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The Best Hikes in Cibola National Forest

31 Triplog Reviews in the Cibola National Forest
Most recent of 17 deeper Triplog Reviews
5 mi • 1,000 ft aeg
 Business in Albuquerque left me with a morning to kill, so I took the Sandia Peak Tram up to the top and meandered around up there. Hardly worth noting, except that it was my first hike in New Mexico and I'd totally recommend it.

The tram cabin was rather cramped and noisy, but the ride was quick and the views impressive. It was $2 to park and $25 for the tram (round trip).

There's a mess of well-worn trails up there, and I'm not entirely sure what I took. It was all very nice and foresty. Made my way to the top of the La Luz trail, and followed that down for about a half-mile, which was steep and fun.

I should add my drive from Tucson up to Albuquerque was great too. Rather than taking I-10 to I-25 like I've done in the past, I went north from Tucson, up through Globe, Pinetop-Lakeside, and the Malpais in New Mexico. It was a wonderful progression of landscapes, and the shortest 8-hour drive I've ever done.
5.76 mi • 985 ft aeg
Ellis-Survey Loop
 As part of a trip to Northern New Mexico I spent a couple days with friends in the Sandia Park area. Went out for a short hike Friday morning just below the Crest near the highway to the top. We made a loop out of it, starting on the more open Ellis Trail and returning on the Survey Trail, which stays in the deep woods. The Ellis Trail follows an old road cut dating back to the 1960's that was intended to be a highway connecting Placitas to Sandia Crest, but was abandoned. The resulting man made meadow makes for nice open sky hiking. We hiked up the 10-K Trail a very short distance to reach the Survey Trail for the return to the parking lot. There are a lot of trails up there just below the Crest, so you really need a map or trail guide to help out. Karen had been on this before, but it was new to me as I have done virtually no hiking in the range. The only thing we should have done different was to go a little further up the 10-K to an overlook, before backtracking for the finish on Survey.
3.6 mi • 392 ft aeg
 I have always enjoyed staying at this campground, but until today had not hiked the nature trails. So after putting away the tent, etc. I finally checked them out. There are a number of loops you can do depending on your available time or ambition. I decided to do the entire large outer loop, plus the short side trips to some observation points. I went counterclockwise from the gazebo, where the loop radiates from (a short distance from the campground TH). After staying low for the beginning portion, the trail ascends a ridge and remains on high ground for quite awhile, affording some decent views of the surrounding countryside. There was elk sign up on the ridge, and that explained the high pitched bugling that awakened me from a dream at about 1:30 in the morning (always a treat). :)

The trails are well marked and easy on the feet as they pass through the pinon/juniper country. I really enjoyed this hike before heading over to the Very Large Array. :)

When I got back to the campground, I hung out awhile longer, enjoying the antics of some bluebirds, while the cumulus clouds grew heavy. :D

Nature Rocks & Sky Determines.
13.89 mi • 4,220 ft aeg
 A work trip brought me to Albuquerque, so a little extra time for a hike was in order...I hiked the La Luz trail up to the Sandia Crest, and then back down. Switchback overload, I lost count quickly as the trail kept turning back on itself. This is a nice trail, the first four miles are a nice smooth dirt track, and then it gets rocky after that, but nothing too crazy. There are some stretches where you have to traverse boulder fields that reminded me quite a bit of the Bomber wreckage on Mt. Humphries. There is oddly enough a gift shop/ snack bar up at the Crest (you can drive up there too, but that is pretty weak sauce), I found a few lightweight souvenirs to bring home to my girls. The wonderful cloud cover I had for most of the way up turned into rain and some nasty winds up top, I had to get out my emergency poncho to keep from getting completely soaked. Fun hike, glad to get some dinner and beer at Luca Pizzeria after I finished up. 25 miles in 2 hikes over four days, that is better than I did all last month. Love it when I have some extra time for the wilderness...
9.78 mi • 3,249 ft aeg
 A work trip took me to Albuquerque for a few days, so what better way to spend the time than a hike in a new place! The Sandia mountains loom to the east of town, and I just could not resist. I started this one about 4 p.m. after my work day, and despite starting at 6400' it was still pretty hot. Great travel through the mixed Juniper-Oak forest to start, eventually giving way to more Pinions and eventually Ponderosa pine. The wildflower show from about 7500'-9200' was pretty incredible, I was not expecting to see so much color this late in the year. The only real downside to this one is the extensive pine tree dieback. The Japanese Bark Beetle has leveled thousands of trees in the adjacent canyon making it a bit of a graveyard, but there are still lots of Gambel Oak and Aspens to provide shade and interest. The trail is easy to follow, but the last 2 miles or so are pretty relentless. I made it to the intersection with the Crest trail and followed it up a bit to the north to find a nice vantage point for a snack and a breather. This was a great warm up for our Humphries plan next weekend!
5.4 mi • 1,250 ft aeg
 After business, it was time for pleasure. I didn't have any preconceived notions for this trail. I just set out to explore a little and see how far I could go. Time and some (incorrect) trail mileage markers had me up at 3 miles. Looks like GPS says I was at 2.75 miles. I hiked to a small peak on a ridge, and then turned back. Very nice trail and area, possibly the highlight of Alubuquerque. It reminded me a lot of Elden, which is dacite, but looks like the granite here, and the vegetation is nearly identical.
7 mi • 2,100 ft aeg
 For the last few years some of my hiking friends have been planning a June camping/hiking trip to the White Mountain Wilderness over near Ruidoso, New Mexico. In 2011 dry conditions had the Lincoln NF closed and last year a big fire broke out a week before the planned trip. With conditions even worse this year, we fully expected the area to be closed. But surprisingly, it has remained open. When I contacted Paul about the trip, he said there had been a last minute change and they were going over to the San Pedro Wilderness instead, with a stop to hike Mount Taylor by Grants on the way. I liked that idea, so off we went! :)

We drove up separately, leaving Tucson Thursday morning. Karen, Paul, and Jerry went up to Grants by way of Saint Johns and El Morro, while I got there by way of Springerville and Quemado. We rendezvoused late in the afternoon at the trailhead on FR193, and camped there for the night at about 9300 feet.

