Hiking the Sandias: how I got started

I finally decided to start hiking the Sandias. Read about what gear I've purchased, my favorite trails, and a little-known secret hiding in plain sight throughout the Sandias!

A pretty view along the Embudo Trail in the Sandias.

I’ve been back in Albuquerque over a year now, but even in the five years I lived here previously, I rarely took advantage of the gorgeous outdoor spaces around the city. I did walk along the Bosque Trail when I lived on the west side, but it was rare for me to drive over to the east side of the city to the mountains. This year, I finally decided to start hiking the Sandias. I recently joined a Meetup group and have made a lovely new friend that way, and I’ve been dragging any of my friends willing to go with me.

I have been hiking in Old Navy leggings and long sleeve shirt, wearing old Brooks Ghost sneakers that fill up with gravel and sand every time I go. My new friend has been hiking the area for a long time, so she’s recommended that I pick up a few things. Here’s what I’ve purchased so far!

Hiking supplies

Hiking poles

I had been resistant to poles because I didn’t like the idea of having something in both hands. Then I borrowed a pair for a pretty steep hike and was sold. You can use them going up to pull yourself up the steeper areas. Even better, you can get them out in front of you on the way down to stop yourself from slipping. I just ordered these hiking poles and tried them out last weekend. They were great. I opted for aluminum over carbon fiber because they are a little harder to break; carbon fiber is lighter but also more fragile, and expensive. I wanted cork grips for sweat absorption. The flip locks used to adjust the poles are really easy to use. These are great and were really inexpensive compared to what I saw around town!

A sun hat
I finally decided to start hiking the Sandias. Read about what gear I've purchased, my favorite trails, and a little-known secret hiding in plain sight throughout the Sandias!

Color here is NOT what it looked like on Amazon. I still like it!

I kept getting sunburned on my neck and I’m already getting age spots on my face, despite my religious use of sunscreen. I looked at REI but everything there was $40+. I ended up ordering this sun hat from Amazon and I’m coming to terms with it. It looked like it might match my backpack (from REI), but when I opened it, the color is much brighter – I’d call it aqua. It came rolled in a box, so I had to leave it smashed under a pile of books for a few days to get it near straight. I’m going to smash it another few days and hopefully that will be good.

HIKING Boots

This was the purchase that scared me the most, because it’s the biggest investment. After researching good options for wide feet online, I went in to my local REI and tried a bunch on. I ended up going with the Merrell Moab 2 Mid Waterproof hiking boot in Granite.

Pro tip for REI: they were running a deal online where if you spent $100, you could get their membership for $20 and receive a $20 gift card for a future purchase, effectively making the membership free. I ended up ordering online after figuring out what size I needed in store to take advantage of this deal, and used the $20 card for a really good pair of hiking socks.

These I bought after my last hike, so the testing will happen soon. One great thing about REI is that you can return things for up to a year after purchase. So, if I end up hating these boots, I can make a swap without losing the investment. You get dividends on purchases when you’re a member too, so you basically get 10% of what you spend in a year back at the end of the year. I figure I’m just going to keep needing stuff (hiking pants are probably next) so this should be a good deal for me.

Favorite places for hiking the Sandias

La Luz/Old La Luz

I finally decided to start hiking the Sandias. Read about what gear I've purchased, my favorite trails, and a little-known secret hiding in plain sight throughout the Sandias!

A view from Old La Luz, the first trail on which I used (and needed) hiking poles.

La Luz is probably the most well-known trail in the Sandias, and it’s highly traveled. The new trail is longer and has more switchbacks than the old trail, which is pretty darn steep. I’ve hiked the new trail to about 4.25 miles, and the old trail about 3.5 (which is at the 5 mile point on the new trail.) Apparently the last couple miles are really steep and can be quite icy, but if you get all the way up to the top, you can hike over to the tram and just take that down. The tram base is a few miles from the La Luz parking lot, so if you’re planning to do it, park cars in both places.

Embudo

This trail is only 3.4 miles long, but reaching the end of it felt like such an accomplishment. It can be a little tough to follow at first, and there’s a few rock climby bits in first couple miles. After you get through the rocky stuff, it’s not too tough. It’s really pretty in the last mile.

Pino

I finally decided to start hiking the Sandias. Read about what gear I've purchased, my favorite trails, and a little-known secret hiding in plain sight throughout the Sandias!

A shot from about 3 1/3 miles up the Pino trail.

I’ve only been out here once, but I’m already planning to go back! I’ve been up to the 3 1/3 mile point, but the whole thing is 4.7 miles. It ends at the Crest Trail, which is on my list of places to reach this summer! It’s really pretty, though it does get steep after the first two miles. I hear it’s even steeper for the last 1.5 miles. Still working up to that one!

Medallion trees

One very cool thing I learned from my new hiking friend is the story of the medallion trees. Someone took samples from several trees in the Sandias to determine how old the trees were. They went back and placed medallions on the trees with something that happened the year each tree was “born.” Thanks to my friend pointing them out, I’ve spotted three so far.

I finally decided to start hiking the Sandias. Read about what gear I've purchased, my favorite trails, and a little-known secret hiding in plain sight throughout the Sandias!

Galileo’s Death, 1642

I finally decided to start hiking the Sandias. Read about what gear I've purchased, my favorite trails, and a little-known secret hiding in plain sight throughout the Sandias!

Robinson Crusoe tree, 1709

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Going forward, I’m hoping to meet more people who can push me to improve my skills and endurance so that I can complete some of the harder trails. There’s also some plane crash wreckage out there that I’d like to go see.

Have you spotted a medallion tree? Want to join me hiking the Sandias? Tell me in the comments!

Gluten free Albuquerque, New Mexico

Hunting for Fenn’s treasure


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