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