Cienega Canyon to the Crest Trail
This hike spends most of its time in a fir forest, with wildflowers below. Much of this hike is in the shade, making it a good summer hike (although it will still be hot).
To make a hike without retracing your way back, you could arrange a car on the other side and go down the west side on the Pino trail.
|Hike data||Waypoints||Maps||Getting to the trailhead||About the hike||Plants along the trail||Comments|
When we hiked it:
|Time it took us:||4:05.|
|Usage (people/hour):||4.90. All but two of the people were either near the picnic area or on the Crest Trail.|
|130148||Trail junction||Cienega Canyon trail junction with the Crest Trail|
|148195||Trail junction||Junction of trails 148 and 195|
|CNGATH||Trailhead||Cibola National Forest Cienega Canyon trailhead|
|Map name||Cartographer||Year||Scale||Topo map?||Online access||Notes|
|Albuquerque New Mexico||USGS||1983||1:100000||Y||from sar.lanl.gov (free)|
|Cibola National Forest, Sandia Ranger District||US Forest Service||2006||1:63360||N||from Amazon (purchase)||Sandia Ranger District portion|
|Cibola National Forest, Sandia Ranger District||US Forest Service||2006||1:24000||Y||from Amazon (purchase)||Doc Long-Cienega enlargement area|
|Guide to Indian Country of Arizona Colorado New Mexico Utah||Automobile Club of Southern California||1998||1:0||N||from Amazon (purchase)||Good overview road map for northwest NM. No scale is given on the map. The corner coordinates are approximate.|
|Wildernesses of New Mexico||US Forest Service||1981||1:1000000||N||No online copies.||Base map with national forests, wilderness areas and highways.|
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Getting to the trailhead:
Take I-40 to the North 14 exit (exit 175). Go north 5.75 miles from when you pass under I-40 until you get to a triangle of asphalt with a road heading west. There are signs on both sides of the road indicating that this is the road to the crest. Head up this road for 1.7 miles. Turn left at the sign that says, ``Sulphur Canyon, Cienega Trailhead, Cienega Canyon''. Follow the signs to the Cienega picnic ground. When you enter the picnic ground, you want to turn right, and go as far as you can. This puts you near the starting trailhead.
About the hike:
The trail starts out as a concrete trail along a stream in the picnic area.
On the left as you head up the concrete is the actual trailhead (pictured right). At the trailhead sign, you go left. After the turn onto the Cienega Canyon trail, there are many false trails; stick with the main one (it is easy to tell which is the main trail).
If there is water in the stream, look in the water for water striders and the interesting pattern they make on the water. Look also at the interesting tree shapes along here.
As you hike up the canyon, you can see this travertine waterfall to the left of the trail. We have seen it dry (as pictured here), and with water flowing over it.
In this part of the trail, the climb is gentle; the trail is also wide.
In the spring, we found pollen all over the leaves of the plants here.
After you have hiked for a short while, you come to the intersection with the Faulty trail. You can also see the wilderness boundary on the Cienega trail. Continue straight, into the wilderness.
The trail climbs, steeply at times. Sometimes, it is like climbing stairs, as in this area where the roots act like stairs.
The trail is sometimes narrow.
Along the trail, we saw this wooly caterpillar.
At one point, almost all of the fir disappear. This is a good sign---you are nearing the top.
This trail saves all of the views till the end. You get a few to the east as you near the top. You also get views such as this one to the north.
When you actually reach the Crest trail, you see this post. Every time we have been here, there have been wildflowers (such as these yellow composites) around it.
If you are taking the Pino trail down, look to the right; here you can see the junction. Otherwise, return the same way you came.
Plants we saw along the trail:
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