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Just east of Albuquerque are the most visited mountains in New Mexico. Millions of people journey into the Sandia Mountains each year. More than half these visitors ride the Sandia Peak Tram or drive the Sandia Crest National Scenic Byway to take in spectacular panoramic views of Central New Mexico and to enjoy many other recreational opportunities. The Four Seasons Visitor Center offers year round interpretive exhibits and seasonal programs at the upper Tram Building. The Scenic Byway has several newly remodeled picnic grounds with shelters and group areas for reservation. The National Fee Project is currently in operation for all developed sites on the Scenic Byway and along the west and north sides of the district in the Juan Tabo, Basin, and Las Huertas Canyon Areas. A daily amenity fee of $3.00 is required for all vehicles parking in designated, developed recreation sites around the District. An annual pass is favorable, with particular support given to the concept of fees staying available to the unit where they are collected. The Sandias are part of the signature of Albuquerque's unique sense of place. They serve as a premier open space refuge to a population of over 700,000 people in the extended metropolitan area. Over one-third of the State's school-age population lives within an hour's drive of the Sandias, and there is a great demand for fire prevention, fire ecology, and other environmental education programs. Sandia Mountain viewed from the foot of the mountain Sandia Mountain is a landmark in the spiritual universe of many active traditional Indian beliefs. It is regularly visited for ceremonial purposes by the Sandia Pueblo and at least annually by many other pueblos. It also has direct ties to Spanish land grant communities established by the King of Spain in the 1700's and Mexican land grants from the 1820's. Some Spanish land grants adjoining the Sandias are still active. Water sources are not only sacred to Indian beliefs, but also played a key role in sustaining the agricultural bases of the land grant communities. Several ditch systems still function today, including one actively maintained in Las Huertas Canyon as an "acequia madre" for a community's agricultural water. These traditional communities are encountering greater conflicts with the growing recreational uses of the Sandias. The lesser-known southern part of the District includes the Manzanita Mountains, which form a low ridge between the Manzano Mountains to the south and the Sandias to the north. A portion of this area is in the Military Withdrawal, where public use has been restricted since 1943. The Military Withdrawal and adjacent Forest Service land has been the subject of intensive ecosystem planning to reduce fuel loads and the risk of wildfire, to enhance wildlife habitat and ecosystem health, and to improve recreational opportunities. In many ways wildlife, fish and rare plants are the measure of our success as ecosystem managers. Species diversity and abundance relate to ecosystem health. The District wildlife program features habitat enhancement projects, inventory and monitoring of emphasis species, and informative and education. The program relies heavily on the support of partnership groups such as the Albuquerque Wildlife Federation, Hawkwatch International, Central New Mexico Audubon Society, Sandia Mountain Bearwatch, and the New Mexico Habitat Stamp program; the wildlife program is integrated into fire/fuels, recreation, and forest health project objectives. There is an unmet opportunity to use funds from the Fee Project to help interpret wildlife and ecosystems on the District; some interpretation featuring wildlife is occurring, but much more could be done. Opportunities for Nature Watch-type activities are outstanding. The Sandia District faces tremendous customer service and urban sprawl challenges in managing the Sandia and Manzanita Mountains. Partnerships with interpretive associations, local friends groups, volunteers, and agency collaboration provide many of the customer support services on the District, including a variety of summer programs such as wildflower hikes and astronomy nights. The Tijeras Pueblo Archaeological site is visited by thousands of school children each year that learn about the history of human impact on and interaction with the Sandia Mountain ecosystem. Our Wilderness Information Specialist volunteers provide customer service and trail maintenance on the ground throughout the District. As part of the effort to respond to issues which arise because of urban sprawl, the District has increased its collaboration with surrounding communities in county planning, regional transportation planning, open space designation, and rural economic and tourism development. A snowy view from the top of the Sandia Mountains Traditional community values are being heavily impacted by urban sprawl, producing many challenges to the Forest Service in its efforts to manage for a full range of user groups. The motorized user groups in particular have greatly reduced opportunities on the Sandias and Manzanitas. Bow hunting is still allowed, but no discharging of firearms in permitted. Forest residents are more open to fire's role to improve forest health. Joint efforts with NM State Forestry are producing good results. The Sandias and Manzanitas are primary raptor and geotropically avian flyways. Many collaborative efforts are in place to monitor and record affects to these bird populations. In the past several years we have started an aggressive forest health program in the wildland/urban interface. Objectives range from fuels treatments along subdivision boundaries to bringing back the Aspen stands along the Sandia Crest National Scenic Byway. Initial efforts were met with protest and threats of lawsuits, but gradually public approval has shifted; now there is a waiting list of homeowner associations who whish to become involved in forest health projects with the District (and with NM State Forestry).

