The Sandia Mountains sit at the Eastern edge of the Albuquerque metro area... and going East on I-40 "through the canyon" you'll find many neighborhoods, homes, and Real Estate we collectively refer to as "The East Mountains". This area is made up of various communities including Cedar Crest, Tijeras, and Sandia Park.
The main road that travels north through this area and beyond to Santa Fe is The Turquoise Trail Scenic Byway. If you take this route from Albuquerque, it will take about 15-30 minutes longer than taking I-25, but is well worth it for the views, beautiful Real Estate, and the great little towns to visit along the way. Make plans to have lunch in Madrid (about 1/2 way there). It's an old mining town that now has many fun shops and great galleries.
OK, Back to the East Mountain area... Reasons people like to live in the East Mountains are many - the Mountain atmosphere, the high plains beyond, the climate (~7 degrees cooler than Albuquerque), 'checking out' of the city, and the potential for owning larger pieces of Real Estate or horse property. There are also some fantastic planned communities in the East Mountains such as Paa-Ko ( Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Club was named as one of country's 100 greatest public courses of 2005-06 and New Mexico's best course, according to Golf Digest magazine in 2005), San Pedro Creek Estates (10 acre minimum home sites with phenomenal views), The Overlook, which is gated and has a Community Center plus 'concierge' services, and Nature Pointe (2 Acre home sites with a community pool, trails, racquetball, fitness center, etc). You'll also find Mountain Cabins, Ranchettes & Ranches (great horse properties), and Gentleman Farms, depending on where you are in the East Mountains.
Further East you'll find the Communities of Edgewood, Moriarty, and the Estancia Valley. Not necessarily considered part of the Albuquerque Metro or the East Mountains, but many people do make the commute to Albuquerque from here. These areas are more affordable and offer larger amounts of Real Estate at lower prices than in Albuquerque or the East Mountain areas. The trade-off for the prices and size of parcels is that this area is generally open high plains and is less vegetated.
The paved road up to the top of Sandia Peak is accessed via the East Mountains and is a great road trip. The only way up from the West side of the Sandia's is to take the Tram (very fun), or hike. If you take this drive be sure to check out the Tinkertown Museum (hard to explain, you just have to see it). The Sandia Peak Ski area is also on this side of the mountain. While not world class mountain skiing, it is extremely convenient to town for a quick ski fix when there's not time to hit Taos, Santa Fe, or Durango. Compared to where I grew up skiing in Minnesota, the Sandia Peak Ski Area is real mountain skiing. Now I'm spoiled with the awesome skiing we have just a few hours from home, and I'm a wimp and generally only ski on warm sunny days where you have to use lots of sunscreen. Of course, many of the great hiking and cross country ski trails in the Sandia Mountain Wilderness can be accessed from the peak road as well. One thing that is fun about Albuquerque is that in the winter it may be sunny and dry in town but you can drive 30 minutes and get a snow fix. As they say... In Albuquerque, you can Golf and Ski on the same day!.
South of I-40 in the East Mountain area is called South 14. You'll find Cedro Peak and Otero Canyon recreation areas. My husband and brother say these are some of the best mountain biking trails to be found in the state. (they always come back scraped up, exhausted, and happy). Also here you can do off road activities - ATV, Dirt Bikes, 4 wheeling, etc.
Yes, there are lots of homes here and large parcels of Real Estate available. There are many awesome places to live out here for those wanting to be out of the city. If a rural, or mountain, or ranch lifestyle if for you... consider the east Mountains.