Carlito Springs-Travertine Falls-South Crest Trails Hike – 06/30/2023

Carlito Springs was opened just this spring after having been closed for many years. Our friend Chris, who we meet most mornings at Java Joes, recently visited there and told us of a trail leading from the parking lot to the Travertine Trail and on to the South Crest Trail. I went to check it out.

Addenda: Another friend at Java Joes, Craig, added information about another trail. It proceeds from the road near the 2nd parking area, follows a ridge to meet up with the South Crest trail, a shorter distance than this hike. As he said, it shows up as a thin dashed line on AllTrails, and I also found it on GAIS as “Old South Crest Trail”. We will check that out one day soon.

The Drive In

Travel east on I-40 to the Tijeras exit, NM 337 southbound. Turn right at the light; 1/2 mile turn right under the I-40 overpass; a small sign will direct you to the right; 100 yards on will be another small sign directing you to turn left, up a gravel road. Continue for 1/4 mile to the first of two parking lots; I parked and hiked from here, will return another time and continue to the upper parking lot.

The Hike

Carlito Springs-Travertine Falls-South Crest Trails Hike.Solo.2023-06-30

Notes about the Google Earth screenshot: the graph at the bottom shows elevation of the track (pink area) and speed (the blue line).

The trailhead is an opening in the fence at the head of the parking lot – easy to find. Not far from the trailhead is a trail junction – I was headed toward the South Crest trail so opted for the turn to the right, the eastern part of the Carlito Springs Loop Trail. The trail surface is generally packed dirt with a few embedded rock, and in places loose rock with a gentle climb. This is piñon/juniper territory, so not much shade.

At about 1/2 mile, the Carlito Springs Loop breaks off to the left; another 200 yards beyond there is a very short connector that dips into a ravine and up the other side to the Travertine Falls/South Crest Trail. This is a very short thin dashed line on GAIA that I missed on the way out; I continued up an “Unmaintained Trail” until, realizing my oversight, I bushwhacked back to the Travertine Falls/South Crest trail.

From there I continued up past -the- Travertine Falls (only a trickle of water flowing this day) and onto the South Crest Trail. This trail appears be used more than the Carlito Springs Loop, so it has more packed earth with again some sections of loos rock. And ‘tho still in piñon/juniper, more trees along the trail, perhaps 50%, provided some shade.

Note: At the Travertine Falls I met the nicest group of young ladies; we shared notes on trails around Albuquerque. One of them, from Portland, spoke of some day hiking the Oregon Coast Trail; that sounds like it would be a great hike, through or segments.

Some 1.8 miles into the hike, climbing above 6,800 or 7,000 feet, the trail enters the piñon/ponderosa forest where there is significantly more shade. Then 2.8 miles into the hike is the junction with the Upper Faulty trail. (We made the Crest/Faulty loop hike back in 2013 and 2014.) I continued on the Crest Trail, now a lessor slope on mostly packed earth with some ponderosa pine needles as a carpet. It became so easy going that I felt that I could go on to the top; I had hiked as far as South Sandia with Marlin back in 2014. But … realizing that today returning to the trailhead would stretch my endurance, I made the adult decision and headed back down, making it 10 miles that day.

We’ve enjoyed a wonderful spring with every kind of plant aflowering. With no rain this time of year and temperatures into the high 90s, ’tis only the cacti that are blooming: prickly pear and cholla.


Total Distance:   6.8 miles
Elevation: start  6,439 ft, maximum  7,756 ft,  minimum  6,423 ft
Gross gain:  1,333 ft.  Aggregate ascending  1.721 ft, descending  1.736 ft
Maximum slope: 25% ascending, 24% descending, 8.4% average
Duration: 4:29

GPS Track Files for Download
If you haven’t explored these hiking tracks with Google Earth, I urge you to try it. With the virtual 3-dimensional presentation, achieved by panning and tilting the view, you can get a much better idea of the hikes and terrain than you can get from the screenshot above. For some ideas, check out  Using Google Earth Track Files.

Related Posts

Tijeras Canyon Hikes
South Crest Trail Hikes
Faulty Trail Hikes

References and Resources

Bernalillo County: Carlito Springs Open Space
Dog of the Desert: Carlito Springs Open Space
ASCHG: Carlito Springs Open Space Hike
AllTrails: Carlito Springs Loop
Yelp: Carlito Springs

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