One perfect day in the Albuquerque outdoors

It's prime time for a getaway filled with kayaking, biking, and dining

Ted Alan Stedman

New Mexico's ghost towns: To get a glimpse of the state's most surreal landscapes, you need to hook up with the right guide. New Mexico Jeep Tours packs trekkers into four-wheel-drives and zips them 25 minutes north--to private lands behind the Sandia Mountains--for a romp through ancient Puebloan ruins, petroglyphs, and crumbling pioneer settlements. Keep your eyes peeled since tours frequently happen upon bands of wild horses. From $85 for three hours;

Pub grub, fiery beer: Opened last year in the busy Uptown District east of downtown, ABQ Brew Pub is earning street cred with its handcrafted beers and spiffed-up grub, like black mussels in a court bouillon of tomatoes, celery, and Spanish onion. Our favorite food-beer pairing: the fire-roasted pepper crostini chased with a pint of green chile-infused Pancho Verde. $$; 6601 Uptown Blvd. N.E.; 505/884-1116. 

Your million-dollar view: It took a team of Swiss engineers two years to build the Sandia Peak Tramway along the rugges western face of the Sandia Mountains, 15 minutes east of town. As you glide 2.7 miles over deep canyons and granite spires on you way to the 10,378-foot peak--with views all the way to Santa Fe--be sure to thankt hem for the time. $20 round-trip;

Make it a weekend: Less than a year old, Hotel Parq Central brings a burst of sparkle to the up-and-coming EDo neighborhood, east of downtown. The high-ceilinged, desert-toned rooms are comfy, but if you want to double your space, opt for one of the three cottages, equipped with fireplaces and walk-out patios overlooking a perky garden of irises and lavender. From $160;

3 more reasons to get outside

It would take weeks to see all the images chiseled into Petroglyph National Monument. Try the manageable Rinconada Canyon Trail, where 200 to 300 petroglyphs are visible amid volcanic rock and sand dunes. Unser Blvd. N.W. at Western Trail;

To elevate your sightseeing, book a slot with Rainbow Ryders, one of the area's top ballooning outfitters. Depending on the wind, you'll soar to 3,000 feet and dip low enough to graze the Rio Grande. Breakfast and bubbly included. From $150;

North of Old Town, Rio Grande Nature Center State Park accesses 270 acres of riverside forest--ponds, meadows, and 100-year-old cottonwoods. Bring binocs: It's a migratory flyway for sandhill cranes and Canada geese. $3 per vehicle; 2901 Candelaria Rd. N.W.; 

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