Awesome trail!! Loved the caves and falls

hiking
4 days ago

I started at the Tramway Trailhead and connected with La Luz trail to the top of Sandia Crest (3.5 hours, 4,960 ft elevation climb). From there i took the trail along the peak over to Kiwanis Cabin (20 minutes) - which if you haven't been there I'd highly recommend! The views from where it sits are amazing, and the cabin itself is pretty cool considering the history. After that I made my way to the Sandia Peak Tramway (30 minutes) and rode the tram back down. Overall the hike was 10 miles. The weather was perfect, however at the top i had to put my sweater on due to the very crisp breeze (it didn't help that my clothes were damp from all the sweating). This trail doesn't require a lot of caution or technique, but stamina and determination are definitely a must! Bring plenty of water!

Really enjoyable hike. Views along the ridge to the south peak were fantastic. The rocky stretch at the start is very hot with very little cover from the sun. If you're returning in the heat of the day, be prepared.

Really beautiful, challenging trail. I started at the Pino Trailhead to get to the Domingo Baca Trailhead, which adds about .5 to the 7.7 mile trail. Starts with a desert landscape, slightly scaling to overlook Albuquerque then into very rocky terrain at the base, into shady, wooded terrain. It gets more challenging after the first mile. If you’re not acclimated to the already 6000’ city of Albuquerque, then this will be very challenging (I just got here a few days ago and had to go much slower than my usual pace). You climb about 1000’ in the first 2.5 miles. I only made it 4 miles in, and will go back as I am more acclimated. Enjoy!

Beautiful and challenging trail. The last half up to the TWA site has significant altitude gain. You should be in good condition, especially if you don't live at mile high altitude. The plane wreckage is historic and creates a bit of a melancholy vibe, which adds a unique aspect to the hike.When I did this hike two years ago I tried to keep up with a group 25+ years younger than me as they raced down the trail. I wound up with a torn meniscus and knee surgery! Not likely to happen to you (I hope), but that's probably what stopped me from clicking 5 stars.

hiking
7 days ago

tough hike, but absolutely worth it.

worth checking out. and if u like going off trail and really feeling some altitude its a few miles to la luz and right up to the tram. be prepared to deal with lots of foliage and some steep includes that can have loose rocks. my favorite part of this trail was the memorial for those who died in the crash very peaceful.

Easy trail with outstanding views.

awesome trail! If you like a good challenge this one will do it for you towards the end. The crash site is epic and makes you think about life. It almost goes to la luz. It tough to tell where it goes at times but I ended up going off trail at the end to hit the tram awesome exercise

A chill loop, nice to do around sunset. Lots of mountain bikers so watch out!

Disregard Danny Faley’s review - he took the trail to Sandia Crest NOT to the tram so he missed the long section of dropoffs. There is a point at the trail where you can go left to the Kiwanis Cabin and Crest House or right to the Tram - he went left. The dropoffs are on the last bit before the tram. I’ve hiked this trail numerous times now. And yes - people have fallen to their deaths on this particular trail.

hiking
19 days ago

The drive in was beautiful! We came in from Cedar Crest lots of people out and enjoying the stream. Saw some deer. I was afraid the road was going to be terrible NY reading other reviews it was not that bad. we saw lots of cars. it is rocky in some spots and there are some ruts but I wouldn't be afraid to take a car on it. The trail was easy. It was narrow in some spots which was nerve racking with littles. The views though were amazing and worth the climb. The staircase was a fun touch and the cave was awesome especially for the kids. The dust is awful so bring masks and flashlights. If you're not claustrophobic or afraid to get dirty you can go pretty far back.

I’ve been down the trail that leads to the falls a few times on different occasions, and it’s a nice easy hike for sure, not too much elevation gain or ups and downs in the trail, although there is a fair amount of sun so it gets pretty warm. The falls aren’t really much when it hasn’t rained for a while, only a small trickle, but if you feel up to it, you can go further along the trail through some trees or even connect with the Faulty Trail or just continue on the Crest Trail.

This trail is really short and easy, but totally worth it. At the end is a metal spiral staircase that leads up to a catwalk that goes into the caves. It’s a little nerve wracking to be up on the catwalk, but the views more than make up for it. Keep in mind that the road leading to the trailhead is extremely rocky and not the best for passenger cars. And if you want to explore deeper into the caves be sure to bring a flashlight!

A beautiful and challenging hike. And a great workout with beautiful views. Also lots of critters to enjoy. Saw a red tailed hawk perched on a tree right beside the trail. Saw the most gorgeous horny road I’ve ever seen as well as a gopher snake. All in the same day! Overall a beautiful day on a beautiful mountain.

hiking
20 days ago

Great trail. Parked at base of tram and took easy hike to trailhead. 9.5 miles to tram at top in total Trail in great shape but watch rock slide areas. Hiking boots recommended for slide areas to keep from rolling ankles. Sea level guy - heart and lungs were working hard. Time was 4:15.

hiking
25 days ago

The trail itself was fine, but it wasn’t as interesting to me as the previous hikes I have been on. Mostly flat. Would rate it easy to moderate. At least try it once.

