Hawk Watch Trail Hike – 10/27/2019

This was a return to a trail that always intrigues me – one that someday I hope to take to the top of South Sandia peak. It is so close at hand – just beyond Tramway (the eastern boundary of Albuquerque) in Tijeras Cañon. I look up at the trail almost every time I drive out to Tijeras. I’ve hiked up Hawk Watch in the past with Jay and with Pat (see References below), ‘tho the last time was 2014; descriptions were sparse so I’ll present more details here.

The Drive In

The reach the trailhead, go east on NM 333 from Tramway Blvd for about 3.25 miles, then turn left onto Monticello Drive. Proceed uphill .5 miles, turn left onto Alegre Dr (there has been a sign pointing to the trailhead), then take the 2nd street to the right (another sign) onto Tres Pistolas Trail; continue to the parking lot for the Tres Pistolas Trailhead. Hike up the Tres Postolas Trail (also labeled Three Gun Springs Trail, No. 194) for about .5 miles; a few feet beyond the gate into the Sandia Mountain Wilderness, turn right and downhill onto the Hawk Watch Trail (No. 215). Enjoy this downhill stretch – from here Hawk Watch goes -uphill-.

The Hike

Hawk Watch Trail Hike.Solo.2019-10-27.jpg

The trail is is used enough that it is easy to follow, except – at the bottom of the arroyo a hundred years after leaving Tres Pistolas, you may be drawn to turn left (up the arroyo); — don’t –, continue generally straight ahead to stay on Hawk Watch (Jay and I took that wrong turn back in 2013). The surface is sometimes loose gravel/small rocks, but also easy to tread upon. The trail gets gradually more and more steep as it ascends; it became steep enough after the 3rd outcrop of very large rocks that I decided I’d gone far enough, on this solo hike, and found a sheltered place for my mid-hike break, then headed back down.


Memorable from prior hikes: formations of very large rocks through which the trail passes. I set out to attempt to identify them, so as to get an idea just how far up the mountain I have hiked, to see it from the bottom of Tijeras Cañon. I’m still not confident that I can pick out those outcrops, from the photos that I took or looking from the highway; the various outcrops that are visible just aren’t distinctive enough. My goal is to someday go to the top; maybe one day to hook up with the Hawk Watch International folks as a guide. (‘Tho, the Forest Service descriptions describes Hawk Watch as a “.. dead end trail.”; their map shows it ends about where I turned back.)


Total Distance:  3.66 miles
Elevation: start  6,322 ft, maximum  7,633 ft,  minimum  6,322 ft
Gross gain:  1,311 ft.  Aggregate ascending  1,422 ft, descending  1,435 ft
Maximum slope: 44% ascending, 39% descending, 14.2% average
Duration: 3:53

GPS Track Files for Download
I urge you to explore our hiking tracks with Google Earth. 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 2-dimensional screenshot above. For assistance: Using Google Earth Track Files.

References and Resources

USDA Forest Service: Hawk Watch Trail 215
ASCHG: Hawk Watch Hike
AllTrails: Hawkwatch Trail
                 Three Guns Spring Trail Loop
Sandia Mountain Hiking Guide: Hawk Watch Trail
New Mexico Meanders: 2017-02-25 South Sandia Peak Loop                                                          (Hawk Watch up, Crest, Tres Pistolas down)
YouTube: Hiking The Sandia Mountains – Hawk Watch Trail to Crest Trail
Past hikes:  Hawk Watch Hike – 02/15/2011
                           (shows the trail to the top, with a placemark for the extent of our hike)                       Hawk Watch Hike – 04/27/2013
                      Hawk Watch Hike – 03/16/2014

During the spring and summer, there are so many colors to be seen on our hikes, the many flowers a’blooming. But even as winter approaches, plants are taking on their winter coats, nearly as colorful as during the summer.

This entry was posted in 2019, Flowers, Hiking, Suburban, Tijeras, Years and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply