Marc Witkes posting to Inside Outside Magazine on the best trail out of Albuquerque:
And of the many ways to enjoy the Sandias, my favorite is running or hiking up the La Luz trail and taking the Sandia Peak Tramway down.
… The trail begins at 6,559 feet elevation, skirts a residential area for two miles, climbs 800 feet, turns east and descends to the junction of La Luz trail. A “5 mile” sign marks the beginning of a series of 19 switchbacks, many of which are cut through rocky sections made up of layers of shale and limestone. At the Y near the top of the trail, turn right and proceed to the top terminal and High Finance Restaurant (10,378 feet elevation).
While moving up La Luz Trail, you’ll notice dramatically different weather patterns and topographical features. There are four different climatic zones in the Sandias. The Upper Sonoran Zone lies at approximately 5,000 to 7,000 feet elevation, the Transition Zone at 7,000 to 8,000 feet, the Canadian Zone at 8,000 to 10,000 feet and Hudsonian Zone above 10,000 feet. In layman terms, you’ll start in the desert, travel through a wet area and finish in a spectacular alpine setting. Because of these transitional zones, taking off and putting on your jacket, gloves and hat is a common occurrence.
None of this matters that much as you struggle with a shortness of breath while climbing trail sections with a 12-percent grade, but try to pay attention. Juniper, pinion, Gambel and Gray oak, aspen, Douglas and corkback fir, Englemann spruce and limber pine, all quake along the trail. Wildflowers also rage from May to August.
La Luz trail is open year round with the best time to visit in the spring and fall. In summer, temperatures are hot. In winter, youâ€ll need snowshoes and hiking poles.
If you want to make the trip yourself, click over to Backpacker’s Review for logistics – LA LUZ TRAIL – CIBOLA NATIONAL FOREST (8 MILES)