Hail Peak is a prominent granite fin rising over 1,500 feet above the upper portions of Domingo Baca Canyon. It is one of the more noticeable rock formations to the north when viewed from the Sandia Peak Tramway, being the last large buttress of rock near the top.
Separated from the mainline of the crest at Kiwanis Cabin by a 9280-foot saddle, it has a prominence of roughly 400 feet. The Joker (4-5 pitches, 5.8-->5.9+) and the low 5th class ramp used for the descent are two possible routes up the peak.
Getting ThereThe Drive:
Take the Tijeras exit off of I-40 east of Albuquerque and drive north on Highway 14 to San Antonito. A left onto Road 536 (Sandia Crest Road) will take you an additional 14 miles to the Sandia Crest Parking Lot.
Easy Foot Travel:
Park on the lower tier of the crest parking lot and take the La Luz Trail, which starts 100 feet northwest of the restrooms, down the mountain for 0.6 miles. You will pass a set of about 25 stairs about half way down, which means you’re on the right track. A trail junction is the next waypoint. To the right is the rest of the La Luz that descends another 3,000 feet or so. To the left is the trail to the upper tram station. Straight is an unofficial trail that leads to some fun scrambling. Your goal is to walk 70 feet towards the unofficial trail and descend left into Echo Canyon at the large pine tree.
Upper Echo Canyon:
Descend past the following landmarks on the east side of the canyon:
- 400 feet from top of canyon
Bush Shark Spire
– 550 feet from Techweeny Buttress
Yucca Flower Tower
– 500 feet from Bush Shark Spire
About 150-200 feet further along the base of the eastern cliffs, take the semi-vegetated scree gully (about 20 feet wide) west into the middle of the canyon to skirt the shelf that forms on the eastern side of the canyon at this point. The bushwhacking intensifies with thorny brush and loose rock at the bottom of the scree. Just push through it and reach the grove of large Ponderosa’s 150-200 feet ahead.
Continue down-canyon over and under several large fallen trees. The canyon narrows considerably here between 50-foot rock walls. Once the canyon opens up again and Hail Peak is fairly visible, continue a little further and take the relatively obvious trail to the left towards the peak.
After a couple hundred feet, a 20-foot deep gully intersects the path. This is actually a fork. Continuing uphill to the left across the gully will direct you to the game trail that travels up to saddle between Hail Peak and Sandia Crest. About 40 feet down and across the gully is the correct direction to get to the west face.
Boulder-Hopping and Minor Scramble.
Some more bushwhacking and traversing of the slope in a southward direction should open up to several large boulders (about 10 feet high and 20 feet long). Meander through the boulders and the game trail will appear on the other side. Continue below the cliff bands on the left to a viewpoint from which much of the west face can be seen. Punch through several patches of brush and scramble upward towards the wall (3rd class).
Protected as part of the Sandia District of the Cibola National Forest and the Sandia Mountains Wilderness Area, Hail Peak has several restrictions. No motorized vehicles or mountain bikes are allowed on the trails and a $3 parking fee is required at all trailheads within the national forest or wilderness. They now accept National Parks Passes in the parking areas.
There are no campgrounds on the mountain but camping is allowed as long as fires are not made. However, all climbs are done within a day so camping is unnecessary for most people.
When to Climb
The peak is climbable at all times during the year. The best period is between April and September, which is true for most peaks in New Mexico. Afternoon thunderstorms are common on this mountain, more frequently during the spring, summer, and fall. Due to the dry air, altitude, and intense sun that drain you of water it is important to pack plenty of it (a liter or 2 per person is good).
For mountain conditions you can take one of the following links.
Sandia Peak Ski Area Weather
National Weather Service Forecast
It is also possible to e-mail, call, or mail the district ranger of the Sandia Mountains. His e-mail is email@example.com, his address is 11776 Highway 337, Tijeras, New Mexico USA 87059-8619, and his phone numbers are (505) 281-3304 [voice] and (505) 281-1176 [fax].