Albuquerque Senior Centers' Hiking Groups (ASCHG)

Sandstone Bluffs Long Loop Hike
In El Malpais Region

Hike Id H10226
Last Update 2018-05-22 22:02:58.0
Hike Class B
Hike Miles 5.0
Minimum Elevation 6670
Elevation Gain 305
Total Uphill 380
Total Downhill 380
Avg Grade 5 %
Route Type CCW Loop
Drive Miles Round Trip 160
Drive Time Oneway 1:20
Hiking Seasons Sprg, Fall, Wntr
Hike Rating (4.8 by 5 hikers)
New Mexico Game Unit 13
All Paved/Gravel Roads Yes
GPS Recommended Yes

Highlights Views of El Malpais lava flows; petroglyphs, great Sandstone Arch.

Trailhead Directions From Albuquerque take I-40 west for about 70 miles to Exit 89 at Grants. Go south on SR 117 for 9 miles to a road on the left where there is a sign for the BLM Visitor Center. Stop there for a break. Then continue south for a few hundred feet to a dirt road on the right marked Sandstone Bluffs. Take this road to a parking area on the right at the top of the hill and PARK (0.0 mi).

For additional information on getting to the trailhead, click here.

Actual Hike The hike starts at the parking spot. Just west of parking are good views of the bluffs, the El Malpais lava flow, and Gallo Mountain on the west side of the flow. Beyond are the Zuni Mountains. Start the hike by going north along the cliff top. Mount Taylor will be clearly visible to the north. This portion of the hike is about 1.3 miles, with many sandstone formations along the way. On reaching a downed barbed wire fence there is a drop off into the EASY WAY, the easy way to the bottom below the cliffs. Since this description is for a counterclockwise hike the hike continues on top of the ridge. There will be ups and downs as the route continues north. At 2.6 miles from the start there will be a rocky prominence to the west. Near the edge is the top of one of the larger arches in the area. To shorten the hike there is a steep way down is just north of this arch opening. Traverse back and forth to make the descent easier. Otherwise continue north along the top and find a way down to the floor. Do not go further than the END (2.3 mi) since the way will be pinched down by the lava flow. Once down turn back south and find a large rock surface with INSCRIPTIONS (2.8 mi) on it. This is a good stop for lunch if shade is desired. Then go back east and go north through a notch, passing the "foot". It will be easier to see it as a foot after passing through the notch and looking back north. Look for the arch above at this point. After about 0.2 miles is the entrance to HIDDEN VALLEY (3.1 mi). It is possible to go up this notch to the top of one of the other arches, but continuing north would be difficult. Return to the entrance after going as far as desired. Continue along the base of the cliffs and to the EASY WAY (3.7 mi). If this is missed, there will not be another easy way further south. Once back on top, retrace the route to parking.

Comments It is possible to go to the ROAD and wait for a pickup for anyone too exhausted to continue.

© DeLorme. Topo North America ™ 9

Map File Download it.  Usually a larger image.

ROAD: N 34 57.175, W 107 49.871
PARK: N 34 56.693, W 107 50.298
ARCH TOP: N 34 58.101, W 107 49.652
END: N 34 58.375, W 107 49.317
INSCRIPTIONS: N 34 58.151, W 107 49.664
HIDDEN VALLEY: N 34 57.920, W 107 49.702
EASY WAY: N 34 57.631, W 107 49.735

GPS Files Click link to download file.
GPX:WayTrack, 10Oct10, Garmin, Dick Brown

Pictures Click here to see them.

Text Author Dick Brown
Map Author Marilyn Warrant
Waypoints Author Dick Brown
Track Author Dick Brown
Maintainer John Cooper