Albuquerque is laid out in quadrants, with the axes formed by the railroad running north and south and by Route 66 (Central Ave.) running east and west.  There are two major interstates, I-25 and I-40, which also run north and south and east and west, respectively.  Where they intersect in the center of the city is known as the Big I.  The quadrants formed by the interstates only vaguely resemble the postal quadrants still used by the residents for street addresses. 

For the sake of simplicity for first-time visitors, it may be helpful to think of the Albuquerque International Sunport being in the southeast corner of the interestates, along with UNM, Nob Hill, the State Fair grounds, Kirtland AFB, the Sandia Nat'l Labs, and the sports venues.  Downtown would be in the southwest corner formed by the interstates.  It is clearly visible from most anywhere in Albuquerque.  Old Town, the BioPark, and the South Valley would also be in the southwest corner.  The northwest corner includes the North Valley, Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, and the Balloon Park.  The northeast corner is most of what is called the Northeast Heights. The Sandia Tramway is in the foothills at the furthest northeast point of the city.

Tip: In Albuquerque, the prominent Sandia Mountains are in the East. The flat horizon is in the West. The Rio Grande, at the bottom of the gentle valley floor, runs North to South.  The airport is in the southern part of the city. Santa Fe is to the north.


On I-25, anchoring Albuquerque to the south, is Isleta Pueblo and its casino resort.  (Continuing south are Los Lunas, Belen, and eventually Socorro and Las Cruces.)  Also on I-25, anchoring Albuquerque to the north, is Sandia Pueblo and its casino resort.  (Continuing north are Bernalillo and Santa Fe.)  The stretch of I-25 from the Big I to Sandia Pueblo is increasingly being referenced as the Northern Corridor, and is the location of many new motels, restaurants and other commercial areas, including the Renaissance development and the Journal Center.  From the Big I, Albuquerque stretches east along I-40 to the Sandia Mountains and Tijeras Canyon.  Along the way are the areas called Midtown and Uptown. Uptown is home to malls. including the revamped ABQ Uptown and Winrock Town Center, and other shopping and restaurants, as well as business centers.

Everything west of the Rio Grande is now described as the West Mesa or the West Side.  This is the area of the extinct volcanic calderas and escarpment visible on the western horizon and is the home of the Petroglyph National Monument.  The West Side stretches to Nine Mile Hill and beyond. From south to north, this area includes south valley communities (like Atrisco and Westgate), Taylor Ranch, Paradise Hills, and the incorporated city of Rio Rancho. The village of Corrales is also nestled on the west bank of the Rio Grande, north of Albuquerque and below Rio Rancho. The first major artery running north and south through the West Mesa is Coors, which corresponds roughly to the west bank of the Rio Grande.  Unser Blvd. is another major roadway on the West Side. The Paseo del Volcan loop alignment is being developed between west I-40 and Highway 550, which runs northwest from Bernalillo and the Santa Ana Pueblo toward the Jemez mountains, the Four Corners Region, and Durango, CO. (The exit previously known as Paseo del Volcan on west I-40 at Nine Mile Hill serving the Double Eagle II Airport was recently renamed Atrisco Vista.) Eventually another Northwest Loop thoroughfare is planned to connect I-40 further west, near the Rio Puerco, to Highway 550. In addition to I-40, the bridges across the Rio Grande, from south to north, are Rio Bravo, Bridge (Avenida Cesar Chavez), Central, Montano, Paseo del Norte, and Alameda.  

The crossroads downtown is the intersection of Fourth Street (the old El Camino Real from Mexico City to Santa Fe) and Central Ave. (the later, popularly known alignment of Route 66).  Central connects the BioPark at the river, Old Town, Downtown, Huning Highland, UNM, Nob Hill, and the State Fairgrounds.  Fourth Street is still the main street of the valley, but Second Street is the quicker route north and south.  To the south on Fourth Street is the Barelas neighborhood and the National Hispanic Cultural Center.  A rural route through the North Valley and the Village of Los Ranchos is provided by Rio Grande Boulevard.

Paseo del Norte, on the northside, has become a major east-west artery running from the mountain foothills, across the Rio Grande, to the petroglyphs on the West Side and beyond, where there is extensive new residential development, unitl it joins the renamed Atrisco Vista. A new interchange, with a "flyover", at Paseo del Norte and I-25 was completed by the end of 2014. Together with Alameda, this is a major route to a commercial and mall center on the west side and eventually to Rio Rancho, as well as to Corrales.

The northernmost exit in Albuquerque on I-25 is Tramway and Roy.  Tramway goes east toward the mountains where it turns south and follows the foothills of the Sandias, making a loop from I-25 to I-40, where it's the easternmost exit in Albuquerque. The Sandia Tramway is accessed from Tramway. Going west, Roy connects to Fourth Street in the North Valley, where the old El Camino Real also continues towards Bernalillo along a country road.

Much of the Northeast Heights is laid out so that its primary arteries north-and-south and east-and-west are one mile apart and form a grid.  Often there are secondary arteries at 1/2-mile increments.  Commerce lines most of the primary arteries. Within the separate residential developments in the Northeast Heights, the streets often wind about each other. The area north of Paseo del Norte is known as Albuquerque Acres. 

South of the airport is a largely undeveloped area known as Mesa del Sol, which includes an outdoor concert amphitheater and some film and television studios.

East of Albuquerque is Tijeras Canyon, between the Sandia and Monzano mountains. The old Route 66 and the new I-40 funnel through the canyon. The Four Hills area is at the mouth of the canyon. Within the canyon itself are the smalll residential communities of Carnuel and Tijeras, which is the gateway to the Turquoise Trail and to the East Mountain communities of Cedar Crest and Sandia Park.  East of the canyon are rural communities, including Edgewood and Moriarty.