Hike of the Week: Suphur Canyon – Faulty – Armijo Trail Loop

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all Sierra Club outings and in-person events have been cancelled through February 28th, 2021. While we’re all disappointed, we understand that everyone’s health and safety are most important. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t get out and go for a hike! Our do-it-yourself outings are designed with you in mind and offer a range of difficulties and outdoor experiences. We hope you’ll climb the mountains and receive their good tidings during this challenging time.

Suphur Canyon – Faulty – Armijo Trail Loop

Location: Albuquerque-east mountains
Difficulty: Moderate, ~4.5 miles round trip, loop with approximately 850 feet of elevation change
Hiking time: 2-3 hours
Cost: $3 per vehicle and pay at the Crest or display the appropriate pass
Dogs: permitted on leash
Map: USDA Forest Serice

About this hike: Autumn is the perfect time for hiking in central New Mexico and this route won’t disappoint. In addition to the thick piñon-juniper forest, you’ll encounter many alligator junipers as well as old-growth firs and gamble oak and aspens turning their beautiful golden color. Also, you may see or hear Albert’s squirrels that are unique to the Sandias, ringtails and chipmunks that are all busily making preparations for winter. Additionally, you’ll be introduced to Medallion Trees along this route.

From the parking area, proceed to the West-Northwest following the paved road uphill to its end. There will be a sign marking the Sulphur Canyon trail to your left. Follow the sign and proceed uphill on Sulphur Canyon trail (Trail 281) for approximately 1.0 mile as measured from the parking area, until you see the sign for Faulty Trail (Trail 195). Turn left (South) onto Faulty trail and make your way up a long gradual hill. Remain on Faulty trail for approximately 1.2 miles from the Sulphur Canyon trail turn-off. You will reach the intersection with Armijo Trail (Trail 222) which will be to your left, if you look to the right (uphill) you will see a sign and a faint path leading to a Medallion Tree. Travel up the hill about 45 yards off of the Faulty Trail to the Medallion Tree. It’s worth the short detour. This intersection is also a great place to take a snack and hydration break after traveling a total of approximately 2.2+- miles from the parking area. From Faulty Trail, turn left onto Armijo Trail and follow it. The trail and intersection are well marked. It will meander through the forest of towering Ponderosa for approximately 2.3 miles. There are a number of other trails that intersect with the Armijo Trail, but remain on the Armijo Trail which is well marked by signage. The dirt trail will eventually intersect with an old gravel and asphalt road leading off to the left at which point you have ~.35 miles remaining to reach the parking lot. Follow the asphalt road and you’ll return to the parking area at the T intersection where you started.

Medallion Trees: There are over 80 Medallion Trees found in the Sandias and many people make finding all of them a multi-year project that’s fun and educational. On the side of each medallion tree there will be a metal medallion with the estimated germination date (GD) and an associated date in history. This website has a listing of all of the known medallion trees as well as a little bit of the history behind them.

Pro Tip: It’s autumn, which means that bears are often looking for food all hours of the night and day so that they can plump up before winter. The black bears in the Sandias typically have no desire to interact with humans and will run away unless you get between a mother and her cubs, or they feel cornered or surprised, or are feeding. I recommend making some noise such as talking, singing or even attaching a bell to your backpack or clothes. I also always recommend keeping dogs on leash and near you and keeping small children close by. If you want a little more security, several stores including REI and Sportman’s Warehouse sell bear spray. I sometimes carry it in the spring and fall and have never deployed it in over 15 years while covering hundreds of miles in the mountains.

Getting there: Take I-40 East to exit 175 and go North on NM-14 towards Cedar Crest. From the exit proceed North on NM-14 for approximately 6 miles and turn left (East) onto NM-536. Look for the Sandia Ski Area sign and the Shell station as prompts for the turnoff onto NM-536. Travel up NM-536 for just over 1.6 miles. Cienega Canyon and Sulfur Canyon trailheads will be on your left. Almost immediately after turning into the parking area there is a fork to the left (south to Cienega Trailhead). Take that winding road to the T intersection and park at the T (35 09.8958N X 106 22.5621W).

Don’t forget to Leave-No-Trace!

Hike of the Week: Suphur Canyon – Faulty – Armijo Trail Loop