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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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.
- Distance: 43.6
Location: 35.089581, -106.391605
Head north from the South Crest trailhead for a gentle climb.
Location: 35.095101, -106.392994
Pass Travertine Falls, a trickling waterfall.
Location: 35.097451, -106.397202
Stay on Crest Trail 130 @ junction with Faulty Trail. Ahead, switchbacks lead west up ridge overlooking Hondo Canyon.
Location: 35.098995, -106.406387
Continue on Crest Trail @ Upper Faulty intersection (Upper Faulty leads to CCC and Faulty).
Location: 35.09409, -106.411003
Head west; look to the south for views of local mining operations. Switchback climb ahead.
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.
Location: 35.116124, -106.428114
Bear L @ Y onto unmarked trail, head NW through clearing
Location: 35.120449, -106.430714
S. Sandia Peak (9,782 ft.): Note tramway to N. Return to bus stop
Location: 35.143663, -106.413996
Continue straight @ 3-way where trail intersects Barts Trail; wind through thick groves of quaking aspen.
Location: 35.153483, -106.414704
Stay straight @ 3-way; Canyoncito Trail winds up the east side of the mountain and enters on right.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Location: 35.207192, -106.444559
Keep straight, heading northwest @ junction; the trail on the left detours to the Kiwanis House.
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).
Location: 35.211246, -106.449344
Cross Crest Hwy. and skirt the east boundary of a fenced radio yard. Head north.
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.
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.
Location: 35.23507, -106.45657
North Sandia Peak: (10,447 ft.): The entire city of Albuquerque spreads out nearly a vertical mile beneath you.
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.
Location: 35.241086, -106.450402
Keep straight @ 3-way junction with Osha Loop Trail.
Location: 35.249451, -106.45131
To the south, lush aspen groves cover the hillsides.
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.
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.
Location: 35.290877, -106.438699
As you descend through loose rock, keep an eye out for fossils and horny toads.
Location: 35.291358, -106.439202
North Crest trailhead: A car shuttle should be in place if you hike the trail in one day.