Albuquerque, NM: La Luz Trail

Irresistible to trail runners and hikers from all over the world, this classic, 7.1-mile climb to the Sandia Crest features sweeping vistas and challenging terrain.
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Irresistible to trail runners and hikers from all over the world, this classic, 7.1-mile climb to the Sandia Crest features sweeping vistas and challenging terrain.

The bad news: This tough-as-nails trail has been the official route of Albuquerque’s popular La Luz Trail Run since 1965, making it tops on hikers’ tick lists. The good news: In late September, trail traffic plummets right when temperatures cool and the aspen leaves turn gold.

From the trailhead on the northeast edge of town, the steep, zigzagging 14.2-mile (round-trip) trail weaves around cactus and yucca as it scales the canyon walls and skirts toothy outcrops. At mile 7.1, catch your breath on top of 10,678-foot Sandia Crest before dropping 4,500 feet on the return descent.

-Mapped by Bill Velasquez

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 22.9

Waypoints

LUZ001

Location: 35.219639, -106.480696

The route starts on dry, dusty trail and weaves through rocky outcrops. As you gain elevation, the juniper and pinon transition to aspen, fir, and spruce.

LUZ002

Location: 35.213402, -106.475375

Turn left at the junction. A signpost marks the way to the lower tram terminal.

LUZ003

Location: 35.213771, -106.475158

Follow switchbacks past cacti and yucca.

LUZ004

Location: 35.214124, -106.471609

Sweeping vistas emerge as the trail climbs higher.

LUZ005

Location: 35.212745, -106.467113

Stay right when the main trail passes diverging user trails.

LUZ006

Location: 35.20929, -106.463492

Rock walls line the canyon.

LUZ007

Location: 35.210499, -106.460448

A few shady spots can offer relief from the heat during hot months.

LUZ008

Location: 35.206385, -106.453179

Hardpack trail starts to transition to rocky scree slopes.

LUZ009

Location: 35.20495, -106.449518

Tackle steeper grades near the top of the climb.

LUZ010

Location: 35.209574, -106.448886

Catch your breath on top of 10,678-foot Sandia Crest before dropping 4,500 feet on the
return descent.

La Luz Trailhead

Location: 35.21954, -106.480694

La Luz Trail

Location: 35.219328, -106.480306

Trail Runner Magazine calls it one of the toughest trail races.

Switchbacks

Location: 35.213788, -106.474767

Western Views

Location: 35.212687, -106.467431

Rocky Outcrops

Location: 35.212716, -106.467288

User Trails

Location: 35.212745, -106.46708

as you go up, some old or user trails can make your route confusing.

Rock Formations

Location: 35.208003, -106.456592

Butterfly

Location: 35.209227, -106.449275