Elena Gallegos Open Space

Information about Elena Gallegos Open Space.

Elena Gallegos Picnic Area

Visitors to Elena Gallegos Picnic Area and Albert G. Simms Park enjoy many activities below the backdrop of the Sandia Mountains, which were named for their pink colors at sunset - "Sandia" is Spanish for "watermelon."

The 640-acre park is a gem in the Open Space system. At an elevation of about 6,500 feet, visitors can view Mt. Taylor to the west, the Jemez Mountains to the north and the vast Tijeras Arroyo to the south.

The landscape supports a piñon-juniper habitat that includes chamisa, Apache plume, scrub oak, cane cholla cactus, blue grama grass, bear grass, and soapweed yucca. If visitors use their observation skills pack rat nests can be seen under juniper trees, coyote and bear scat can be identified along the trail, and the elusive cougar may be spotted traveling through a natural drainage.

Proposed Improvements & Education Center

A feasibility study was conducted during the winter of 2021-22 to determine the feasibility of proposed improvements at Elena Gallegos, including locations for a potential Education Center. Click here to view the feasibility study. Additional information about the planning process, including previous meetings, can be found at the following website: https://foothillseducationcenter.com/.

Click here to view exhibit boards related to the proposed changes to the site.

The Parks and Recreation Department determined that further public engagement and studies are required. The Open Space Division will proceed with general upgrades to the facility that are outlined in the Feasibly Study that include such things as the replacement of existing outdoor furnishing, general road repairs and the improvements to the cottonwood springs wildlife blind and nature trail. However, the Parks and Recreation Department will not move forward with any major changes to Elena Gallegos to allow adequate time for public input and further site assessment. The next steps in the planning process includes additional studies as well as seeking further public engagement and conducting workshops and meetings for the neighboring residents and broader Albuquerque community. Some of these tasks have been modified from what was presented earlier to allow needed time to complete additional work requested by the public. This is an important project, and the Parks and Recreation Department wants to ensure a thorough public process with accurate information to support the best decisions moving forward. The updated timeline includes the following:

Project timeline Elena Gallegos rev 2

Use & Restrictions of Grills

Hours of Operation

  • Winter Hours (In effect starting Nov. 1): 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Summer Hours (In effect starting April 1): 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.


Seven covered picnic areas and two reservation areas with barbecue grills provide magnificent views to the east and the west. A network of multi-use trails offer challenges to hikers, bikers and equestrians. Hikers also enjoy two trails for foot traffic only and access to the Sandia Mountain Wilderness area. On the north boundary of the picnic area is the Cottonwood Springs Trail, a self-guiding trail accessible to all people, leading to a pond and wildlife blind. A special feature of the Cottonwood Springs Trail are the shaded rest stops with original art work by Margie O'Brien interpreting the surrounding environment. A map of the Elena Gallegos Picnic Area trails is available. Refer to the facility chart and the facility map for more information.

School programs and family-based activities are offered throughout the year. Visit the Elena Gallegos Information Center, located at the entrance of the park, to learn more about the natural and cultural environment of this area.

Reservation Areas

The following two areas are available for group reservations:


Monday to Friday: $1 per vehicle
Saturday to Sunday: $2 per vehicle


To access the park from Interstate 40, exit on to Tramway north. After the Academy Road traffic light turn right onto Simms Park Road and travel east to the Information Center.