City Hiking Guides

New Mexico Desert Hiking: The Best Albuquerque Hiking Trails

POSTED ON November 15, 2023 BY Ralph S.


Introduction

Albuquerque, New Mexico, is a hiker’s paradise. Its diverse landscape offers some of the best hiking trails in the region. With more than four great trails to consider, you’ll discover how this city combines natural beauty and outdoor adventure in a way that’s hard to beat.

Whether you prefer a leisurely stroll on a paved path or a challenging ascent with significant elevation gain, the Albuquerque metro area has something to satisfy every hiker’s appetite.

This guide will explore the top hiking trails in Albuquerque, from the iconic Volcanoes Trail to lesser-known gems that offer a range of experiences.

So, if you’re seeking the best hikes and are eager to explore the fantastic hiking areas in and around the city, read on to discover the must-visit trails that promise a memorable hiking experience.

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La Luz Trail

La Luiz Trail

Location: Sandia Park, Albuquerque, NM

Distance: Approximately 7.5 miles (12 km) one way

Duration: 5-7 hours (one way)

Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous

Type: Point to point

La Luz Trail is a legendary hiking adventure among the impressive trails in Albuquerque. Located in the Sandia Mountains, this trail presents a challenging yet incredibly rewarding experience. It’s renowned for its steep ascents and descents, taking you from an elevation of 7,000 feet (2134 meters) to the majestic Sandia Peak at over 10,000 feet (3048 meters) above sea level.

La Luz Trail starts at La Luz Trailhead and ends at the Sandia Crest Trail, offering hikers breathtaking views of the city, the surrounding landscape, and even glimpses of the Sandia Peak Tramway, an engineering marvel. While it’s a strenuous hike, the sense of accomplishment and the stunning vistas make it well worth the effort.

Copper Trailhead Loop

Location: Albuquerque

Distance: 1.3 miles (2 km)

Duration: About 45 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

Type: Loop

For those seeking a less strenuous hiking experience while still being able to enjoy the beauty of nature, the Copper Trailhead Loop is a perfect choice. Located in Albuquerque, this trail is easily accessible and offers a relatively easy hike with just enough elevation gain to get your heart pumping.

Copper Trailhead offers a beautiful 1.3-mile (2 km) loop hike that is perfect for all skill levels. This dog-friendly trail is a local favorite, thanks to its stunning views and convenient location just 30 minutes from the city.

Check out the Copper Trailhead Map.

Piedra Lisa Trail

Piedra Lisa Trail

Location: Northeast Albuquerque, NM

Distance: 5.8 miles (9 km)

Duration: 2-3 hours

Difficulty: Moderate

Type: Out and back

Piedra Lisa Trail is a popular hiking spot in Northeast Albuquerque, offering two separate trails: Piedra Lisa North Trailhead and Piedra Lisa South Trailhead. Both trails start at the same trailhead, located just a short drive from Sandia Crest Mountain Peak.

The North-Piedra-Lisa Trail is a trail with stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. It offers moderate difficulty with some steep inclines, making it suitable for intermediate hikers.

On the other hand, the South-Piedra-Lisa Trail features less elevation gain and offers a more leisurely hike. Both trails are dog-friendly and accessible year-round, providing hikers with breathtaking views of Albuquerque’s landscape throughout the changing seasons.

The trailhead parking area is easily accessible, making it a convenient spot for both locals and tourists to start their hiking adventures.

Check out the Piedra Lisa Trailhead Map.

Embudo Trail

Location: Albuquerque

Distance: 3.2 miles (5.1 km)

Duration: About 2 hours

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Type: Point to point

The Embudo Trail is an easy point-to-point trail that starts at the Embudo Trailhead and ends at the Three Gun Trail. It offers hikers stunning views of Albuquerque’s cityscape along the way.

Check out the Embudo Trailhead Map.

Embudito Trail

Sandia Mountains

Location: Sandia Park, Albuquerque, NM

Distance: Approximately 6 miles (9.5 km) One Way

Duration: 6-7 hours

Difficulty: Moderate

Type: Out and back

Tucked away in the heart of the Sandia Mountains, the Embudito Trailhead is a gem among the many hiking trails in Albuquerque. This moderately challenging hike is a favorite for both locals and visitors, offering a dog-friendly experience with captivating vistas. The trail leads you through a lush, high-desert landscape, winding its way along the rugged foothills.

