Cibola National Forest


Cibola National Forest
Cibola National Forest
Passing through a cut in the ridge south of Tijeras in Cibola National Forest
South of Tijeras

The 1,625,542 acres of the Cibola National Forest are spread across central New Mexico. Elevations range from about 5,000' to the top of Mt. Taylor at 11,301'. Included in the Forest are the Datil, Bear, Magdalena, Gallinas, Sandia, Manzano, San Mateo, Zuni, and Mt. Taylor Mountain Ranges.

With the vegetation zones ranging from high Sonoran desert up through the pinon-juniper range into the sub-alpine spruce, fir and aspen, the climate varies as well. At Sandia Peak, you can ski at the top of the hill and play golf at the bottom. Winters at elevation can be severely cold and heavy on the snowfall. Summers above 8,000' can be cool to downright cold. Below 8,000', summers tend to be very hot and dry. July and August is monsoon season with regular, almost daily, thundershowers, heavy enough to cause flash flooding at times.

Sandia Peak has a road, tramway and several hiking trails that access the summit (10,678'). Mt. Taylor (11,301') has a road to within about 1 mile of the summit and you can hike the rest of the way fairly easily. Manzano Peak (10,098') is within the Manzano Mountain Wilderness and can be accessed via the Crest Trail, a hiking trail that follows the upper ridge of the Manzanos for more than 20 miles. Mt. Withington (10,115') is on the western edge of the Withington Wilderness but can be accessed almost directly from a Forest Service Road that runs just below the crest on the west side of the San Mateo Mountains in that area.

Looking down into the Sandia Mountains in Cibola National Forest
A view from Sandia Peak
Typical canyon viw in Cibola National Forest

All areas of Cibola National Forest allow overnight camping except the Sandia Ranger District: everything at Sandia is only for day-use picnicking or group camping. The nearest campgrounds to Albuquerque are at Fourth of July and Tajique in the Manzano Mountains. Everything else is more than an hour's drive out of town (there's good about that). All the developed campgrounds on the Cibola National Forest have a 14-day stay limit. Quite a few of the campgrounds have drinking water, picnic tables, toilets, and trash facilities. But always be prepared to "Pack it in, Pack it out." All the campgrounds are suitable for tents and for most RV's, but large trailers can sometimes have problems on steep windy roads with sharp curves.

Visitors should be aware that Mt. Taylor and some areas of the Zuni Mountains have special cultural and religious significance to several Native American communities. While hiking around out there you may come across prehistoric ruins and more recent sites having to do with logging: sawmills, communities and railroad beds in particular.

 

The foothills of the Manzano Mountains are one of the first European-settled areas of New Mexico and there are still many small predominantly Hispanic Land Grant communities here.

The Sandia Mountains are among the most visited of all National Forest Ranger Districts. The Sandia Mountain Wilderness begins just a few hundred yards east of the present urban sprawl limits of Albuquerque.

 
The Balsam Glade Picnic Ground sign on the east side of Sandia Mountain
On the eastern slope of Sandia Mountain
Cibola National Forest Ranger Districts map
The Ranger Districts of Cibola National Forest
 
Photos courtesy of TheArmchairExplorer, CCA-by-SA 4.0 License
Map of Cibola National Forest courtesy of the US Forest Service
 

Recreation Areas

Mt. Taylor Ranger District

Site Name Location Elevation Open Stay Limit Amenities, Notes
Ojo Redondo 26m S of Thoreau via NM 412, FR 178 & 480 8,900' May-Nov 14 days CampingPicnickingTrailer and RV camping
McGaffey Campground 8m S of Fort Wingate via NM 400 8,000' May-Sept 14 days CampingPicnickingFeesFishingTrailer and RV camping
Nature Trails
McGaffey Lake 8m S of Fort Wingate via NM 400 8,000' Jan-Dec Day use only Fishing
Quaking Aspen 6m S of Fort Wingate via NM 400 7,600' May-Sept 14 days CampingFeesTrailer and RV camping
Coal Mine 10m NE of Grants via NM 547 7,400' May-Sept 14 days CampingPicnickingFeesTrailer and RV camping
Nature Trails
Lobo Canyon 10m NE of Grants via NM 547, FR 239 & 193 7,400' May-Sept 14 days CampingPicnicking
 

