Sandia mountains.jpg

Sandia Mountains offer one-of-a-kind mountain holiday near Albuquerque, New Mexico. Whether you hike in the foothills among prickly-pear, cacti and fragrant desert flowers, climb the top covered in pine trees or walk along old lava flows, you will definitely see the breathtaking beauty rivaled by no other.

Name: Sandia Mountains
Height:  3255m (10,678ft)     
Location: New Mexico, United States, North America
First Climbed: not known
Climb Time: 1+ day, depending on the trail
Best Time to Climb: May, June, July, August, September

Sandia Mountains are located in central New Mexico, northeast of Albuquerque and east of the Rio Grande. They are largely within the Cibola National Forest. The range continues to the south, where it joins a smaller range called the Manzano Mountains, and together they form a larger geologic unit – the Sandia-Manzano Mountains. It is popularly believed that the name Sandia (Spanish for watermelon) was given to the mountain for the pink-reddish colour of its granite peaks.  The tallest peak is Sandia Crest, 3,255m (10,678ft) tall, but there are many more alike: the Needle 3,128m ( 10,260ft), the Thumb 3,080m (10,107ft), North 3,184m (10,447ft) and South 2,981m (9,782ft) Sandia peaks, just to name a few. The mountains are a popular destination for both locals and tourists because they offer a wide range of activities.


Climbing in Sandia Mountains

Due to the high elevation and nature, conditions in the Sandia Mountains can vary. The best time to climb is from May to October, but, some parts of the range, like Muralla Grande (west and southwest face) are warm and dry even in winter. There are hundreds of traditional climbing routes all over the range, but it also provides opportunities for sport climbing and bouldering. The whole range is divided into several climbing areas such as: Chimney Canyon, Del Agua Canyon, Domingo Baca Canyon, Echo Canyon and many more. In all the climbing areas there are numerous climbing trails, including the classic ones like: The Knifeblade, The Yuca Flower Tower, The Northwest Ridge, The Needle, The Thumb etc.

Browse rock climbing classics in the Sandia Mountains

Hiking in Sandia Mountains

There are more than 60 well marked hiking trails, over 240 kilometers in total. The most famous ones include:


The Sandia Crest trail is the trail to the highest summit of the range. It crosses the entire Sandia range and can be walked in either direction, north to south or south to north. It goes all the way from Tunnel Springs in the south to Canyon Estates in the north. There are a lot of variations to this trail or you can choose to hike just one portion of it. It usually takes two days to hike all the way and you can do it all year round, just be ready for snow and ice in late autumn, winter and early spring.

La Luz trail is a very popular trail in the northwestern part of the mountains, near Albuquerque. It is 26 kilometres long and it has everything the Sandias have to offer wrapped up in a single trail. It allows hiker to go through all four climatic zones with their different wildlife, see the dramatic cliffs and spires, as well as stunning views of Albuquerque. It begins at La Luz Trailhead and forks after approximately 11km. The south fork goes to the Sandia Peak Tramway, and the north to Sandia Crest. The best time to hike is autumn and spring, it is impassable in winter, and in summer it can get unpleasantly hot. La Luz is always crowded with hikers and joggers despite some really difficult parts. When you reach the Tram, there are water fountains and even a restaurant.

Hawk Watch Trail got its name because it is a stopover for thousands of hawks and other birds of prey on their migratory route north. It is a rather steep trail, but easy to follow. It starts just when you enter the wilderness area on the Three Gun Spring Trail. Along the way, there are scenic views to Three Gun Spring Canyon and Tijeras Canyon. The Trail reaches a flat ridge at the height of 2,255m (7,400 ft)

Read more about numerous hiking trails in Sandia Mountains

Other recreational activities on the Sandia Mountains

The Sandia Mountains offer a lot more than just hiking and climbing. It is a place to be for all people who love being outdoors. Some of the most popular areas for different recreational activities are:

The Tramway - the world's longest aerial tram with stunning views of the canyons and cliffs of the western Sandia Mountains. Capulin Snowplay Area – rich in snow, perfect for sledding. The Ski Area, with a lot of snow from December to March, popular for skiing and snowshoeing. Sandia Man Cave, discovered in 1936, one of the earliest recorded human habitats in North America. The archaeological excavations have uncovered tools and clothing as well as mastodon remains.  

With its four different climatic zones, the Sandias offer many areas perfect for birding.