Albuquerque, NM: Agua Sarca Canyon Loop

Push from the depths of Agua Sarca Canyon to sky-scraping vistas atop North Sandia Rim on this 7-mile loop east of Albuquerque.
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Push from the depths of Agua Sarca Canyon to sky-scraping vistas atop North Sandia Rim on this 7-mile loop east of Albuquerque.

Follow Tunnel Springs Road to the Agua Sarca trailhead to begin your hike: if the tiny dirt lot is full, park 0.1 mile down the road at the Tunnel Springs trailhead. Pick up the Agua Sarca Trail, which begins by following an old jeep road, to dip into a canyon flanked by pine-peppered slopes. At mile 0.6, you’ll begin a 2.3-mile climb from the canyon floor to the route’s high point (9,056 feet) at the junction with North Crest Trail. The high desert panoramas become increasingly more revealing as you push upward through a drainage dotted with pinon trees and scrubby, low-lying vegetation. Just before the North Crest Junction, Albuquerque’s sweeping sprawl comes into view to the southwest.
From the junction, traverse the North Sandia Rim while heading east on the North Crest Trail. As you wind slowly downhill, the trail breaks into occasional down-valley views of Agua Sarca Canyon and panoramas of the lower countryside to the east. Near mile 4.4, the trail skirts a high cliff face offering an expansive vista of the rim you just traversed, with the North Crest Trail junction clearly visible to the southwest. After cutting back sharply to the east, the North Crest Trail connects to the Ojo Del Orno Trail at mile 6. From here, it’s a quick, one-mile descent back to your car at the Tunnel Springs or Agua Sarca trailhead.
-Mapped by Charlie Hart

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 11.0

Waypoints

ASC001

Location: 35.291419, -106.439323

Park your car at the Tunnel Springs trailhead. Head west to backtrack down Tunnel Springs Road en route to the Agua Sarca Trail. Parking is also available at the Agua Sarca trailhead, but the lot is smaller and usually full.

ASC002

Location: 35.291366, -106.441078

Bear left off the road to head toward the Agua Sarca trailhead.

ASC003

Location: 35.291751, -106.441576

Turn left at the Y-junction to head south on the Agua Sarca Trail, which heads downhill while following a jeep road for its first 0.7 miles.

ASC004

Location: 35.285074, -106.443701

Begin heading uphill near mile 0.6. Over the next 2.3 miles, you'll gain nearly 2,500 feet while climbing to the route's high point (9,056 feet).

ASC005

Location: 35.281658, -106.444581

Bear left at the Y-junction.

ASC006

Location: 35.276333, -106.441448

Bear right at the Y-junction to continue pushing uphill.

ASC007

Location: 35.262756, -106.450438

At the Y-junction, bear left onto the North Crest Trail.

ASC008

Location: 35.281569, -106.434945

Near mile 6, turn left to pick up the Ojo Del Orno Trai. The trailhead is less than a mile away.

Agua Sarca Trail: Heading South

Location: 35.288919, -106.442644

Dip between tree-topped slopes while heading south into the Agua Sarca Canyon.

Pinon Tree

Location: 35.272637, -106.445804

This gigantic pinon tree offers shady respite as you push upward.

Northern Vista

Location: 35.269378, -106.447563

Near mile 2.4, at an elevation above 8,500 feet, you'll snag superb vistas of the Agua Sarca stretching toward the city of Placitas to the north.

Albuquerque Panorama

Location: 35.263211, -106.450224

Just before the junction with the North Crest Trail, catch views of Albuquerque extending to the southwest.

North Crest Trail

Location: 35.262055, -106.449151

While traversing the North Crest Trail, look south for down-valley views of Agua Sarca Canyon.

Eastern Panorama

Location: 35.262826, -106.440954

Looking east from the North Crest Trail.

Agua Sarca Canyon

Location: 35.272812, -106.439495

From a stone bench perched above a high cliff at mile 4.4, look southwest for an expansive vista into Agua Sarca Canyon. The high point visible is the junction between the Agua Sarca Trail and North Crest Trail.