas to explore and capture in memory or on film. The sunsets are truly beautiful to watch as dusk approaches.
Just east of Albuquerque are the most visited mountains in New Mexico. Millions of people journey into the Sandia Mountains each year. More than half these visitors ride the Sandia Peak Tram or drive the Sandia Crest National Scenic Byway to take in spectacular panoramic views of Central New Mexico and to enjoy many other recreational opportunities. The Four Seasons Visitor Center offers seasonal interpretive exhibits and programs at the upper Tram Building. The Scenic Byway has several newly remodeled picnic grounds with shelters and group areas for reservation.
The National Fee Project is currently in operation for all developed sites on the Scenic Byway and along the west and north sides of the district inthe Juan Tabo, Basin, and Las Huertas Canyon Areas. A daily amenity fee of $3.00 is required for all vehicles parking in designated, developed recreation sites around the District. An annual pass is favorable, with particular support given to the concept of fees staying available to the unit where they are collected. The annual Sandia Ranger District pass is $30.00 and can be purchased at the Sandia Ranger Station, Tijeras, NM, the Forest Service Supervisor's Office, Albuquerque, NM, and REI, Albuquerque, NM
The Sandias are part of the signature of Albuquerque's unique sense of place. They serve as a premier refuge to a population of over 700,000 people in the extended metropolitan area. Over one-third of the State's school-age population lives within an hour's drive of the Sandias, and there is a great demand for fire prevention, fire ecology, and other environmental education programs.
Sandia Mountain is a landmark in the spiritual universe of many active traditional Indian beliefs. It is regularly visited for ceremonial purposes by the Sandia Pueblo and at least annually by many other pueblos. It also has direct ties to Spanish land grant communities established by the King of Spain in the 1700's and Mexican land grants from the 1820's. Some Spanish land grants adjoining the Sandias are still active.
Water sources are not only sacred to Indian beliefs, but also played a key role in sustaining the agricultural bases of the land grant communities. Several ditch systems still function today, including one actively maintained in Las Huertas Canyon as an "acequia madre" for a community's agricultural water. These traditional communities are encountering greater conflicts with the growing recreational uses of the Sandias.
The lesser-known southern part of the District includes the Manzanita Mountains, which form a low ridge between the Manzano Mountains to the south and the Sandias to the north. A portion of this area is in the Military Withdrawal, where public use has been restricted since 1943. The Military Withdrawal and adjacent Forest Service land is currently the subject of intensive ecosystem planning to reduce fuel loads and the risk of wildfire, to enhance wildlife habitat and ecosystem health.
In many ways wildlife, fish and rare plants are the measure of our success as ecosystem managers. Species diversity and abundance relate to ecosystem health. The District wildlife program features habitat enhancement projects, inventory and monitoring of emphasis species, and informative and education. The program relies heavily on the support of partnership groups such as the Albuquerque Wildlife Federation, Hawk Watch International, Central New Mexico Audubon Society, Sandia Mountain Bear Watch, and the New Mexico Habitat Stamp program; the wildlife program is integrated into fire/fuels, recreation, and forest health project objectives and Quivira Coalition.