Albuquerque, NM: Sandia Crest Trail

Want the ultimate challenge? Traverse the entire Sandia in one marathon day on this 27.1-mile point-to-point that runs across the Sandia spine, racking up nearly 12,000 feet of elevation change.
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Want the ultimate challenge? Traverse the entire Sandia in one marathon day on this 27.1-mile point-to-point that runs across the Sandia spine, racking up nearly 12,000 feet of elevation change.

You’ll hike through all four of the Sandia Mountains’s life zones, tag two prominent peaks, enjoy miles of ridgetop views—and notch a hiking rite of passage—on this classic 27.1-mile point-to-point.

Start at the Canyon Estates trailhead for a longer but less quad-killing, south-to-north climb past piñon, juniper, and trickling Travertine Falls. Gain the ridgeline at mile 4.1 after climbing 2,050 vertical feet; look for mariposa lilies in midsummer. At mile 5.8, take the one-mile detour to 9,782-foot South Sandia Peak for views above Albuquerque.

Roughly 14 miles in, refuel at the High Finance Restaurant before topping out on the broad slopes of 10,678-foot Sandia Crest—the tallest point in the range—at mile 15.9. (Craving a slower pace? Camp in one of the clearings south of the Crest.)

Less than 1.5 miles later, detour to North Sandia Peak, the Sandia’s northernmost 10,000-footer. The remaining 8.9 miles drop through aspens and horny toad habitat to the Tunnel Spring trailhead.

-Mapped by Bill Velasquez

TO TRAILHEAD: Start/South Crest trailhead: From I-25 in Albuquerque, take I-40 east 15 miles to exit 175 (Tijeras) for NM 337 south. Turn left to cross under the interstate, then turn right onto Arrowhead Trail. Go .6 mile to trailhead at end of street.

End/North Crest trailhead: Take I-25 north to exit 242, NM 165. Go right; take NM 165 east 5 miles to Tunnel Springs Rd. Turn right; go 1.5 miles to trailhead.

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 43.6

Waypoints

SCT001

Location: 35.089581, -106.391605

Head north from the South Crest trailhead for a gentle climb.

SCT002

Location: 35.095101, -106.392994

Pass Travertine Falls, a trickling waterfall.

SCT003

Location: 35.097451, -106.397202

Stay on Crest Trail 130 @ junction with Faulty Trail. Ahead, switchbacks lead west up ridge overlooking Hondo Canyon.

SCT004

Location: 35.098995, -106.406387

Continue on Crest Trail @ Upper Faulty intersection (Upper Faulty leads to CCC and Faulty).

SCT005

Location: 35.09409, -106.411003

Head west; look to the south for views of local mining operations. Switchback climb ahead.

SCT006

Location: 35.110992, -106.427178

Continue straight on Crest Trail. Embudito Trail descends steeply down the west side of the mountain as the trail crosses a clearing; South Sandia Peak looms to the north.

SCT007

Location: 35.116124, -106.428114

Bear L @ Y onto unmarked trail, head NW through clearing

SCT008

Location: 35.120449, -106.430714

S. Sandia Peak (9,782 ft.): Note tramway to N. Return to bus stop

SCT009

Location: 35.143663, -106.413996

Continue straight @ 3-way where trail intersects Barts Trail; wind through thick groves of quaking aspen.

SCT010

Location: 35.153483, -106.414704

Stay straight @ 3-way; Canyoncito Trail winds up the east side of the mountain and enters on right.

SCT011

Location: 35.169023, -106.414303

Continue straight on saddle, heading northeast, then northwest. The popular Pino Trail enters on left where scrub oak flourishes (a good place for a break before tackling upcoming elevation gain); Cienega Trail enters on right.

SCT012

Location: 35.187197, -106.420702

Keep left, passing Tree Spring Trail and 10K Trail. Begin slightly steep climb through dense tree cover to the Crest.

SCT013

Location: 35.192761, -106.431299

Follow South Crest Trail to the north-northwest. Leave the forest as you near the Sandia Peak Tramway and ski area.

SCT014

Location: 35.19609, -106.434192

Take a well-deserved break at High Finance Restaurant & Tavern (microbrews served), then hop on the Sandia Peak Tramway for a relaxing ride to your shuttle car.

SCT015

Location: 35.197082, -106.434901

From the top of the tram, head north-northwest on the Crest Trail. The braided trails that lead from the restaurant to the Crest House can be confusing to follow. Stay on the Crest Trail, No. 130.

SCT016

Location: 35.205234, -106.4409

Continue north past Gravel Pit Trail; pass a popular meadow enclosed by a buck-and-pole fence; an adjacent rock building overlooks the city below. In .2 mile, pass Buried Cable Trail.

SCT017

Location: 35.207192, -106.444559

Keep straight, heading northwest @ junction; the trail on the left detours to the Kiwanis House.

SCT018

Location: 35.209471, -106.448489

Crest House: Trail opens at large parking lot near gift shop and snack bar. Pick up North Crest Trail on the north end of lot (near the radio towers).

SCT019

Location: 35.211246, -106.449344

Cross Crest Hwy. and skirt the east boundary of a fenced radio yard. Head north.

SCT020

Location: 35.216683, -106.450803

Crowds thin as the trail winds north through fir, pine, and spruce trees (away from the area accessible by vehicle). Begin gradual descent to North Crest trailhead.

SCT021

Location: 35.229885, -106.452137

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.

SCT022

Location: 35.23507, -106.45657

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

SCT023

Location: 35.237658, -106.449803

Stay straight @ 3-way junction with the 10K Trail. Follow the trail through dense forest with occasional breaks that yield views of prominent rock formations below North Sandia Peak.

SCT024

Location: 35.241086, -106.450402

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

SCT025

Location: 35.249451, -106.45131

To the south, lush aspen groves cover the hillsides.

SCT026

Location: 35.261427, -106.444257

Trail gently curves to the east, then north; there are good views across the canyons of peaks to the east.

SCT027

Location: 35.262638, -106.441047

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

SCT028

Location: 35.290877, -106.438699

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

SCT029

Location: 35.291358, -106.439202

North Crest trailhead: A car shuttle should be in place if you hike the trail in one day.