Faulty Loop

View of Cedro Peak from the Faulty Loop trail

A nice loop from a piñon-juniper forest changing to a ponderosa-fir forest as you slowly climb the southern Sandias. In wetter years, you are likely to see many wildflowers. Of particular note is the good view of Cedro peak and its environs. One of the more interesting facets of this hike is the small shelter cave near the trailhead. A stream parallels the first few hundred feet of the trail.

The trail is well-marked, easy to follow, and nicely clean.

Hike data:

Controlling agency: Cibola National Forest; Sandia Ranger District
Region: Central; Sandia Mountains.
start: 6558ft; 1999m end: 6558ft; 1999m
min: 6558ft; 1999m max: 7641ft; 2329m
elevation gain/loss: 1082ft; 330m.
No value
Length: 5.28mi; 8.50km. The Albuquerque Journal's Treks and Trails version of this hike says six miles.
surface: mixed
condition: The trail is well-maintained.
ease of following: Easy.
obstacles: None.
The trail is frequently rocky and/or gravely.
Fee: $3.00.
Season: All year. Winter depends on the amount of snow, which varies a great deal. Instep crampons are probably a good idea to have with you for winter hiking. Summer will be hot unless you start early in the day. In late August of 1997, it was hot in the sun and pleasant in the shade. My back where my pack is was wet with sweat, as was my head where my hat was.
Dogs: Yes. On leash.
Bikes: No. Most of the trail is in the wilderness where bikes are not allowed.
Handicapped accessible: No.
Trailhead facilities: None other than parking.
Hike attractions: exercise, scenery, wildflowers.

When we hiked it:

Date: 1997-08-31 2003-01-25
Time it took us: 4:30. 3:30.
Usage (people/hour): 0.00. People/hour not recorded. 4.00. This trail is near Albuquerque and easy to get to, so expect to see people on the trail.
Cleanliness: 0. Cleanliness not recorded. 9.


Waypoint Type Description
130195Trail junctionCibola National Forest trails 130 and 195
130CVCave entranceSmall shelter cave on Cibola National Forest trail 130
130TFTrail junctionTemporary split in Cibola National Forest trail 130
130THTrailheadCibola National Forest trail 130
195UFTTrail junctionJunction of Faulty and Upper Faulty trails
ABVFLSTrail junctionAbove the falls on Cibola National Forest trail 130; rejoin other 130TF trail


Paper maps:
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
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 Eastbound from Albuquerque, to exit 175. The exit divides shortly after you leave the interstate; take the right branch, NM 337 S and Tijeras. This road divides again; take the left branch this time. Go under the interstate to the tee intersection. Take the right branch of the tee and follow the paved road into Canyon Estates and to the end. A sign indicates you have reached the trailhead and a small loop with parking around it is all there is.

From I-40 Westbound from Edgewood, take exit 175 (NM 337 and NM 14). At the stop sign at the end of the exit, turn left and go under the interstate. Pass under another underpass and go to the stop light. Turn right and go under the interstate again to the end of the road. Turn right and follow the paved road into Canyon Estates and to the end. A sign indicates you have reached the trailhead and a small loop with parking around it is all there is.

Note that there is no parking except on the National Forest land at the trailhead. Please drive slowly through the neighborhood.

Two trails lead from the parking lot. Make sure you take the one with the National Forest map and sign for trail 130 (as shown here).

No short text

About the hike:

Diana Northup on the trail
As a check that you are on the correct trail, you should be entering the Sandia Mountain Wilderness almost immediately.

Shortly after you leave the parking area, you have the stream alongside the trail. Be careful; when you are near the stream there is often poison ivy nearby. Be cautious if you bring a dog, as it may wander through the poison ivy and bring it back to you.

The trail climbs gently. To the left, you can see Diana walking down the trail.

At 130TF, the trail forks, with one branch rising back and right from the direction you are heading. Both branches end up at the same location, but the left branch takes you to a small waterfall and a shelter cave at 130CV.

In the photo, you can see Diana coming down the right branch of the trail; I was standing along the trail heading to the cave and falls, and you can also see the trail from the parking lot heading to the right.

Diana Northup on the trail
An icy waterfall
In the winter, the waterfall was beautiful, if a bit treacherous due to the ice.
This cave has seen a lot of visitation, but the area has been amazingly clean each time I have hiked by. Please help keep it this way by carrying out trash if you see any.
small shelter cave near the trail
The stream feeding the waterfall
You hike around and end up above the cave. Just above the cave, you reach ABVFLS, which is where the earlier branch (130TF) rejoins the trail.

To the right is the stream, just above the waterfall. January 2003 was the warmest in years, and the stream was flowing near the waterfall and had lots of plants in it.

You continue to climb. At 130195 you arrive at another branch in the trail. There is a sign which says: Faulty Trail 195 and Crest Trail 130. Take the right branch, which is Faulty Trail 195.
trail marker where Faulty Trail 195 and Crest Trail 130 meet
Diana Northup near the sign about the Albuquerque Breakfast-Civitan

Right after the junction, a sign states that the Faulty Loop Trail has been adopted by the Albuquerque Breakfast-Civitan. Along the trail is plenty of evidence of erosion control projects; I assume this is a result of the trail adoption.

The trail climbs steeply here, but only for about 100 ft of elevation gain. Then it levels off and climbs slowly if at all for a nice stretch of hiking through the forest. There are nice views to the south of Cedro Peak.

Stop and smell the bark of a ponderosa pine as you hike; it smells like vanilla (I have found the best areas are the more red-colored bark in the cracks).

The trees along this trail are blazed with a diamond, like the one to the right.
A diamond-blazed tree along the Faulty Trail
trail marker at the lunch spot
After about an hour of hiking (depending on how fast you walk and how often you stop to look at things), you will reach a small clearing containing a trail marker (195UFT). This is the junction of the Faulty Trail and the Upper Faulty Trail. This is a nice place for lunch.
Take the Upper Faulty trail, which climbs gently to the high point of the hike, and then gently descends. You hike through the bottom of the fir zone on this leg of the loop.

You know you are at the next branch when you come upon a large cairn. Walk a little beyond it and the trails that go past it and you will find a trail marker for the South Crest trail and the Upper Faulty trail.

Turn left at the trail marker and head down the trail. The trail down from here is through ponderosa pine forest with a bit of piñon and juniper thrown in for fun. Along this portion of the trail, at N 35.09813888 W 106.40155555 is a nice view of Cedro Peak and the area around it (this is where I took the photo at the top of this page).

After several switchbacks, you end up back at the sign you left earlier: Faulty Trail 195 and Crest Trail 130. This time, head down and back to the trailhead. For fun, just above the falls (ABVFLS) cross the stream and look back upon the falls and cave from a different viewpoint as you take the alternate trail.

trail marker where the South Crest trail and the Upper Faulty trail meet

Plants we saw along the trail:

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