As you ascend, the elevation gain is rewarded with spectacular views of the Sandia Mountains, creating a picturesque backdrop for backpackers and trail runners alike. This beautiful trail is accessible year-round, with wildflowers adorning the landscape in the spring and golden hues in the fall.

Sandia Foothills Open Space

Sandia Mountains Open Space

Location: Albuquerque, NM

Distance: Approximately 3.6 miles (5.8 km) round trip

Duration: 1 to 2 hours

Difficulty: Easy

Type: Loop

Nestled in the foothills of Sandia Mountain lie Albuquerque’s most beautiful hiking trails, the Sandia Foothills open-space hikes. With stunning views, diverse flora and fauna, and a moderate difficulty level, it’s no wonder why these trails are a favorite among locals and tourists alike. The loop trails are suitable for all skill levels and offer the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

The Sandia Foothills Open Space Trail boasts an elevation gain of 500 feet (152 meters) and is surrounded by stunning trees, making it a picturesque hiking area. The trails are well-maintained, marked, and offer an easy, popular route to navigate for even the most inexperienced hikers. Experienced hikers also love the trails for their scenic views and moderately challenging terrain.

Check out Open Space Maps to know where to start.

Michael Emery Trail

Location: Sandia, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Distance: 3 miles (5 km) roundtrip

Duration: 1.5 hours

Difficulty: Easy

Type: Loop

The Michael Emery Trail is a beautiful hike located in the Sandia foothills of Albuquerque, New Mexico, in the Elena Gallegos Picnic Area (location).

Spanning 3 miles (5 km), this easy trail is perfect for hikers and mountain bikers of all levels. The trail offers spectacular views of Sandia Mountain and the surrounding landscape, making it a favorite among locals and visitors alike.

The hike begins at the Michael Emery Trailhead parking lot, which has a small parking fee. From there, it leads through a mix of open meadows and forested areas, providing plenty of shade during the hot summer months. Along the way, hikers can spot various wildlife and wildflowers, adding to the natural beauty of the hike.

The Michael Emery Trail is also a popular trail for dog owners. However, the elevation gain of about 590 feet (179 meters) adds a bit of challenge to the hike, but the well-maintained trail makes it manageable for most hikers.

Elena Gallegos Open Space

view of the Sandia Mountains as seen from the Broadmoor Senior Center in Rio Rancho, New Mexico

Location: Sandia Park, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Distance: Varies with trail choice

Duration: Customizable to your preference

Difficulty: Easy to moderately-challenging

Type: Out and back

Elena Gallegos, within the stunning Sandia Park in Albuquerque, is a true haven for outdoor enthusiasts. This open space offers a network of interconnected hiking trails that cater to all experience levels, making it one of the best hiking areas in Albuquerque. What’s great about Elena Gallegos is its flexibility; adventurers can choose from various trails, customizing the distance and difficulty level to suit their preferences.

One of the standout features of this hiking area is its dog-friendly policy, providing the perfect opportunity for a scenic walk with your furry companion. The trails wind through the pristine natural beauty of Sandia Park, with detailed guides available to help you explore the area to the fullest.

Note that in Bosque there is a small fee to park your car at the Picnic parking area.

Paseo del Bosque Trail

view of the Rio Grande River

Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico

Distance: Approximately 10 miles (16 km)

Duration: 5–6 hours

Difficulty: Easy

Type: Out and back

The Paseo del Bosque Trail is a popular hiking trail in Albuquerque that offers a diverse and scenic experience for outdoor enthusiasts. This 10-mile (16 km) out-and-back trail winds along the Rio Grande River, providing stunning views of the river, meadows, and cottonwood forest. The hike takes about 5–6 hours to complete at an easy difficulty level, making it suitable for hikers of all skill levels.

