This route takes advantage of the Sandia Peak Tramway to make a downhill dayhike out of the northern half of the Sandia Crest Trail (marked No. 130). Stash a vehicle at the North Crest Trailhead for the return trip to the Tramway.
Be prepared for major changes in temperature on this hike: The trail starts above 10,000 feet and ends in the upper Sonoran zone.
Want to make an overnighter out of the entire 26-mile Crest Trail? Travel south to north, taking advantage of intermittent level terrain to catch your breath as you climb. Our tip: Pack light. You can leave the stove at home if you grab dinner at the High Finance Restaurant and bring a cold breakfast.
-Mapped by Bill Velasquez
TO TRAILHEAD: Start: From I-25 and I-40 in Albuquerque, take I-25 north 7.5 miles to Tramway Rd., exit 234. Turn right. Take Tramway Rd. east 4.9 miles to Tramway Rd. NE; turn left. Take Tramway Rd. NE .8 mile to Tramway Loop NE. Bear right, and go .2 mile to parking at base of tramway.
End: From Bernalillo, 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.
- Distance: 19.4
Location: 35.197079, -106.434898
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.
Location: 35.205238, -106.440903
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.
Location: 35.206902, -106.443901
Keep straight, heading northwest @ 3-way junction; trail on left detours to the Kiwanis House.
Location: 35.20948, -106.448196
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).
Location: 35.211239, -106.449303
Cross Crest Hwy. and skirt the east boundary of a fenced radio yard. Head north.
Location: 35.216679, -106.450798
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.
Location: 35.237659, -106.449799
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.
Location: 35.241089, -106.450401
Keep straight @ 3-way junction with Osha Loop Trail.
Location: 35.249451, -106.451309
To the south, lush aspen groves cover the hillsides.
Location: 35.261429, -106.444252
Trail gently curves to the east, then north; there are good views across the canyons of peaks to the east.
Location: 35.262642, -106.441048
The trail drops through low cover along a wide open slope with magnificent views of the folds in the crest to the north.
Location: 35.290878, -106.438698
As you descend through loose rock, keep an eye out for fossils and horny toads.
Location: 35.291359, -106.439201
North Crest Trailhead: A car shuttle should be in place if you hike the trail in one day.
Location: 35.249168, -106.450958
Looking south to the top of the crest, lush aspen groves remind you that a fall hike on the Sandia Crest Trail is in order.
Views to the East
Location: 35.261501, -106.444183
Canyons and more peaks grace the eastern horizon from the North Crest Trail.
Location: 35.281464, -106.43605
Although the Sandia Crest Trail crosses several ecological zones, reminders of the desert are never far away.