Mountainair Ranger District

Site Name Location Elevation Open Stay Limit Amenities, Notes
Capilla 12m W of Manzano via NM 55, FR 245 9,600' May-Sept 14 days CampingPicnickingTrailer and RV camping
Rough Road
New Canyon 8m W of Manzano via NM 55, FR 245 7,800' All Year 14 days CampingPicnickingTrailer and RV camping
Rough Road
Red Canyon 12m W of Manzano via NM 55, FR 245 7,600' Apr-Oct 14 days CampingPicnickingTrailer and RV camping
Handicapped accessible, horse camping
Red Cloud 18m SW of Corona via US 54, FR 161 & 399 7,600' All Year 14 days CampingPicnicking
Tajique 5m W of Tajique via NM 55, FR 55 6,800' All Year 14 days Camping
Fourth of July 8m W of Tajique via NM 55, FR 55 7,400' Apr-Oct 14 days CampingPicnickingFees
Handicapped accessible
 

Magdalena Ranger District

Site Name Location Elevation Open Stay Limit Amenities, Notes
Springtime 12m S of I-25 Exit 115 via NM 1, FR 225 7,400' Apr-Nov 14 days CampingPicnicking
High clearance vehicles only
Luna Park 8m NE or Monticello via FR 139 & FR 225 7,400' Apr-Nov 14 days CampingPicnickingTrailer and RV camping
High clearance vehicles only
Huges Mill 26m SW of Magdalena via US 60 & NM 168 8,100' May-Oct 14 days CampingPicnickingTrailer and RV camping
Bear Trap 25m SW of Magdalena via US 60 & NM 168 8,500' May-Oct 14 days CampingPicnickingTrailer and RV camping
Water Canyon 16 SE of Magdalena via US 60 & FR 235 6,800' Mar-Nov 14 days CampingPicnickingTrailer and RV camping
 

Sandia Ranger District

Site Name Location Elevation Open Stay Limit Amenities, Notes
Juan Tabo 10m NE of Albuquerque via NM 556 & FR 333 6,800' All Year Day use only PicnickingFees
La Cueva 8m NE of Albuquerque via NM 556 & FR 333 6,600' All Year Day use only PicnickingFees
La Luz 10m NE of Albuquerque via NM 556 & FR 333 6,800' All Year Day use only Fees
Trailhead Parking
Las Huertas 6m S of Placitas via NM 165 7,600' All Year Day use only PicnickingFeesDrinking water
Handicapped accessible
Tunnel Spring 2.2m W of Placitas via NM 165 6,400' All Year Day use only Trailhead, Horse trailer parking
Doc Long 2m W of Sandia Park via NM 536 6,800' Apr-Oct Day use only PicnickingFees
Handicapped accessible, Horse trailer parking
Sulphur Canyon 2m W of Sandia Park via NM 536 6,800' May-Oct Day use only PicnickingFees
Handicapped accessible, Nature trails
Cienega Canyon 2m W of Sandia Park via NM 536 7,600' May-Oct Day use only PicnickingFees
Handicapped accessible, Nature Trails, Trailhead, Horse trailer parking
Tree Spring 5.6m N of Sandia Park 8,500' All Year Day use only Fees
Trailhead parking
Balsam Glade Intersection of NM 165 & NM 536 8,800' May-Oct Day use only PicnickingFeesDrinking water
Handicapped accessible
Ellis Trailhead 5m E of Intersection on NM 165 & NM 536 10,260' All Year Day use only Fees
Handicapped accessible, Trailhead parking
Capulin Springs 1m W of Intersection of NM 165 & NM 536 8,800' May-Oct Day use only PicnickingFees
Nine Mile 2m W of Intersection of NM 165 & NM 536 9,200' May-Oct Day use only PicnickingFees
Dry Camp 6.2m NW of Sandia Park via NM 536 8, 000' Mar-Nov Day use only PicnickingFees
Cedro Trailhead 4m SE of Tijeras via NM 337 7,450' All Year Day use only Fishing
Trailhead, Horse trailer parking
Cedro Peak 4m SE of Tijeras via NM 337 7,800' May-Oct 14 days CampingFeesDrinking water
Group Reservation Area Only
Pine Flat 6m SE of Tijeras via NM 337 7,200' May-Oct Day use only PicnickingFees
Oak Flat (Group Sites Only) 10m SE of Tijeras via NM 337 7,600' May-Oct Day use only PicnickingFeesDrinking water
Handicapped accessible, Group Reservation Area Only
Dead Man 7m SE of Tijeras via NM 337 7,400' May-Oct 14 days CampingPicnickingFees
Group Reservation Area Only
Sandia Cave 5m S of Placitas via NM 165 7,500' All Year Day use only Trailhead, Historic Register Site
 

