The Sentinel is a 275-foot tall, fragmented granite monolith nestled on the ridge between Upper La Cueva Canyon to the south and Chimney Canyon to the north. Though it is in close proximity to the Sandia Crest Parking Lot, it can be quite the challenge to get to.
This portion of the page is the primary reason for its creation. Directions are hard to come by.
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.
Park and walk to the northwest corner of the parking next to the radio towers. A faint trail turns north off the paved trail that curves south to the summit of the mountain — don’t go on either of these. Instead, travel straight west. There will be an extremely faint trail that meanders down the west side of the crest. About 100 feet down the slope is a limestone cliff.
At the edge of the cliff is a large (3-foot diameter), interesting looking, grey tree. This is an option for rappelling off the limestone band. Another option is to travel 300 feet north along the traversing trail that follows the cliff. Here you will find a 4th-class down-climb (or another rappel off of the many suitable trees). Be aware that you will have to climb back up this portion of the cliff to return to the parking lot.
Once below the cliff band, go straight downhill. There will be two gullies to your right as you travel. Since you will be traveling down the second one, it is easier to direct yourself straight west until another cliff blocks your path. At this point, work your way down the gully to the north. The Sentinel will be to the west as get below and around the rock that borders the gully on your left.
What You Find:
The rappel off the summit drops you on the east saddle, which can be seen as you work your way across the gully to the north side of the rock.
The first climb encountered is the North Ridge (5.7+), beyond it on the Northwest portion of the rock is Almost Overlooked (5.7), and on the west face is Lost Ledges (5.7).
Protected as part of the Sandia District of the Cibola National Forest and the Sandia Mountains Wilderness Area, The Sentinel 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.
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].