EXPEDITION PLANNER: Sandia Mountain Wilderness, NM
Drive Time: The Sandia Mountain Wilderness lies directly east of Albuquerque; from downtown, it’s an easy 20-minute drive.
The Way: Take I-40 east to Tramway Boulevard and turn left. Go north on Tramway, then turn right (east) onto Montgomery Boulevard for the Embudito Canyon Trail. The Elena Gallegos trailhead is on the right, directly off Tramway.
Trails: There are 112 miles of trails, so it’s easy to create a short or long hike. The Pino Trail/Sandia Crest Trail/Embudito Canyon Trail loop is 21 miles. For more solitude, cross over the Sandia Crest and use the eastern side’s trails (the Cienega, Faulty, and Barts Trails, for instance) to create a longer loop.
Elevation: The wilderness ranges from around 6,000 feet at the trailheads to 10,678 feet at the crest.
Can’t Miss: The view of Albuquerque at sunset or at night.
Crowd Control:Dayhikers abound in summer. Avoid hiking on the Sandia Crest near the tram, which attracts hordes who want a sweat-free ride to the top.
Guides: New Mexico’s Wilderness Areas: The Complete Guide, by Bob Julyan (Westcliffe Publishers, 800-523-3692; www.backpacker.com/bookstore; $24.95). The USDA Forest Service Sandia Mountain Wilderness map ($7) is available from the Sandia Ranger District (see Contact below).
Walk Softly: The wilderness is a fragile environment. Camp only on durable surfaces.
Contact: Cibola National Forest, Sandia Ranger District, (505) 281-3304; www.fs.fed.us/r3/cibola. Trailhead parking lots are locked at night. Notify the Open Space police at (505) 873-6632 if you’re leaving a vehicle.