South Crest Trail Hike – 07/04/2023

With aspirations to go backpacking when I’m 80 (this year!), I assembled my tent, sleeping gear, some food and water, packed it all into my 38 liter pack, and ‘hit the trail’. I chose to hike on the South Crest Trail in the Sandia Mountains, then spend the night on the hill above our cabin, Cerrito del Llano, near Manzano.

The Drive In

The South Crest Trail begins at the Cañon Estates – Grand Enchantment Trailhead. The Trailhead is uphill from the main intersection in Tijeras; from that intersection go north as ‘tho you are getting onto I-40. But … don’t turn left; instead continue beyond the westbound entrance ramp, then turn to the right and follow Arrowhead Trail to the end where you will find a loop parking area for the Trailhead.

The Hike

South Crest Trail Hike.Solo.2023-07-04

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

This is a well used trail – some rocky areas but generally easy treading. The slope is quite uniform, a decent workout without being strenuous. It passes through the typical juniper/piñon forest. About .6 miles from the trailhead it comes to Travertine Falls. One can go directly to the “falls”, a travertine cliff with a rivulet of water falling, then climb a steep incline up to the Crest Trail, or take a hard right below the falls, -on- the Crest Trail, to a falls overlook.

Nearing 2 miles, the trail enters ponderosa and piñon pine forest (above 7,000 feet), where the trail becomes quite easy – dirt/pine needle surface and gentler slope. Then beyond 3 miles it again becomes steeper and more rocky. At 4 miles, 3 o’clock, beginning to become weary, and knowing it was -4 miles- back to the trailhead, I made the adult choice to turn around and head downhill. ‘Twas a good choice; when I reached the trailhead I was beat.

The Camping

Since this was sort of a backpacking tryout, I planned to camp somewhere. Rather than a location along some trail (e.g. South Crest), I chose to drive to El Cerrito (our cabin site) and camp atop the hill above the cabin, Cerrito del Llano. From the cabin I navigated through the juniper forest to the hilltop, then wandered around until I found a flat, level tent site free of rocks. I set up the tent, fixed myself a ramen/chicken supper, and retired for a good nights sleep. Packed up the next morning, checked on things in the cabin, and headed to Mountainair for lunch with a good friend.

What I learned? I -can- get sufficient gear, food, and water into my pack for at least a short backpacking expedition. And I was comfortable with that load. The nearly 3 liters of water was barely sufficient, especially using half a liter for the ramen. The airpad and sleeping bag made for a good nights sleep.


I normally carry an 18#-20# pack on our day hikes – water, stove, lunch or snacks, and miscellaneous gear: first aid kit, knife, inReach EPIRB, … With the added gear for an overnight, the pack came in at 28#. I was pleasantly surprised that once I had the pack settled, I didn’t really feel the extra weight … except that I did get more tired by the end of the hike.


Total Distance:   7.97 miles
Elevation: start  6,553 ft, maximum  8,221 ft,  minimum  6,553 ft
Gross gain:  1,668 ft.  Aggregate ascending  2,022 ft, descending  2,022 ft
Maximum slope: 27% ascending, 24% descending, 8.2% average
Duration: 6:53, Average Speed: 1.2 mph

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

Carlito Springs-Travertine Falls-SouthCrest Trails Hike – 06/30/2023
South Crest Trail Hike – 04/02/2017
Travertine Falls-South Crest Trails Hike – 04/30/2016
South Crest Trail Hike – 08/12/2014
South Crest Trail – Faulty Loop Trail Hike – 05/05/2013
Faulty Loop Hike – 02/13/2013

References and Resources

USDA Forest Service: Crest Trail 130 – North & South
AllTrails: South Crest Trail
Dog of the Desert: South End of the Crest Trail and CCC Trail …
Hiking Project: South Crest Trail #130
Summit Post: South Crest Trail NO. 130S
Backpacker: Albuquerque, NM: Sandia Creast Trail (South)


This entry was posted in 2023, Hiking, Tijeras and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to South Crest Trail Hike – 07/04/2023

  1. Vincent H Humann says:

    Backpacking at 80? George, you are my hero.

    • George Young says:

      Good evening, Vince
      Well .. that was a start. We’ll see if it goes further than this demonstration. Meantime, Pat and I are doing more serious hiking. Best to you an Jan.

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