Looking for the best hikes in Albuquerque? Don’t miss this guide to the most epic trails to discover in Duke City.
To say that I adore Albuquerque is putting it lightly.
In fact, let me make it clear: hiking in Albuquerque is a one-of-a-kind experience thanks to the city’s altitude above sea level and desert climate. And I discovered this IRL on a recent trip to New Mexico.
There’s nothing quite like trekking through the beautiful and unique landscape of ABQ, where desert meets forest, and the Sandia Mountains provide a stunning backdrop.
But with so much natural beauty surrounding the city, where do you start when it comes to the best trails? Look no further than this practical guide.
Best Hikes in Albuquerque
Rinconada Canyon Trail
Length: 2.2 miles
Time: 45 min
If you’re visiting the Petroglyph National Monument – and you most definitely should be – the Rinconada Canyon Trail should be at the very top of your list.
This trail leads you all the way to a historic site to the right of the canyon, where you can capture some stunning images of more than 300 petroglyphs.
These petroglyphs are intricate rock carvings created by different cultures like the Native Americans and Spanish settlers. But that’s not all – there are also breathtaking vistas, vibrant wildflowers and several bird species to keep an eye out for.
You can make this hike via a loop or out-back. Either way, it’s flat and straightforward to follow from the parking bay area. You’ll find the trailhead at St. Joseph’s Avenue, where you can park your car and access restroom facilities.
This sandy trail offers free entrance and parking, making it an excellent choice for free things to do in Albuquerque. I’ll warn you, though, bring a sunhat and glasses, as there’s no shade. Also, keep your belongings close, as there have been incidents of petty theft in this area.
South Piedra Lisa Trail
Length: 4.4 miles
Time: 2h, 40 mins
The South Piedra Lisa trail is diverse, offering an Albuquerque hiking experience that wows. Whether you want to work on your fitness, bring the doggo along for a run or enjoy a serene walk, this trek has your back.
It’s also a popular route for birdwatching and wildlife spotting, so don’t forget your binoculars and camera. Start your journey at the Piedra Lisa South Trailhead and dirt parking area (no parking fee) just off Forest Road 333.
The southern trek has better scenery and vistas leading into Juan Tabo Canyon and Waterfall Canyon. After crossing several intersections, the Piedra Lisa trail steepens and ascends the Juan Tabo ridge.
From here, you’ll take in unmissable canyon views and striking rock formations.
Top Tip: Consider wearing waterproof hiking shoes as this trail does have some muddy and snowy bits, especially as you reach the top. A hiking pole may also be necessary during winter.
La Luz Trail Sandia Peak
Length: 13.3 miles
Time: 7h 30 mins
My favourite ABQ trail has to be the hike up to the Sandia Mountains. – that’s right, you can climb from its base to its peak at 10,678 ft high above the ground.
You know what that means? You’ll access the most spectacular views over the rugged Albuquerque valley.
I won’t beat around the bush – this is one of the toughest Albuquerque trails. It takes you nearly eight hours to complete, and it’s rocky, icy, and windy. So come prepared with spikes, poles and windproof jackets.
That said, if you’re a fitness junkie or seasoned hiker, then taking on this mountain will surely test your athleticism. Start at the La Luz Trailhead parking lot, just off Forest Road 333, through two rock pillars, and then you can look for the Pay Station on-site to pay your small $3 entrance fee.
You can also grab the tramway to the top and hike down the mountain of course, though don’t think this is a walk in the park either.
Piedras Marcadas Canyon Trail
Length: 1.9 miles
Time: 45 min
Another easy hike in Albuquerque is the scenic Piedras Marcadas Canyon Trail. It’s dog-friendly, excellent for families and has an interesting landscape featuring wildflowers, lava rocks and petroglyphs.
Following this quick loop won’t be an arduous task at all as it’s flat and dry. You might spot some rabbits or roadrunners on this sandy trail, but the best part is all the interesting petroglyphs — more than 400.
Excited? You should be. You can find the trailhead near the Piedras Marcadas parking lot at the Petroglyph National Monument. From there, you’ll walk up a paved path through gates and turn left onto the trail.
Continuing along a volcanic slope, look for numbered signs (1-6), where you’ll find large clusters of petroglyphs behind them. Then you’ll venture through a few canyons until the trail returns to the parking area.
North Sandia Peak Nature Trail
Length: 3.7 miles
Time: ± 2 h
Okay, so if stiff legs and achy feet are not on your agenda, let’s dial down the difficulty with this stunning Albuquerque walking trail. The North Sandia Peak trail provides a peaceful atmosphere filled with birds, animals and fantastic sweeps.