I found the hike to be an absolute delight! Short, easy, on good trail, and with terrific views. I had driven part way up the mountain with my Mom about 20 years ago (I still have a souvenir volcanic bomb I picked up on that trip), so it was good to finally return and do the hike. I really like the sign in register on top. :)

Following the hike it was back to Grants for gas and ice, before that long tedious drive across the Rez to Cuba. I wish I had stopped to take a picture of the mountain after we left Grants. ](*,) The cumulus cloud in my hike photos had exploded into a big thunderstorm in a very short time! :o We stopped at the ranger station in Cuba to get information on camping and trails in the San Pedro Wilderness area, before heading over to find a camp spot for night two.
7 mi • 2,100 ft aeg
 We drove back towards Arizona from Taos and stayed overnight in Grants, NM. Monday morning we headed up to the trailhead to hike the Gooseberry Springs Trail to the summit of Mount Taylor. Between the 3 mountains we climbed this weekend, this one had to be my favorite. Maybe it was the solitude, expansive views or the forest filled with healthy aspens, I'm so glad we made the effort to check this one out.
2 mi • 1,000 ft aeg
South Baldy Peak
 After getting a look at the situation on the top of the mountain Thursday afternoon, I went back to my motel room in Socorro and hung out in town for a couple of days. I also gave NM Tech a call to see about the locked gate and access to the Langmuir Lab. They informed me the gate stays locked almost all the time, but that the area beyond was open to hiking. So that meant I was going to drive back up Saturday morning to check things out before heading home. I parked at the small lot for the Crest Trail and walked the road past the new observatory over to the lightning lab. I have a good memory from my first visit to the lab back in 1993. I walked in, signed the visitor log, and began talking with the receptionist. She said she was from Wyoming and was working there for the summer. I told her that a friend, David Shaul, back in Tucson was associated with the Shaul and Grams ranching families in Wyoming. Imagine my surprise when she informed me that David is her uncle! :o Small world indeed. 8)

On this day, there were people inside the lab, but I didn't go in, just content walking around. I first found out about this place from a NOVA TV special on lightning research that was partly filmed here. Being a weather geek I of course had to visit, plus being on a high mountain made it even better! :D

After walking to the lab, I headed back down the road to finally hike to the top of South Baldy. You wouldn't want to be doing that if thunderstorms were around! Then it was back to the car and a short drive down the road to do a small portion of the Timber Peak Trail. Thus ended four days in the Socorro area, one of my favorite places in New Mexico.

Back in 1942, a B-17 bomber crashed into North Baldy Peak just short of the top, while on a training flight.

B-17 Crash

Langmuir Laboratory

Magdalena Ridge Observatory
6 mi • 2,000 ft aeg
Copper Canyon Trail #10
 Drove over to hang out for a few days in the Magdalena Mountains and Socorro. First night I camped at Water Canyon Campground, followed by two nights in a motel in Socorro. I have camped there several times over the years, but this was my first time at the relocated campground. The former location was primo, but is now just for day use. The primary objective this trip was to drive up to see the new telescope up on Magdalena Ridge and visit the Langmuir Lightning Research Lab, which dates to 1963. I last was to the lightning lab back in 1993 and the last time I drove the road to the top was in 2003 to do the South to North Baldy hike. There is new construction going on up top associated with the observatory. Otherwise things are much the same as years ago, except the gate has been beefed up and remains locked pretty much all the time now. The gate is a short ways beyond the parking area for the North Baldy trail. Though you normally can't drive all the way to the lab anymore, walking in is allowed. You just don't want to be doing this during times when lightning research including balloon and rocket launches are happening (into active thunderstorms)! :scared:

After camping, I drove a short way to the Copper Canyon trailhead for the hike. This trail goes all the way up the canyon, heading in a south to southwest direction toward the Crest Trail near South Baldy. It starts out around 7000 feet and eventually reaches about 10,300 feet where it hits the crest. I went about 3 miles up, turning around at 9000 feet, just before reaching an old miner's cabin and fork in the trail (the real steep part starts there). Since it was a pretty hot day, I was glad to be hiking in the shaded canyon.

At the beginning of the hike, the trail skirts by some private property and old buildings and meadows associated with mining and ranching from days gone by. About 2 miles in you encounter periodic water in the canyon as it climbs toward the crest.

Following the hike I drove up the road to the locked gate by South Baldy to look around and take some photos. Thunderstorms were sparse today, but they finally started putting down some rain as I drove down the mountain. This is an awesome narrow road with fantastic views! It is well graded, but you should have high clearance (and preferably 4x4). Probably wouldn't be much fun during a downpour. :o

Once down, it was off to the motel in Socorro. I decided I would come back up the mountain Saturday morning on my way home to Tucson and walk the mile or so from the gate to the lightning lab, plus check out the new astronomy stuff. Also, I wanted to finally bag South Baldy Peak (10,783 ft), which is a short side trip off the Crest Trail.

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