Friday, May 26, 2017

Actually, there really isn’t a hike called Six Trails Loop in the Sandias, but I had to call it something. And since this is a loop hike that encompasses six different trails, Six Trails Loop sounded appropriate! 

Marty and I had not hiked any of these trails before. So off we drove to the east side of the Sandias in search of Sulphur Canyon. Once we got on the highway leading up to the Sandia Crest, it wasn’t far, about 1.5 miles, we just turned left at the Sulphur / Cienega Canyons sign. As we turned off the Crest Highway, a right turn took us into Sulphur Canyon and to the trailhead we were looking for (a left turn would have taken us into Cienega Canyon and to its trailhead).

The trailhead is a fee area ($3 for the day), but some passes will save you the parking fee, like our Senior Pass. Hey, there has to be something positive about getting old! 🙂 The trailhead has decent parking, plenty of shade, and, yes, clean pit toilets. However, there are a lot of picnic sites down in there and I suspect it can get pretty crowded on the weekends.

The six trails involved in this counter-clockwise loop-hike are, in the order we hiked them: Sulphur Canyon Trail, Faulty Trail, Oso Corredor Trail, Tree Spring Trail, South Crest Trail, Cienega Trail, Faulty Trail, and back down the Sulphur Canyon Trail.

Hiking Miles from the Trailhead: It was 0.6 miles to the Faulty Trail ~ 1.9 miles to the Oso Corredor Trail ~ 4.7 miles to the Tree Spring Trail ~ 6.5 miles to the South Crest Trail ~ 8.4 miles to the Cienega Trail ~ 10.2 miles to the Faulty Trail ~ 10.7 miles to the Sulphur Canyon Trail ~ 11.3 miles back to the trailhead.

Here is what you need to know in order to determine in which direction you should hike:

Hiking Counter Clock-Wise: From the Sulphur Canyon Trailhead to the South Crest Trail is 6.5 miles, with an elevation gain of 2,063 feet and an average grade of 6%. Some grades are a little steeper, but not by much. Two stretches are right at 10%, one for 0.25 miles, the other for about 0.5 miles. Total climbing going this way was around 2,276 feet. As I mentioned in the video, the grades are so minor, we climbed 1,000 feet before we even realized it.

Hiking Clock-Wise: From the Sulphur Canyon Trailhead to the South Crest Trail is 2.9 miles, with an elevation gain of 1,880 feet and an average grade of 13%. Total climbing going this way would be around 1,945 feet. However, the Cienega Trail, from the Faulty up to the South Crest is 1.8 miles with an average grade of 16% and it doesn’t really get any steeper than that.  There isn’t a lot of up-and-down on the Cienega Trail, it’s pretty much all up, or all down, depending on your direction of travel. That being the case, the elevation difference and total climbing on the Cienega are about the same, around 1,500 feet. Note: The Cienega Trail had more trees down across the trail than I have ever encountered. As I recall, there were 15 trees down across the Cienega Trail, but all were easy to get around. Found out later, the Cienega is not a maintained trail so there are no plans to remove those trees.

So those are your choices for getting up to the Crest Trail: You can have a nice, easy, longer climb… or you can have a much steeper, shorter climb.

To complete the loop, the distance along the South Crest Trail, between the junction of the Tree Spring and Cienega Trails, is about 1.9 miles, with an elevation difference of 200 feet and maybe an additional 100 feet or so for total climbing.

Almost the entire hike was under tree cover, so it was nice and shady. Of course, the drawback to that is, the views were minimal.

Elevation at the trailhead: 7,456 feet. Highest elevation: 9,513 feet. Total climbing (counter clock-wise) was 2,646 feet. Total distance for the loop was 11.3 miles. Actual hiking time was 4.6 hours, but we must have stopped a lot because it took us 6.5 hours to complete the hike. Amazing how those breaks add up! 🙂

Update: There are recent reports that mountain bikers are sneaking in and removing rocks from the Oso Corredor Trail. Removing rocks they see as obstacles allows the mountain bikers to fly down the trail at faster speeds. In turn, this increases the collision danger with hikers. We did not see any mountain bikers when we hiked that trail, but if you hike the Oso Corredor, especially on the weekend, and especially if you are hiking down-trail, you should remain vigilant. And if you see any suspicious activity along the Oso Corredor Trail, you should report it to the Sandia Ranger District.

Click the map and elevation profile for a larger view. Then click the icons on the trail map for more information. If the icon notes come up empty, you will have to reload the map.

Trail Route and Topo Map

Trail Route and Terrain Map


Elevation Profile

Elevation Profile