Conference field trip: Experience Albuquerque from 10k feet

By Julia John

The Sandia Peak Tramway carries visitors over striking landscapes and diverse life zones on its 3-mile climb up to the Sandia Crest, almost 10,400 feet above sea level. ©Sandia Peak Tramway

The Sandia Crest Tramway is one of three exciting field trips being offered at this year’s TWS Annual Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Conference registration opens in May. Visit twsconference.org for more details.

Where can you hop on the longest tramway in North America and zip up to 10,400 feet in elevation to look out over desert, deep canyons, short-grass prairie, coniferous forest, alpine tundra and craggy peaks? See for yourself this September on the field trip planned to the Cibola National Forest’s Sandia Mountains in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for TWS’ 24th Annual Conference.

“It’s a really unique experience,” said Esther Nelson, a wildlife biologist with the Forest Service in the Sandia Ranger District, where the Sandia Peak Tramway operates. “You’re not going to see something like that every day.”

Nelson is planning three half-day trips for conference attendees interested in learning about this national forest area and wildlife in the Southwest. It’ll start with a 45-minute drive from the convention center to the tramway, followed by a rapid 4,000-foot ascent to the Sandia Crest.

Nelson believes the nearly 3-mile, 15-minute ride up will be the most exciting part of the trip.

“It’s an amazing view,” she said. “Absolutely beautiful.”

Once on top, she’ll tell participants more about the district, its wildlife and its recreational opportunities. Attendees will get the chance to explore the Sandia Mountain Wilderness trails for an hour on one of several possible hikes, grab lunch at the restaurant on the summit and check out the gift store before heading back with the group.

Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), chipmunks (Tamias), Abert’s squirrels (Sciurus aberti), fence lizards (Sceloporus undulatus), migrating hawks and other wildlife with the changing altitude.

“I’m hoping participants will see New Mexico as not just a big desert,” Nelson said. “It has a lot of diversity in habitat and terrain.”

Nelson suggests bringing a small backpack, water and snacks. Pack layers, too, as the mountaintop can be 30 degrees colder than Albuquerque.

Visit twsconference.org for more information and to check out our two other exciting conference field trips. Spots are limited and are first-come, first-served, so be sure to register for the conference early!

Julia John is a science writer at The Wildlife Society. Contact her at jjohn@wildlife.org with any questions or comments about her article.

Read more of Julia's articles here.