Bernalillo County High Point Trip Report

Sandia Crest (10,678 ft)

Date: December 28, 2002
Author: Dave Covill

Sandia Crest is the large north-south trending ridge just east of Albuquerque NM. It is topped by a large antenna farm, with well over a dozen huge towers on top. There is a ski area on the wooded eastern side of the ridge, with a paved road extending past this ski area a few more miles to the top, where there is a large visitor center, open all year, weather permitting. When I asked what "weather permitting" meant, folks who worked there said they kept the road plowed virtually 360+ days a year, for tower maintenance. You can also reach the top via the Tramway, which goes up the west side of the ridge from right in Albuquerque, and you can also hike up from several trails on the west side which reach the ridge a couple of thousand feet up from the trailhead, and then wander down the ridge to the highpoint.

We chose to try the road. We came from the north, from Santa Fe, and chose to drive from I-25 exit #278 south on NM 14. This is the back way, believe me. This took us through several funky little hippy towns, such as Cerillos and Madrid, to Golden, where we continued southwest on NM 14. At the town of Sandia Park, go west on CR 536, which is well signed for Sandia ski area and Sandia Crest. An easier way is to come from I-40 where it cuts across the Sandia Range, and go north from exit #175 on NM 14 about 5 miles to Sandia Park. The sign says the ski area is 6 miles up and the top is 14, but we got to the top at mile 13.1. The road is in excellent shape, and there is a large two-tier parking area. Park up high, and wander in to the restaurant / gift shop / visitor center.

From the parking area, there is an obvious paved path, with fencing on each side, up to a higher area. This is the actual highpoint. We did not see a BM, but there was snow on the ground. The area to the north about 100 yards, where all the towers lie, is fenced off, but levels more than 10 feet lower than here. They ask for a $3 fee for recreational users, but since county highpointing is hard work and not recreational pleasure, we opted not to fill out an envelope and stick it into the slot in the sign. I'm sure it's intended for the x-ski and snowshoers who were all about.

We hiked down the trail system to the south to get a look at the top of the tramway and ski area. You could in theory take the tram up, ski, and ride the tram back down to Albuquerque. It's about a mile from the visitor center to the tram, and you encounter the ski area boundary at about the halfway point. Views are staggering, with a clear view north to the Taos area, Wheeler Peak, and Santa Fe Baldy. You can see due south to Manzano Peak, and due west to Mt. Taylor. If you knew where to look, you could probably see northwest to Redondo Peak. I even think you could see south-southeast to the mountains of the Sierra Blanca range, but I might have been imagining that. Very cool!