Crest Trail – Trail #130

The Crest Trail is a 26.5 mile trail that runs the length of the Sandia Mountains. It begins at the Tunnel Springs Trailhead and ends at the Canyon Estates Trailhead.

Trail Condition: Good

May 2019

Tunnel Springs to Del Agua Lookout:

From the parking lot at the Tunnel Springs Trailhead, pick-up the trail at the main sign. You will quickly cross a drainage and rough trail that is described in greater detail on the Northern Crest Trail trip report. Continue straight to follow the main trail.

For the first mile, you will wind in and out of small side canyons and pass a sign marking your entrance into the Sandia Mountains Wilderness. After about 1 mile, the trail will traverse above a small slot canyon before reaching the eastern flanks of the Sandias. There are a handful of smaller, non-system trails throughout this section. Remain on the main trail as it slowly meanders upwards, gently swtichbacking through the scrub pinyon pine.

After roughly 2.5 miles, the trail will reenter the canyon where you began, following the base of a small 25 foot cliff band. Don’t forget to look back and take in the views of Placitas, the Rio Grande Valley, and the Jemez Mountains.

After passing the junction with the shortcut trail, you will cross over the drainage  as the trail heads west from there towards the edge of the rim. After about 10 minutes, you’ll reach the first of a handful of overlooks that offer views of the higher ridges of the Sandias, the Sandia Pueblo and north Albuquerque.

To continue, follow the trail, which will then leave the edge of the rim andwind through the pinyon forest. Compared to the first part of the trail, the pinyon pines here are taller and should provide a fair amount of shade. There are occasional views, but for the most part, this is a pleasant forested walk.

Eventually, the trail switchbacks back towards the ridge although the grade remains modest throughout. It eventually returns to the rim once again for another, similar view but with a couple hundred more feet below you. As you take in these views, take note of all the undeveloped open space on the various Pueblo lands. If not under the authority of these Pueblos, it would be easy to imagine the sprawl from Albuquerque and Rio Rancho consuming this entire valley.

After another 1/2 mile, gambel oak becomes the dominate vegetation, overtaking the pinyon pine that had characterized the trail until now. Soon after the trail becomes a tunnel of oak, you will reach a junction with the Penasco Blanco Trail – Trail #334.

Turn right to continue to follow the Crest Trail as it returns towards the rim once again. At this point, the scrub oak trees become thick, and if you’re not wearing pants, you may very well wish you were. As the trail slowly climbs toward the rim, it will head north, but as soon as it meets the rim, it switchbacks to the south and follows the rim, continuing to climb.