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There are so many things to do when visiting Albuquerque, New Mexico, but one of the best is to get out and go hiking in the Sandia Mountains just west of Albuquerque! While there are quite a few different trails in the Sandia Mountains that vary in length and difficulty, one of the best is hiking La Luz trail in Albuquerque!

The Sandia Mountains sit just west and northwest of Albuquerque and are a constant on the horizon when visiting. They rise above the city with their prestigious peaks and patches of snow that contrast with the dry city below. 

If you are going to hike the La Luz trail in Albuquerque, be prepared for a challenging hike as it is long, and there is a substantial elevation gain. 

Sandia Mountains Hiking Trail

La Luz Trail Info:

Difficulty: Hard

Distance: 13.3 miles (out & back)

Elevation Gain: 3,572 feet

Make sure to check out AllTrails info on hiking La Luz trail in Albuquerque too!

When hiking La Luz trail in Albuquerque, you should start early in the morning. It’s a long hike, and it will get hot later in the day, especially in summer months. 

However, remember that the mountains are colder than down in the city of Albuquerque because of elevation, so bring layers or a light jacket that can be packed away if you get hot. 

Aside from wearing the right clothes, you will want to make sure you are fully prepared for the day hike on La Luz. Check out our Complete Day Hike Packing List to make sure you are good to go!

Albuquerque hiking trails

When you drive to the trailhead you will wind through the Cibola National Forest and eventually come to the trailhead of La Luz. It does cost $3 to park here, which can be done by cash in an envelope at the pay station or QR code and credit card. Make sure to pay because they do check the parking lot for violators. 

From the parking lot, head to the trailhead to being hiking La Luz trail up the Sandia Mountains!

The trail winds up the mountains through a variety of switchbacks that go in and out of various canyons along the way. This makes for different gorgeous views along the way as you hike up from a most desert-like landscape into a pine forest with snow in shadowed canyons. 

Sandia mountains hiking

The La Luz trail itself is well-maintained and easy to follow. It only intersects with a few other trails that are well-marked, so you shouldn’t have a problem getting lost. The trail is also fairly smooth and easy to walk on, except for a few rocky spots. 

As you climb up the side of the Sandia Mountains on La Luz trail, you will eventually get to a sign that warns about potential snow and ice making the trail impassable. 

Depending on the time of year you are going, the final ascent to the top of the La Luz trail might truly be impassable. 

Do not continue up this final part of the trail if you are not prepared!

la luz trail hike

The snow and ice can make this part of the La Luz trail very dangerous, especially on the way down. However, you can take the Sandia tram down for $15 if you do not want to hike down La Luz. If you are hiking with a dog, you cannot take the tram. 

This final ascent up La Luz trail is in a narrow canyon up towards the peak of the mountain. Because it’s in a canyon, this area of the trail is colder, sees less sun, and has way more snow and ice than the rest of the trail. 

Hiking la luz

If you choose to climb this part, and there is snow and ice, you will want hiking shoes with spikes or good traction and hiking poles

We visited Albuquerque in late March and while the city hit 85°F, it was about 35°F in the mountains, and this final part of the La Luz trail was covered in snow and a sheet of ice. We began hiking it to see if it was possible, but it wasn’t safe.

Although we really wanted to continue to see Albuquerque from the peak of the Sandia Mountains, we made the sensible decision to turn around and hike back down La Luz. 

La Luz Trail Albuquerque

Remember that if this happens to you when hiking La Luz, you can always take the tram back up and down. The tram is only a short drive from the trailhead, but it only runs certain hours. Make sure to check the Sandia Peak Tramway website for update information.

La Luz trail is one of the best hikes in Albuquerque if you are looking for a long, challenging hike with fantastic views and an ever-changing landscape. It is not too busy either, so you can really escape into nature. 

Again, hiking La Luz is not for the faint of heart, but if you are up for the challenge, it’s a wonderful hike and something you absolutely should do when you are visiting Albuquerque!

La Luz Trail Hiking

What do you think about hiking La Luz trail in Albuquerque? Do you have recommendations for La Luz or other hiking trails in Albuquerque?


  1. Thank you for the info regarding the La Luz Trail close to Albuquerque. Just a note- the Sandia Mountains are east of Albuquerque, the trail is on the west side of the Sandia mountains though.

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