When I visited it was absolutely freezing, but in warmer months, you can tackle one of the hikes at the top of the mountain – or even hike your way back down.
While undemanding, you’ll have some scramble, rocky and snowy areas to cover. Most of the trail follows along the Crest Trail ridgeline, through majestic Aspen groves, and ascends to the landmarked North Peak of the Sandia Mountains.
Expect a small fee of $3, which you can pay on-site. Otherwise, you can use your America the Beautiful Interagency Annual or Sandia Annual Pass to enter. Dogs can join as long as they are on a leash, too.
Embudo Spring Trail
Length: 2.4 miles
Time: 1h 15 mins
Looking for a quick heart-pumping workout before you take on the day? I’ve got you – the Embudo Spring trail comes with a decent elevation ideal for mountain biking and running. However, you can also come here for some tranquillity, as wildflower and cacti-filled scenery, bird watching and wildlife spotting opportunities surround you.
The Embudo Spring trail is rocky and slippery with no shade, so dress the part (I’m talking suncream, sturdy shoes, hats, sunnies – the works). Otherwise, you’ll find it straightforward to follow.
You’ll start at the Embudito trailhead on Sandia Foothills Open Space and continue into Embudo Canyon. The path proceeds through narrow and rugged canyon walls.
Eventually, the trail starts splitting, but you can take the left route to stay on a more direct trek. Then you’ll do a bit of climbing as rock and boulders start sprouting up along Embudo.
After crossing a rock wall at a spring, the trail continues left, splits again (take the left route), and finally flattens out in a broad valley.
Eye Of the Sandias Loop Trail
Length: 3.9 miles
Time: 2h 30 min
Want the prettiest ABQ hike? You can’t go wrong with the moderately challenging Eye of the Sandias hike to test your vigour – and photography skills. This gorgeous trail showcases the beautiful high desert landscape with mountain vistas and city sweeps.
It’s not one of the easier hikes Albuquerque offers, but it’s worth the sweat after seeing the spectacular views. Dogs (on a leash) may join but watch out for the muddy and snowy bits if you’re visiting in colder months.
The trail starts in the southwest corner of the Sandia Mountains and continues counterclockwise to complete the loop. This rocky and sandy trail is open and lined with prickly pear, cholla cacti and juniper trees, so the setting is desert-like.
You can find the trailhead at the end of Copper Avenue in ABQ.
Three Sisters/The Volcanoes Trail
Length: 5.1 miles
Time: ± 3 h
Didn’t know you could tackle a volcano hike in ABQ? Well, you do now. Consider taking on Albuquerque’s Three Sisters hike to get up close to its scenic monogenetic volcanic field.
Why would you want to hike up a volcano field, though? Well, for starters, it is a lot safer than it sounds and is pretty unique compared to other trails on this list for its geological features.
The volcanoes trail boasts sweeping vistas of the Rio Grande Valley, Albuquerque,and the Sandia Mountains. The hike consists of short loops, JA Volcano / Albuquerque Overlook, Black Volcano Loop, and Vulcan Volcano Loop, which wind their way around the three volcanoes (or the “Three Sisters”).
While this trail is dog-friendly, prepare for cold and windy conditions with a bit of loose footing here and there. Also, there is some partial closure of the route to JA Volcano. However, you can still access the rest of the park.
Top Tip: The native Pueblo people believe hiking to the top of the volcanic cones defiles the area. So please respect their beliefs by not climbing on or to the very top of the volcanoes.
Oso Ridge Trail
Length: 7.9 miles
Time: 6 hours
It only makes sense to end this guide with one of the best hikes Albuquerque has to offer for hiking enthusiasts. It’s a real toughie so, along with the La Luz Trail, I wouldn’t recommend this one for newbies.
To begin your trek, you’ll need to look for the trailhead at the Embudito parking lot, left from Glenwood Drive. Walk up to Oso Ridge from the parking area to get on the trail. The path continues uphill into the Sandia Mountains and is super steep (probably the most vertical in the region).
I strongly recommend using hiking poles to counter the steepness, and even though it’s a challenge, the awe-inspiring panoramas and environment make up for it.
Best Albuquerque Hikes: Practical Tips
- Carry lots of water with you – way more than you think you need. It’s easy to get dehydrated because of the city’s high altitude, so I suggest using this Hydro Flask bottle or something similar to keep your water cool.
- The sun does not play around in ABQ. It’s HOT. And you’ll also benefit from wearing plenty of suncream and a hat.
- Make sure you bring a light backpack for hiking around Albuquerque to keep all your belongings safe.
Love This? Save and Share on Pinterest