Hiking this trail is a great way to immerse yourself in the beautiful nature of Albuquerque and explore the city’s unique landscape. The trail is also popular among cyclists, runners, and horseback riders, making it a vibrant spot for outdoor activities. Along the way, you’ll come across various wildlife and plants, giving you an up-close encounter with the natural beauty of Albuquerque.

Pino Trail

Location: Sandia, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Distance: 4.7 miles (7.5 km) One Way

Duration: 3 hours

Difficulty: Moderately challenging

Type: Out and back

The Pino Trail offers a challenging and rewarding hike for avid outdoor enthusiasts. This 4.7-mile trail begins at Pino-Elena Gallegos Trailhead and ends at Crest Trail, taking backpackers through a diverse landscape of rocky terrain, juniper trees, and stunning views.

The trail starts off with a steady incline, gaining an elevation of over 2,000 feet (609 meters). As you ascend, you will be treated to sweeping views of Albuquerque and the surrounding mountains. The trail then levels out into a more moderate incline, with some areas of steep switchbacks.

While this trail may be taxing for some, the payoff is worth it. At the top, hikers are greeted with panoramic views of the Sandia Peaks and the city below. Hikers then have to head back out the same way down from the peak.

Always refer to the Placitas Area Trail System map and Sandia Mountain Trails map to plan your course.

Other Popular Trails and Hiking Spots near Albuquerque

Aside from the Michael Emery Trail, Elena Gallegos Open Space, Paseo del Bosque Trail, and Pino Trail, there are several other popular hiking destinations in the area. Some notable options include Canyon Estate trailhead, Mesa Point Trail, Boca Negra Canyon, and Cibola National Forest. Each of these trails offers unique experiences and stunning views of Albuquerque’s diverse landscape. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced hiker, there’s something for everyone in Albuquerque’s abundant outdoor offerings.

Canyon Estates Trailhead

Location: Tijeras, New Mexico

Distance: 8.2 miles (13.2 km) One Way

Duration: 6-7 hours

Difficulty: Challenging

Type: Out and back

The Grand Enchantment Trailhead is located in Tijeras, just a short drive from Albuquerque. This 8.2-mile trail is part of the larger Grand Enchantment Trail that stretches all the way to Phoenix, Arizona.

The hike begins at the Canyon Estates Trailhead and takes hikers through beautiful forests, past Travertine Falls, and up to Sandia Crest. Along the way, hikers can admire the diverse flora and fauna, including wildflowers, birds, and even the occasional deer or bear.

The trail is rated as challenging due to its length and elevation gain of over 2,000 feet (609 meters).

Petroglyph National Monument

Located on the western edge of Albuquerque, Petroglyph National Monument (location) features a network of hiking trails that showcase ancient rock carvings done by Native Americans.

With over 25,000 petroglyphs carved into volcanic rocks, this trail offers a unique and eye-opening experience for hikers. In addition to the petroglyphs, hikers can also admire stunning views of the Sandia Mountains and the city of Albuquerque.

The monument has several trails of varying lengths and difficulty levels, including a wheelchair-accessible trail.

Cibola National Forest

Cibola National Forest

Cibola National Forest (location), about 14 miles (22 km) from Albuquerque is a vast expanse in New Mexico offering opportunities for scenic hiking, rock climbing, and other outdoor activities.

Some popular trails in the Cibola National Forest include Sandia Peak Trail, Faulty Trail, and Whitewash Loop Trail. Each of these trails offers unique experiences and stunning views of the forest’s natural beauty.

Conclusion

Albuquerque is an amazing destination for hikers, trail runners, thru-hikers, and backpackers. With so many stunning hiking trails to choose from, you’ll find it easy to explore all that this beautiful city has to offer.

The trails on this list are just a starting point, so make sure to do some research and find the hike that’s perfect for you. No matter which trail you choose, you’re guaranteed to have a memorable experience and see some truly breathtaking scenery.

So pack your bags, bring your hiking boots, and get ready to explore Albuquerque’s best hiking trails.

Find out more places to visit in our Hikes and Trails Archive.


RALPH S.

Ralph S. is the founder of Silverlight, an avid hiker and trail runner he enjoys spending time outdoors, riding his motorcycle and swimming at the beach when he's not busy replying to customers or developing new Silverlight gear.

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