Albuquerque, NM: North Sandia Peak via Sandia Crest Trail

Summit the Southwest's most European mountain.
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Summit the Southwest's most European mountain.

Albuquerque hikers know they’re lucky to have the 20-mile ridge of the Sandia Mountains as their rugged eastern skyline, but surprisingly few trek up through the range’s four ecological zones and spend a night camping above the city lights. This stout shuttle hike traverses the length of the Crest Trail and offers an urban-access backpacking experience unique among American cities, with trailheads and a tram from town–and a restaurant on top.

Start at the Tunnel Spring trailhead at the north end of the Crest Trail and knock out 4,100 feet of elevation gain in the first 10 miles. Just before the 10-mile mark, take a side trail west to the North Sandia Peak summit, just .35 mile and 250 feet of elevation above the Crest Trail. The entire city of Albuquerque spreads out nearly a vertical mile beneath you.

Skip packing dinner and order the green chile stew or bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin at the High Finance Restaurant (reservations recommended: 505- 243-9742, sandiapeakrestaurants.com) at 11.8 miles. Fill your water bottles at the restaurant and find good campsites starting within a mile down the trail after dinner. Finish the almost all-downhill miles the next day, ending at the Canyon Estates trailhead.

GUIDEBOOK: Sandia Mountain Hiking Guide, by Mike Coltrin ($17, unmpress.com)

CONTACT: (505) 281-3304, fs.usda.gov/cibola

-Mapped by Bill Velasquez

TO TRAILHEAD: Shuttle car drop: Take I-40 east 15 miles to NM 337. Turn left onto Arrowhead Trail after .2 mile. Continue .6 mile as Arrowhead Trail turns into Thunderbird Trail (both roads) and ends at the trailhead.

Start: Take I-40 back to I-25. Go 16 miles north to NM 165. Head east five miles to Tunnel Springs Rd. Turn left, and drive 1.5 miles to the Tunnel Spring trailhead.

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 38.2

Waypoints

NSD001

Location: 35.291359, -106.439201

Start at the Tunnel Spring trailhead at the north end of the Crest Trail and knock out 4,100 feet of elevation gain in the first 10 miles.

NSD002

Location: 35.290878, -106.438698

As you ascend through loose rock, keep an eye out for fossils and horny toads.

NSD003

Location: 35.262642, -106.441048

The trail climbs through low cover along a wide open slope with magnificent views of the folds in the crest to the north.

NSD004

Location: 35.249176, -106.451018

To the south, lush aspen groves cover the hillsides. Follow the trail through dense forest with occasional breaks that yield views of prominent rock formations below North Sandia Peak.

NSD005

Location: 35.241098, -106.45046

Keep straight @ 3-way junction with Osha Loop Trail.

NSD006

Location: 35.23768, -106.449795

Keep right @ 3-way junction with the 10K Trail.

NSD007

Location: 35.229881, -106.452134

Take a side trail west to the North Sandia Peak summit, just .35 mile and 250 feet of elevation above the Crest Trail. The entire city of Albuquerque spreads out nearly a vertical mile beneath you.

SCN008

Location: 35.235069, -106.456575

North Sandia Peak: (10,447 ft.): The entire city of Albuquerque spreads out nearly a vertical mile beneath you.

SCN009

Location: 35.216679, -106.450798

Pass an area area accessible by vehicles and continue south.

SCN010

Location: 35.211239, -106.449303

After skirting the east boundary of a fenced radio yard, cross Crest Highway.

SCN011

Location: 35.20948, -106.448196

Crest House: Pass a large parking lot near gift shop and snack bar.

SCN012

Location: 35.207162, -106.444581

Continue straight at 4-way junction.

SCN013

Location: 35.207407, -106.444001

Turn right at 3-way junction.

SCN014

Location: 35.206724, -106.441877

Pass a popular meadow enclosed by a buck-and-pole fence; an adjacent rock building overlooks the city below.

SCN015

Location: 35.19701, -106.43486

Skip packing dinner and order the green chile stew or bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin at the High Finance Restaurant (reservations recommended: 505-243-9742, sandiapeakrestaurants.com) located at the top of the tram. Fill your water bottles at the restaurant and find good campsites starting within a mile down the trail after dinner. Next: Finish the almost all-downhill miles the next day, ending at the Canyon Estates trailhead.

SCN016

Location: 35.187155, -106.42087

Turn right, heading southeast.

SCN017

Location: 35.168977, -106.414315

Continue straight.

SCN018

Location: 35.153477, -106.414797

Continue straight at 3-way.

SCN019

Location: 35.143749, -106.414014

Continue straight at 3-way.

SCN020

Location: 35.111835, -106.426857

Bear left at Y-junction onto CCC Trail.

SCN021

Location: 35.09895, -106.405935

Turn right, then continue straight (east) at the next junction.

SCN022

Location: 35.097492, -106.397374

Bear right at Y-junction.

SCN023

Location: 35.089557, -106.391666

The route ends at Canyon Estates trailhead.