Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Small group hike today with members of the ASCHG to do the Tunnel Spring Hike up near Placitas. This hike starts at the northern entrance to the Crest Trail (#130). There is a spring called Tunnel Spring and, according to the map, not too far from the trail head. Towards the end of the hike, we did pass some seepage which might have originated from a spring, but whether that spring was THE spring, and whether it has tunnel-like characteristics, is anybody’s guess.

From 1-25, take Hwy. 165 east for about five miles. The turnoff to Tunnel Springs Road is just shy of Mile Marker 5. I don’t recall seeing a sign indicating the name of the road, but even if you know where the road is, the turn is still easy to miss. Yes… we can verify that! 🙂 So when you pass Mile Marker 4, keep your eyes open because you will be able to see Mile Marker 5 ahead just prior to arriving at the turn.

Once you make the turn, it is 1.5 miles to the trail head over gravel road which gets a bit rocky as you near the trail head; however, passenger vehicles should have no problems. The trail head has ample parking, pit toilets, and nothing to indicate a parking fee is required. Elevation at the trail head is 6,274 feet. As mentioned, this is the northern entrance to the Crest Trail (#130) which runs the length of the Sandia Mountains. Total climbing for this hike was 1,234 feet.

This is a 4.6 mile loop which can be hiked in either direction. We went east from the trail head and opted to hike down the arroyo at the end (see below). Others prefer to climb the arroyo first because they feel it is much safer. If you go east, as we did, for the first 3.5 miles, you will be hiking on and up the Crest Trail at an average grade of 5.5%, with some grades of 10%. Once you reach the high point for the hike, which is 7,419 feet, the Crest Trail forks off to the left, but you will take the right fork and begin your descent into and down the Arroyo Del Ojo del Orno.

The Arroyo Del Ojo del Orno descent is about a mile long over steep, rocky trail. These rocks aren’t the pebble-size scree you find along the edge of the lower La Luz Trail. These rocks are about the size of a lemon or bigger and they blanket the trail in numerous locations — the perfect setup for an accident. The average grade of the descent is 17.5%; however, there are two 500 foot sections with much steeper grades: One at the beginning of the descent is 29.5%, and one towards the end is 24%. If you are going to take a fall or sprain an ankle, this is the where it will happen, especially if you are going down, so be careful! Boots with thick soles and good traction, along with trekking poles, will do wonders to help get you down safely.

Towards the end of the hike, we took a short side trip to visit an old mine. The entrance is blocked to keep people out, but looking through the bars, you wonder how people could work in such cramped quarters.

It was a relatively short hike with a good group of people. Not too strenuous with some nice views. I believe we all had an enjoyable day.

Click Here for the topo map with the trail route, then click on the individual icons for trail notes and/or pics. If the icon info comes up empty, try reloading the map.

Topo Map / Trail Route

Elevation Profile

Click first pic to start the manual slide show: