The northern most 10,000+ foot peak in the Sandia Mountains, North Sandia Peak rises above the huge rock formation known as the shield two miles north of Sandia Peak. From Albuquerque, it appears as the left-most rise along the crest. It characterizes the entire mountain when seen from the north, appearing like the head of a submarine or battleship breaching the earth. The peak is isolated from the taller Sandia Peak by a portion of the main ridge which falls by several hundred feet for a couple miles. North Sandia Peak offers a wide range of difficulty when considering the five trails that lead to the peak's vicinity. Elevation gain on the trails is from nearly zero to over 3,500', allowing for a good experience for hikers of all skill levels. One can also ascend the peak along the Knife Edge of the Shield
, which is a wonderful 4th class to low 5th class climb from the Piedra Lisa Trail.
Getting ThereNorth Crest Trail No.130 N (From the South):
Drive east on I-40 from Albuquerque and take the Tijeras exit. Go north on NM-14 for about 6 miles and turn left onto the Sandia Scenic Byway to the top of the mountain and park at the main parking lot. The trail is marked by a large green sign at the northern end, east of the large antennas.
North Crest Trailhead No. 130 N (From the North):
From Albuquerque, head north on I-25 and take the Placitas exit 242 onto NM-165 eastward. Turn right onto Forest Road 231 around the five-mile marker and continue for 2 miles to the trailhead.
Piedra Lisa Trailhead (Knife Edge of the Shield):
From the intersection between I-25 and I-40, go north on I-25 to the Tramway Rd. Take a right onto Tramway and continue past Sandia Casino towards the mountain. Several miles past the casino, turn left onto the FR-333 to the La Luz Picnic Grounds near the base of the mountains. There are two places where you can pay the parking fee, the first is near Tramway Rd. and the other is at the turn off to the La Luz Trailhead parking lot. Continue straight beyond the turnoff to La Luz onto FR-333D (a dirt road) to the Piedra Lisa Trailhead, which is just before a gate that has a sign saying “no public access.”
Protected as part of the Sandia District of the Cibola National Forest and the Sandia Mountains Wilderness Area, North Sandia 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. Dogs are allowed but must be kept on a leash and picked up after.
The Shield, Prow, and Needle are all closed March 1 through Augusut 15
each year to protect raptor nesting. However, the Knife Edge is always open.
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 couple of liters is good).
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.
For mountain conditions you can take the following link, which is also offered at the Sandia Peak and useful for South Sandia Peak because of their close proximity to each other.
Sandia Peak Ski Area Weather
It is also possible to e-mail, call, or mail the district ranger of the Sandia Mountains. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org, 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].