Albuquerque Dog Hikes: Sandia Mountains

Albuquerque Dog Training

Albuquerque Dog Hikes: Sandia Mountains

Hiking is my favorite dog activity. Before any agility, tricks, frisbee or other training, we like to go outside and walk.

When I first moved to the Albuquerque area in 2012, I had no idea where to take my dogs for dog-friendly, enjoyable hikes. So off we went to explore. Here are some Spiritdog-approved trails in the Sandia Mountains. You start all these by taking I40 and exiting at Tijeras, then driving up N-14 through Cedar Crest and turning on the Crest Road at Sandia Park.

(Does your dog struggle to pay attention to you on hikes? The dogs in these pictures where trained through the Outdoor Focus Online Class – your dog can become the perfect hiking companion as well!)

1. Cienega

This is the first parking lot to the left as you drive up the Sandia Crest Road. After entering the parking lot, keep left and take the paved road up a little hill until a dirt road goes off to the left. Park and start hiking the trail to the south along the hill. This has beautiful views and a surreal feel from the controlled burns that were carried out in 2016.

Cienega also offers a spacious picnic and BBQ area with a little stream where you will encounter many other people and dogs, especially in the summer time – this might not be a good choice if you have a reactive dog.

2. Mile Marker 6

Just after you pass Tree Springs trail-head to the left (which I would not recommend for dogs – or really anyone – based on the typical high traffic on the trail on any day of the year, and the comparably low aesthetics of the hike), there is an unnamed parking lot to the right. After taking a 25 minute walk through the woods you arrive on a ridge that goes East, with beautiful views in all directions. Hike on a loop along the ridge and come back to the parking lot.

I have rarely encountered others on this trail – a good choice if you have a reactive dog.

3. Ski Area

If you like steeper terrain, park at the Sandia Ski Area parking lot and either walk up the ski runs (for fast, but possibly strenuous elevation gain) or take the switch-back trail (on which you might encounter mountain bikers). The ski hill changes drastically during the seasons from waist-high, lush grass with hidden fawns in the summer to short, brown meadows in the fall and of course a vast snow field in the winter.

The ski area is only operating Friday through Sunday, so take your dog up during the week for an ultimate winter adventure! There are usually a couple hikers with free-running dogs on the hill during snow season, and the dogs tear up and down the runs together.

Ski Area

4. 10k Trail

Named after its elevation, the 10k trail follows the 10’000ft contour line without gaining or losing much altitude. It’s where I take sea-level friends to hike – if you are just starting out, this trail will be one of the easiest choices. You can park on both sides of the road and either start walking to the North with views towards Sandia Park and Golden, or the South. The South trail runs through the woods and eventually intersects the ski area. This trail is beautiful on gloomy fall mornings when the fog lingers over the brown meadows.

If you follow it all the way across the ski area and back into the woods, you can link up the the Crest trail that runs towards the South Crest.

4. 10k Trail

4. 10k Trail2

5. Ellis Trail

Very close to Sandia Peak is a last parking lot to the left. Not spectacular at all in summer (it is a service road from the Crest Rd to the top of the ski area), Ellis trail is a winter paradise: the wide, even road is perfect for snow shoeing and cross-country skiing, and the old gravel pit that you come across after the first 5 minutes on the trail is a sledding paradise for kids (and adults that like to sled, like me). You can take a longer, more secluded trail if you keep to the right directly after exiting the parking lot. It will take you to Kiwani’s meadow and to the top of the tram on a longer loop.

5. Ellis Trail

5. Ellis Trail2

6. South Crest

This is a long day hike. Start out at Tree Springs trail-head, then walk up to the Crest trail that runs along the top of the mountain. Follow it through an array of different vegetation until you reach the South Peak with beautiful 360 degree views.

This out and back trail is 18 miles in total and I only recommend it if you have some experience hiking, especially in dry NM summer conditions.

6. South Crest

Note that there is no natural water on any of these trails. If hiking in the summer, take plenty of fluids for both you and your dog. I have in the past had to rescue a hiker and her dogs because she misjudged the amount of water needed. I take 1 gallon for every 4 hours for my own two dogs.

Enjoy hiking, and say hello if you see us!