Funky and affordable, the Route 66 Hostel (1012 Central Ave. SW, 505/247-1813, www.rt66hostel.com ) is the kind of place you might get settled into and never leave. This century-old house midway between Downtown  and Old Town  has been offering bargain accommodations since 1978, and it’s very clean despite years of budget travelers traipsing through. Upstairs, along creaky wood hallways, are private rooms ($25–35) with various configurations, including the tiny “monk cell,” perfect for the broke solo traveler; others have bathtubs and room for three to sleep comfortably. Downstairs and in the cool basement area are single-sex dorms ($20 pp). Guests have run of the kitchen (an optional free dinner is served every night), and there are a laundry and plenty of room to lounge. Some visitors have reported frustratingly flaky communications with the staff, who aren’t on hand throughout the night—this can be a liability if you’re arriving late or leaving early. The most useful city bus lines run right out front.
The only criticism to muster against the Sandia Peak Inn (4614 Central Ave. SW, 505/831-5036, $49 d) is that it’s nowhere near the mountain; in fact, it’s on the west side of the city, just over the river from Old Town . In all other respects, it’s more than you could want in a bargain hotel: Two wings have large, spotless rooms decorated in a homey fashion, all with bathtubs, fridges, microwaves, and huge TVs. (One suite has a whirlpool tub; another has an extra daybed, handy for families.) An indoor pool and hot tub provide year-round relaxation, and breakfast is included in the rate. The near-obsessive owner lives on the premises with his family and is very proud of his creation.
Conveniently situated in Nob Hill , Hiway House (3200 Central Ave. SE, 505/268-3971) retains a bit of the Route 66 motel-court flair, at least on the outside. Rooms are fairly generic, but most all of them have been overhauled since 2005. The place is kept quite clean, however, and you’re within easy walking distance of the university as well as all of the Nob Hill attractions. The owners are cagey about their prices, which they tend to change according to demand—feel free to haggle.
If you’re on a budget but have your own car, you can also stay in the community of Cedar Crest, on the east side of the Sandias, about a half-hour drive from the city. The Sandia Mountain Hostel (12234 Hwy. 14, 505/281-4117) is peaceful and well kept, even if its yard is filled with rusting trucks and live burros; two single-sex dorms ($14 pp) open onto a big shared kitchen with a woodstove, and a separate house has three private rooms ($32) with porches overlooking the back canyon.
Just up the road on the west side, the Turquoise Trail Campground (22 Calvary Rd., 505/281-2005, May–Oct.) has tree-shaded spots for tents ($15) as well as small cabins ($28), along with showers and laundry facilities.