Every month or so since moving to Albuquerque, we’ve heard mentions of “the hike” to do in Albuquerque, with that hike being the La Luz Trail. We’ve wanted to hike it every weekend since we moved here but somehow life got in the way. Finally, with some planning in advance, that day came and we did the hike. It was very scenic and I wouldn’t mind going back and doing it again sometime soon!
The standard way to do this hike is to hike up from the trailhead and then take the Sandia Peak Tram back down, then hiking back to the trailhead (or leaving a car at the tram parking lot to save a couple miles of walking back to your car). Since dogs are not allowed on the tram, our dog had to sit this one out. Also note that this trail gets pretty rocky in one section (big boulders), so it would not be an ideal hike for small dogs.
We got a pretty early start (since it’s monsoon season here in Albuquerque and you don’t want to be up on mountain tops in the afternoon if possible, and because it gets quite hot by mid-morning in the summer) and dropped off one of our cars at the Sandia Peak Tram parking lot, driving the other one to the La Luz Trail trailhead. The trail was well graded and provided gorgeous views from the beginning, and we began our ascent on the many switchbacks. There is not a lot of shade for the first several miles, but there are some shaded areas where you can pull off the trail for a water or snack break. The sign posts for each mile marked our progress and encouraged us to press on despite the heat.
After five miles, there was a very shady rest spot, and we were definitely in need of shade at that point. When we continued again, the terrain changed a bit. The soft, sandy surface was no more, and the trail became a bit rocky. The cactus were replaced with pine and spruce trees, and soon we were walking among large boulders. They were very manageable, but they did require us to watch our footing. This part of the trail had very little shade.
At just over six and half miles in, there was a trail junction, and we went right, towards the tram station. The boulder section was complete and this section of the trail also provided gorgeous alpine scenery.
Finally, we met the trail junction with the Crest Trail. After taking some time to enjoy the views from Sandia Peak, we waited in the long line to board the Sandia Peak Tram and head back down the mountain. There is also a restaurant at the top of the tram for those who want to reward themselves with more than just a packed lunch.
Be sure to be adjusted to the high desert altitude of New Mexico before attempting this hike, as it is challenging on its own but much more so if you’re coming from sea level. Bring plenty of water (at least 3 liters), sunblock, a hat, and some snacks. Also, be careful with your footing on this hike. People have unfortunately died due to falls on this trail, so don’t let the beautiful views distract you from the terrain.
Distance: 7.7 miles
Elevation: 4177 feet