Sandia Mountains, New Mexico

Encyclopedia Article


This mountain range runs north to south and is located east of Albuquerque, New Mexico. The highest peak, Sandia Crest, is 10,678 feet in elevation. The range may have originally been called “San Diaz” or Saint Diaz. Another theory suggests that, because Sandia is Spanish for “watermelon,” Sandia could refer to the pink color the mountains reflect at sunset. The name for the mountain in Navajo is, “Dził Nááyisí” or “Mountain that Revolves,” perhaps referring to the large circular bowls that form the west-facing aspect of the range.

In 1865, in order to subdue the Navajo, the U.S. Army rounded up the Navajo and forcibly made them walk 450 miles from their homeland, centered near Canyon de Chelley in northwestern New Mexico, to the Fort Sumner/Bosque Redondo reservation in southeastern New Mexico. Known as “The Long Walk,” four primary routes comprised the forced march: two skirted the western edge of the Sandia Mountains and two cut through Tijeras canyon and across the Sandia Mountains. Therefore, this unfortunate part of Navajo history is tied to the mountain range.

Additionally, there is a Paleolithic site on the north end of the mountain range in Sandia Cave. This site includes stone tools from the ancient Sandia Culture, which were excavated in the 1930s and 1940s by Frank Hibben, an archaeology professor from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.

Photo Credit: 

"Sandia Crest, Albuquerque, July 12, 2007" by Skoch3 is licensed under CC BY-SA.

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