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If you plan on getting around the biggest city in New Mexico you’d better have a set of wheels beneath your feet – Albuquerque is a sprawling land of shopping plazas, highway overpasses and arroyos. Having said that, you’ll want to know where to go hiking in Albuquerque.
The Duke City is a favorite of ours, but visiting here never entails walking…anywhere. Before long we’re looking for open space and that means knowing where to find great Albuquerque hiking opportunities.
The area around the city is stunning and the omnipresent sight of the Sandia Mountains to the east means you’ll want to know where to go to stretch your legs. If you’re looking for Albuquerque hiking trails and plenty of open space, this article is for you.
Adventure Awaits While Hiking in Albuquerque
Again, this city is an endless series of traffic lights and busy intersections, yet it’s still easy to get away for a hike. This post features some of our favorite Albuquerque hiking trails.
From dodging unexploded ordnance (sort of) to pleasant strolls in the foothills or even hiking through the wreckage of a doomed commercial aircraft (not that one, Breaking Bad fans!), hiking in Albuquerque will intrigue you and keep you moving.
Don’t forget to soak those tired limbs in some of our favorite New Mexico hot springs.
Know Before You Go
I’ve chosen 4 trails for hiking in and near Albuquerque offering a variety of terrain, features, views and difficulty levels. To get the most out of these hikes and others I strongly recommend the AllTrails app for your phone, which is free.
This app allows you to use the GPS on your phone for over 50,000 trails worldwide, even if you are offline. Getting lost on the trail is a thing of the past! Simply save any featured trail within the app and use your GPS beacon to guide you as you hike – no wi-fi needed!
Know the weather before you attempt any hike, anytime, anywhere; thunderstorms materialize suddenly and with severity. If you’re looking for the best hiking near Albuquerque during summer try to hit the trail early to avoid setting out in the height of the heat!
Be confident you will have favorable weather in all seasons! Of course, bring plenty of hydration and protection from the sun, like sunscreen, a hat and even something to cover the back of your neck. And of course, ALWAYS carry a first aid kit with you.
Also, be aware of the elevation of Albuquerque (5,312 feet) and the surrounding area. If you’re visiting from another part of the planet with lower elevation, acclimatize first! Take it easy for a few days if you aren’t accustomed to elevations over 5,000 ft.
Other safety considerations – seasonal variances, mixed usage from horses and mountain bikes – will be noted for each trail. I rate each hike as either easy, moderate or difficult.
Hiking in Albuquerque: 4 Unique Trails
Tree Spring Trail
Basics: This is an easy out and back trail.
- Distance: 3.7 miles
- Elevation gain: 944 feet
- Allow: 2 to 3 hours
Features: The scenic, lofty perch at the end of Tree Spring Trail offers a great place for a picnic and to contemplate the geologic significance of this mountain.
This trail ascends the east side of Sandia Mountain and is made up of a rock layer that is 1,400,000,000 (1 billion, 400 million) years younger than the rock composition of the west side of the mountain, which is comfortably settling into year 1,700,000,000 (1 billion, 700 million) with panache.
The rocks just beneath your boots on Tree Spring Trail are a bit older than 300,000,000 (300 million) years and at the summit of Tree Spring Trail you’ll spot both the younger and older rocks mentioned above that make up this ancient pile. Observant hikers will spot marine fossils on this trail.
Directions: From Albuquerque take Interstate 40 east to exit 175 – Tijeras/Cedar Crest. Follow the left lane of the off ramp for Cedar Crest/Route 14. Take Route 14 north 6 miles to Route 536 – the Sandia Crest Highway. Turn left to follow Sandia Crest Highway 5.5 miles to the trail parking lot.
Considerations: The summit of Tree Spring Trail is often windy and offers no shelter from the sun – know the weather before you go. Also, this trail is non-wilderness and open to horses and mountain bikes.
Tale of the Trail
This is one of the best Albuquerque hiking trails to pack a picnic for enjoying at the top. You’ll find expansive views looking west as a reward for your effort. More views east toward the plains east of the Sandias are visible during the ascent. This gem is one of our Albuquerque hiking musts.
Put on your fossil eyes and spot the fossilized sea life left behind millions of years ago. Saying exactly where to spot them would take away from the experience; it’s up to you to look for them. These are found directly on the trail itself and that’s the only clue you’ll find here.
Tree Spring Trail gently meanders up and tops out at an elevation of 9,432 feet. This trail is a great choice for an easy hike through the pine forest with a stunning view waiting for you. The geologic significance here is an added bonus! Check out this beginner hike in the Sandias today!
Birdhouse Ridge, West Ridge, Tunnel Canyon and Otero Canyon
Basics: This is a loop trail of moderate difficulty.
- Distance: 8.8 miles
- Elevation gain: 1266 feet
- Allow: 4 hours
Features: This is a series of 4 individual trails; Birdhouse Ridge, West Ridge, Tunnel Canyon and Otero Canyon, winding through the east side of the northern foothills of the Manzano Mountains, known as the Manzanitas. Again, I rate these trails as moderate due to gradual elevation gain.
The trails are all well-marked and a portion of this hike skirts the outer boundaries of land falling under control of the United States Department of Energy and a U.S. Air Force Installation, or military base. NO SNOOPING!
Location: Within the Cibola National Forest, this trail head is just off NM Route 337, about 2.5 miles south of Tijeras village.
Directions: From Albuquerque take Interstate 40 east to exit 175 – Tijeras/Cedar Crest. Follow the right lane of the off-ramp to Route 333/337. At the junction of Routes 333 and 337 continue south on 337 for 2.5 miles to the trail head. The parking area/trail head is to the right.
