One of my favorite areas in the Sandia Mountains is Cienega Canyon. This is a gorgeous, peaceful picnic area with a lovely spring and plenty of hiking. This area is also special because it has several paved trails. The Cienega Canyon Nature Trail, also known as the Cienega Canyon Interpretive Trail, is great to take small kids, the handicapped, or your parents/grandparents who might have a little trouble getting around!
There is a small, paved, scenic nature trail that is just beautiful! I brought my mother here for a small sampling to enjoy nature- she is a polio survivor and has trouble walking—Also a great place for small children with interpretive signs explaining the various flora, wildlife, and trees in the area.
Cute wooden bridges span the creeks leading to a serene meadow. On occasion I’ve seen areas of the meadow patted down, as if animals had been lying there to sleep for the night.
Look for the path with the handicap sign that leads to the interpretive nature trail. It’s just before the group reservation site- parking/restrooms on the left and the trail is on the right.
For information on reserving the group picnic area check out the Forest Service web site.
Sandia Mountain Trail map is here
For other hikes in the Albuquerque Area: https://www.newmexicohealthyliving.com/get-outside/hiking/
Directions (from Albuquerque)
This area is one of the first turnoffs on the road to the Sandia Crest once you enter the Cibola National Forest.
Take I-40 East to Cedar Crest 14.
Travel North on 14 to 536 toward Sandia Crest and turn left.
Just past the Cibola National Forest sign, look for the turn off to Cienega Canyon
At this point there are two distinct areas: Sulphur Canyon and Cienega Canyon. I prefer Cienega Canyon, so stay to the left. Continue down the road until it dead ends and make a right.
The Pay Station is located at the end of the road at the Cienega Canyon Trailhead. All vehicles must display a valid recreation area day pass. ($3)