La Luz: The most visited yet most difficult trail in the Sandia Mountains

The La Luz is difficult but worth the gorgeous view!

The La Luz trail in Albuquerque’s Sandia Mountains is known for being a difficult hike and this time my friend Rebecca and I decided to make it longer by parking at the Tram.

One car, One dollar parking

By parking at the Sandia Peak Tram, you add about an hour to the hike. However, you also save money.  Only one dollar to park (vs. three dollars from the La Luz parking lot that is often overflowing and leaves many people to park on the road)

A Reddish Potato Beetle crossing the trail

FYI: This is a one-way hike unless you want to hike all day. If you want the one-way version, bring $12 and buy a ticket at the upper tram. Take the ride down and enjoy the view.

It’s easy to find the trailhead at Sandia Peak Tram, just park on the upper north side and the sign can’t be missed. The trail leads North, meandering around boulders, through dry arroyos, and among the plentiful cactus.

If you want to save yourself a little time in hiking, and there are two in your group with cars – then park one car at the Tram, then move everyone and the other car to the La Luz parking area.

Sorry bikers, not on this trail.

What I like about the lower Tram trail is there are some shady spots. However, once you get to the La Luz you have to hike for an hour or more before you get to shade again. So, bring a hat, sunscreen, and don’t forget plenty of water!

As we were hiking, a woman jogged up behind us, armed with four bottles of water around her hips. “How soon until the La Luz? I can’t run much more!”  Poor thing, we hadn’t done this yet so we didn’t know. We hoped it would connect fairly soon, instead, it took us almost to the La Luz parking lot before connecting to the trail.

There’s been some rain lately, so flowers are
scattered around the mountain.

I’ve hiked the La Luz a couple of times a year so I know what to expect. In my head I have it broken into four parts (you also pass through four ecosystems). One, the first hour is in open desert with no shade. The next part for me starts at the spring (not always running) where trees start giving some shade. Then next is the gorgeous 360-degree viewpoint – a great place to take a break, although if you need shade keep moving on the trail and you’ll find a good spot to stop not far ahead – just no view. The fourth runs from the viewpoint up to the upper tram where the trail is a path of rocks and switchbacks that start to feel like they’ll never end.

FYI: The La Luz can get really busy, so I suggest doing
this on a weekday.

The upper fourth of the trail – lots of rock.

When we finally reached the top after 5.5 hours of hiking, we took a break.  There are public restrooms and picnic tables.  You can also take in the view from the restaurant – not a great restaurant but it’s the only one there.

The Details

Directions to Tram:  From I-25 take Tramway Rd NE.  You’ll turn left at the first and only stop sign on the road – Tramway Rd NE continues to your left, and Tramway Blvd is straight ahead. Follow Tramway Rd NE to the parking lot, $1.00 parking fee. Restrooms are available at the Tram buildings – lower and upper.

Directions to La Luz trailhead:  From I-25 take Tramway rd East towards those beautiful mountains. Turn onto Forest Service road 333 and follow signs to La Luz. There is a $3.00 parking fee.

At some point, the hike will take you above these rocks.

Be prepared for weather changes. When clouds build, it’s usually right over the mountains so there can be sudden rainstorms that turn cold. The La Luz trail is nine miles long and has a 4,000-foot elevation change.

Of course, if you are not a hiker you can just take the tram both ways ($20.00) and save yourself the sore muscles!

More Hiking/Backpacking blogs 

Hello. I’m Sonja Dewing. I am a Writing Professional: Technical, business, and instructional writing, as well as a freelance writer for magazines and newspapers.

I’m a dedicated fitness fiend, outdoor enthusiast, and adventure seeker. I’m also a fiction author and I blog about my travel, backpacking, and other adventures.

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