Considerations: Be aware! Mountain bikes frequent all the trails that make up this loop – keep open your eyes and ears! Also, portions of Otero and Tunnel Canyon trails are bisected by a wash that may be full of fast-flowing water after heavy rain – know the weather before you go.
Tale of the Trail
Begin at the trail head and immediately begin a gentle ascent via Birdhouse Ridge up the eastern side of the Manzanitas. This hike can be shortened and made into a rather nice beginner hike – consult the map at the trail head and your AllTrails app.
Along the way enjoy great views of the eastern slope of the Sandia Range and Route 337 below. Hiking the loop trail as described in this article can be done in either direction. It’s presented here in a counterclockwise loop.
The trail presents switchbacks before arriving at the top of the Manzanitas. Views east are numerous on the ascent. Atop is evidence of old clearing with (sadly) scant views west toward the Manzanitas. From here the trail levels quickly and junctions with West Ridge Trail: take this right.
Stay on this trail until you reach the boundary marked by The United States Department of Energy, complete with a sign warning outdoor enthusiasts of the potential danger of unmarked, unexploded ordnance. Promptly turn left here and begin a slow descent to Otero Canyon.
Head left at the junction with Otero Canyon, where the trail follows and at times crosses a mostly dry stream bed. Be aware of mountain bikes zooming by on this flat, wide section of trail.
From Otero Canyon connect to Tunnel Canyon trail and begin an ascent back to the junction of West Ridge Trail. Stay on Tunnel Canyon Trail and begin a final descent to the parking lot/trail head.
Bear Canyon to Albert G. Simms City Park
Basics: For beginners hiking in Albuquerque, this easy loop trail makes a great choice. It’s easily shortened or expanded with the use of a map from Elena Gallegos Picnic Area or the AllTrails app.
- Distance: 7 miles
- Elevation gain: 754 feet
- Allow: 2.5 to 3 hours
Features: This pleasant, easy stroll is a series of numbered hiking trails in the Albuquerque foothills. This loop is U.S. Forest Service non-wilderness land. This represents a great beginner trail, too.
These trails provide great views of the western slope of the Sandia Mountains as well as the Rio Grande valley, Petroglyph National Monument and Mt. Taylor in the distance.
Location: Within the Cibola National Forest , this Albuquerque hiking gem is located just east of Tramway Blvd.
Directions: From Tramway Blvd. (NM Route 556) take Spain Road east to High Desert Place, then right to the Michael Emery trail head. The parking lot and trail head is on the left.
Considerations: Due to its proximity to the city these Albuquerque foothills trails get quite busy; consider coming here mid-week. Mountain bikers frequently use the foothills trails – keep open your eyes and ears!
Washes bisect these trails and may be active immediately after heavy rain – know the weather before you go. The washes will be dry all other times.
Tale of the Trail
I strongly suggest an app like AllTrails for the series of paths that make up this great Albuquerque hiking option. Old fashioned paper maps can be found at the Elena Gallegos Picnic Area.
Using the AllTrails app for the Bear Canyon Trail to Albert G. Simms City Park OR an official map, follow trails 365, 305, 305 A, 341, and 230 A. Connect back to trail 365 which brings you to the start of the hike. Again, use a map to follow this trail or allow the AllTrails app to guide you!
Tailor this hike to make it longer or shorter than the 7 miles quoted. This route is versatile and the soft elevation gain makes this Albuquerque hiking spot a great choice for beginners. Views of the foothills, mountains and city make this a pleasant escape, too.
Domingo Baca Trail #230
Basics: This is a difficult out and back trail.
- Distance: 7.7 miles
- Elevation gain: 3,569 feet
- Allow: 7 hours
Features: This difficult hike ends near Sandia Crest, at an elevation of 10,138 feet. The Sandia Peak Tramway passes directly above Domingo Baca trail at the precise spot where TWA Flight 260 crashed into the side of Sandia Mountain in 1955.
The trail passes through the debris field of the doomed airplane, permitting you to explore the wreckage. This makes for one of the most unique Albuquerque hiking trails.
Location: The Domingo Baca trail is within the Cibola National Forest. The trail head is located at Elena Gallegos Picnic Area.
Directions: From Tramway Blvd. (NM Route 556) take Simms Park Road east to Elena Gallegos Picnic Area.
Considerations: This is a very difficult hike due to the elevation gain and the altitude! A small portion of this trail is open to mountain bikes at the beginning of the hike. This trail quickly enters wilderness area, where bikes aren’t permitted.
The trail crosses assorted washes along the way that will be flowing after heavy rains. You’ll pass through the debris field of a doomed TWA aircraft, where all 16 people aboard died. Treat this area with respect!
Tale of the Trail
The start of Domingo Baca trail is a pleasant ramble and a great introduction to Albuquerque hiking. This doesn’t quite prepare you for the climb ahead, though. Soon the trail slips undercover of pine trees and begins scrambling over giant boulders along the way.
After much climbing the trail reaches an area where the Sandia Peak Tramway passes directly above. It is here you’ll spot the first piece of debris from TWA Flight 260 – the landing gear. Read the memorial to the victims and survey the final resting place of this TWA plane.
Many people make it as far as the crash site and turn back, skipping the steepest part of the climb lying just beyond. The end of the trail is about another hour away. Again, this is a very steep trail and should ONLY be attempted if you are certain of your capabilities and the weather.
More Albuquerque Hiking Trails to Discover
Albuquerque hiking is full of unique paths of varying skill levels. A good app and a map will help you choose the best hiking trails near Albuquerque for you. Enjoy the Duke City and appreciate the amazing outdoor opportunities waiting to be discovered here.
We really love New Mexico – this state offers everything from great camping to iconic road trips. Don’t forget to check out some of the scenic drives from Taos and Santa Fe for your next New Mexico road trip!
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