Roaming: Uniquely New Mexican landscapes

Valles Caldera National Preserve. Matt Dahlseid/New Mexican file photo

I have to admit, in past summers I have done a lot of laying in bed, bingeing TV shows and playing video games. The summer of 2020 especially required a lot of improvising on how to enjoy my time indoors. This summer, however, has been an awakening from my hibernation. More people are becoming fully vaccinated, which means more places are opening up, there are more summer activities and teens can finally hang out with their friends safely.

This is probably the most eventful summer I have experienced, thanks to fun and local-friendly activities to do with friends and family. As the summer comes to an end, here’s a few outings I recommend.

Watch the sunset from Sun Mountain

The Sun Mountain hike is an activity I’ve liked to do since I was young. It is a scenic and enjoyable climb up the mountain. It is also easy, with it being a mile and a half out and back. I suggest starting the hike at around 7 p.m., so once you get to the top, you can soak in the sunset. The views of the city and mountains are my favorite part. Be prepared for a rocky trail and little shade.

Visit Cliff’s Amusement Park

Cliff’s Amusement Park is a classic go-to summer destination that I hope everyone has experienced. Located in Albuquerque, it’s home to roller coasters, rides with plenty of spins and swings, and carnival games. I’ve been here many times with friends and family, and I’ve found I never get tired of it. My favorite rides are probably the Sidewinder, Musik Express and the Fire Ball. If you haven’t already, it’s your time to go to Cliff’s and find out what your favorite ride is.

Stargaze at Patrick Smith Park

My recent trip to the park allowed me to rediscover how beautiful the night sky is. If you’re trying to take it easy and relax, consider laying in the park and taking your time to look at the constellations, North Star, moon and planets. You will truly appreciate the experience. I recommend Patrick Smith Park because of the spacious field, but any park with low light pollution works, too.

Skateboard around town and end the night at a restaurant

If you’re looking for a fun group activity to do with your friends, this one is simple and affordable. My friends and I journeyed to the top of a local parking garage and practiced skateboarding one summer evening. It felt nice to feel the summer breeze and savor the presence of my friends. Not every parking area is skater-friendly; another option is to try longboarding on the Santa Fe River Trail near Frenchy’s Field. We ended the night with dinner at Olive Garden, but any other local restaurant that welcomes loud company will do.

Take a drive up to the Valles Caldera

This is a fun day trip to take with your friends. The drive through the mountains near Los Alamos is beautiful. We stopped by the lookout of the Valles Caldera National Preserve, and it was stunning to see — especially because it had been awhile since I had taken that drive. We packed a picnic lunch and watched the Hummingbird Music Camp concert in Jemez Springs. I hope to go on a hike near the Valles Caldera next time.

Sofia Barker will be a junior at the Academy for Technology and the Classics. Contact her at

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