Albuquerque, NM: North Crest Trail to Ojo del Orno Canyon

Winding past steep canyon walls and ancient fossil beds, this 6.6-mile out-and-back in the Sandia Mountains rewards with an overlook across the Rio Puerco Valley.

This route follows 3.3 miles of the Cibola National Forest’s North Crest Trail as it climbs the Sandia Mountain’s eastern slope toward the ridge and the backbone path of Cibola’s local and long-distance trail network.
From the Tunnel Springs trailhead, follow the North Crest Trail for 0.8 mile beneath 200-foot granite cliffs and across several drainages. As it begins its 1,000-foot climb, the rocky trail turns south, up the canyon and climbs through piñon and juniper, briefly skirting an old Jeep road around mile 2. One mile later, the trail reaches the edge of the Ojo del Orno Canyon for a steep and precarious climb to the top of the canyon among fossil-embedded rocks.
The route for this 6.6-mile out-and-back ends at the junction with the Ojo del Orno Trail—a 0.8-mile steep, rocky, and un-maintained route to the Tunnel Springs trailhead. Many hikers choose to extend their trip continuing along the Crest Trail for a few extra miles, or for the entire 23-mile length of the trail to Tijeras.
Mapped by Bill Velasquez

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 5.3



Location: 35.2913895, -106.4393005

The trail begins on the south side of the trailhead's small parking area. Potable water and bathroom facilities are available here.


Location: 35.2913895, -106.4393005

Immediately after the trailhead kiosk, cross into the 37,800-acre Sandia Mountain Wilderness.


Location: 35.2961082, -106.4283981

The rocky, well-worn trail is easy to follow below a steep cliff as it darts in and out of small drainages.


Location: 35.2866669, -106.4245834

Here the trail parallels an old road as it climbs wide-open juniper and piñon-covered slopes.


Location: 35.2855606, -106.4344025

Use caution on the steep, rocky section of trail as it climbs a wall overlooking Ojo del Orno Canyon.


Location: 35.2812805, -106.4348984

The North Crest Trail continues to climb, but this route ends at the junction with the Ojo del Orno trail--a steep 0.8-mile alternative route to the Tunnel Spring Trailhead.

Placitas View

Location: 35.2821999, -106.4351044

The western view of Placitas and Cabezon Peak, the largest volcanic neck in Rio Puerco Valley, 40 miles away.

Fossil rock

Location: 35.2841568, -106.4345245

One of many fossil rocks you will find along the way. It is illegal to collect rocks or plants from Forest Service land.