Sandia Ranger District Trails

Trail Number Trail Name Length in Miles Difficulty Elevation Change
196 Bill Spring 0.7 Easy 231'
365 Foothills 6.4 Easy 20'
265 Oso Corridor 2.72 Easy 701'
72 Sandia Man Cave 0.47 Easy 84'
281 Sulphur Canyon 0.36 Easy 109'
214 CCC 1.83 Moderate 1,702'
148 Cienega 2.18 Moderate 1,659'
230 Domingo Baca 2.36 Moderate 739'
202 Ellis 2.67 Moderate 300'
195 Faulty 8.98 Moderate 808'
200 10K 4.88 Moderate 572
201 Osha Loop 2.65 Moderate 246'
259 Penasco Blanca 1.63 Moderate 520'
51 Strip Mine 2.6 Moderate 933'
264 Tecolote 1.23 Moderate 126'
194 Three Gun 3.98 Moderate 2,133'
82 Tramway 2.6 Moderate 929'
147 Tree Spring 1.97 Moderate 1,039'
195A Upper Faulty 1.32 Moderate 48'
225 Barts 2.14 Difficult 1,879'
150 Canoncito 3.05 Difficult 1,935'
84 Crest Spur 0.6 Difficult 507'
192 Embudito 5.55 Difficult 3,039'
193 Embudo 3.22 Difficult 1,749'
215 Hawk Watch 1.2 Difficult 930'
137 La Luz 7.72 Difficult 3,775'
130N North Crest 10.57 Difficult 4,118'
247 Osha Spring 4.5 Difficult 2,708'
135 Piedra Lisa 5.82 Difficult 2,099'
140 Pino 4.72 Difficult 2,798'
130S South Crest 15.97 Difficult 4,081'
 

Manzano Mountain Trails

Trail Number Trail Name Length in Miles Difficulty Elevation Change
170 Crest 20.1 Easy 1,017'
173 Fourth of July Spur 0.8 Easy 246'
58 La Mosca 0.8 Moderate 648'
73 Cottonwood 1.4 Moderate 681'
78 Albuquerque 3.5 Moderate 797
79 Cerro Blanco 1.9 Moderate 282'
80 Kayser Mill 3.3 Moderate 1,794'
99 Box Canyon 1.4 Moderate 256'
101 New Canyon 2.0 Moderate 1,008'
102 Gavilan 0.6 Moderate 60'
173 Fourth of July 1.8 Moderate 844'
174 Bosque 2.1 Moderate 1,086'
176 Trail Canyon 1.6 Moderate 744'
189 Spruce Spring 3.5 Moderate 1,253'
190 Ox Canyon 3.9 Moderate 1,602'
89 Red Canyon 2.4 Difficult 1,001'
170A Pine Shadow 5.9 Difficult 2,565'
182 Comanche 6.9 Difficult 2,047'
184 Salas 8.1 Difficult 3,521'