Great hike for the whole family!

hiking
1 month ago

Hiked from the trail head to the tram in about 5 hrs. Flew in from Portland two days earlier...the elevation change kicked my butt! Great cool hike...only a few patches of snow. A little breezy at the top. I grew up in Albuquerque and never hiked the total trail. Glad I finally did it!

1 month ago

We started from the base of the Tram, using the Tramway Trail to connect to La Luz Trail—easy grade, nice views, and the trail was very well-marked. I am old and fat and my hiking partner is a sea-level flatlander, so the last 2.5 miles was...challenging, over rock scrambles with some ice. The open face areas of the trail were quite windy, and our worst nightmare would have been the tram not running, because we were not in any shape to do the return hike. Thankfully tram was operating and we suggest a blood orange margarita at the restaurant at the tram base.

Loved the hike.

hiking
1 month ago

Climbed on April 15. There was minimal snow on the trail and I made it to the top in a pair of running shoed just fine. Coming from around sea level less than 24 hours before, the last portion of the hike got pretty difficult due to the altitude. I started at the bottom of the tram and took the tramway trail to get to La Luz. Then, I diverted off to the crest spur trail to Sandia Crest, which has a restaurant and bathrooms. From Sandia Crest, I took the South Crest Trail to the tram and rode it down. With breaks, it took me 7 hours to get to the top.

I was curious how technically difficult it would be and how scary the trail would be but 99% of the trail is a nice dirt/rock path. At the tight zigzag in the middle of the trail, there are rocks/boulders that you have to walk over. This is where people with dogs turned around. None of the trail required any scrambling, just walking uphill. At no point did I find myself in a place where I felt that one slip could send me off a cliff. There were lots of trees and bushes bordering the trail and where there wasn't, the slope wasn't that steep and the trail was plenty wide enough for comfort.

I had cell phone reception the whole way up, though just barely. Google maps has the trail outlined on it and even if you don't have service, the GPS will still show you where you are via the blue dot. I used it to make sure I stayed on the path.

Be sure you're up for the challenge, as it's a long way down if you get near the top and realize you can't make it. The altitude and length are what makes this a tough climb.

Hope this info helps. Be safe and have a great climb!

This was a great beginners trail. I took a 2 year old, 8 year old and my pregnant sister. It was a breeze.

Stellar hike on Watermelon Mountain. Do it.

1 month ago

First trail in New Mexico. April 10th still had lots of snow on Albuquerque facing side. Took to much time before I turned back. Finished the last mile or so in the dark. Wasn't bad toward the bottom but could have been tricky on the snow and ice. Great first test for the abilities of a flatlander to handle New Mexico hiking. Enjoy.

hiking
1 month ago

See recording from today. The only parts recorded are an easier way to access Oso Ridge from Embudito (it’s just the second left after the Embudito trail marker), a direct way to South Peak from the top/end of the Oso Ridge trail, and the path back through Embudito Canyon off of Embudito trail (which cuts at least half a mile off the trip and of course is another great way up).

hiking
1 month ago

Second time on this trail, only did 2 miles previously so wanted to challenge myself. Me and my dog went up on Easter took the round trip of going up and down. Theres still a good amount of snow last couple miles up so a good pair of hiking shoes is recommended. It's a tough hike but the scenery and the views from a top are worth every minute of it. Go conquer the mountain!

hiking
1 month ago

This is one of my favorites now. It’s a pretty good elevation gain but feels less strenuous than La Luz because it’s a longer trail so the climb is spread out. It’s a good blend of covered forest and open scrub. Probably a good idea to wear pants as that scrub takes a few layers off. There is still snow on the trail on the top 2 or 3 miles (March 30) but micro spikes weren’t a necessity. There are a few spots with spectacular views but most of the crest trail is set back a bit from the edge - unlike the top of La Luz. I hiked from the bottom to the tram (a little over 12 miles) in about 6.5 hours. Don’t plan on catching an Uber if your want to hop off around mile 10. Better to have someone pick you up or just walk the extra few cushy miles to the tram. It’s a pretty good workout so bring plenty of water and some poles. Oh and I saw a bobcat which was awesome! Even better - saw no bears : )

The falls are usually a trickle, but there's also the tiny cave and a whole lot of fossils in the rocks above and to the right of the falls. Fun for kids to climb around and explore. Some seasons there's wild irsises and grapes here. If you follow the trail up past the falls just a short ways, there's a rock stacking area.

Even in the rain it was a beautiful trail! Can't wait to come back on a sunnier day !

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