Bernalillo County Highpoint Trip Report

Sandia Crest

Date: July 30, 2006
Author: Scott Casterlin

For those who want to hike up but not back down, here's another option not quite mentioned in the other trip reports: take the trail up and the tram down.

Park at the Sandia Tram parking lot, possibly having to pay a $1 parking fee if the booth has opened, and look for the well-marked Tramway Trail #82 heading north from the northeast side of the tram complex. This trail purposely connects to the popular La Luz Trail heading up to the top and is popular with the locals, too. The Tramway Trail is a moderately up-and-down affair lasting about 2.3 miles to the La Luz. It's in better shape toward the north and can be slippery, rocky, and sandy. The Forest Service told me it can disappear after rains. Generally head north, look for posts and signs along the way, avoid drifting down into the houses, and back up if your route seems to disappear.

You'll eventually meet the La Luz about a mile above its start and will be glad to finally arrive on this well-constructed and maintained trail. The La Luz climbs efficiently to the crest and you'll turn left at a signed high saddle to finally get to the highpoint, about 6 miles from the point you joined the La Luz. At the top, turn left and walk a short ways up just northwest (behind) of the gift shop/snack bar/visitor center building to the apparent highpoint at a constructed overlook with pay telescopes and benches. The Forest Service often staffs an area inside the main building. If you want to eat, the simple snack bar inside the building is decent. The other commercial eating option, down at the tram, is a slightly (for lunch) pricier sit-down restaurant called High Finance open for lunch and dinner and run by the tram outfit.

When done at the highpoint, take Trail #130 southeast from the south parking area about two miles to the tram. Nature trails and other trails somewhat confuse this route to the tram but junctions are well-signed and usually mention the tram. Along the way, an out-and-back quarter-mile trail to the historic, but highly vandalized, Kiwanis Cabin is worth it for the rim view. Down at the tram, you can buy a one-way ticket ($8 in 2006) up in the loading area and the trams go every 20 minutes or so. The Forest Service has a usually-staffed area here, also. On nice weekends, both the tram and highpoint areas are busy with families/groups who drove or rode up and you may have to wait a cycle or two to finally be able to board the tram down.

Down at the bottom, go look at the "wall of fame" downstairs for a very interesting history of the main players behind the tram and Sandia ski area. You can also check out the tram machinery, eat and drink, and visit another gift shop. After looking around the facility here, you'll be exceedingly glad that your car is waiting right outside where you parked it in the morning.