Tunnel Spring Loop

Prickly pear cactus on the Tunnel Spring loop hike.

Hike this hike for the views of Cabezon and the Jemez and San Pedro mountains. If you hike in the summer, you will also be rewarded with many varied cactus blooms.

Hike data:

Controlling agency: Cibola National Forest; Sandia Ranger District
Region: Central; Sandia Mountains.
start: 6377ft; 1944m end: 6377ft; 1944m
min: 6299ft; 1920m max: 7378ft; 2249m
elevation gain/loss: 1102ft; 336m.
Elevation change from GPS altitude track.
Length: 5.24mi; 8.43km. Length from GPS track.
surface: gravel
condition: Fine
ease of following: Easy
obstacles: Parts of the trail are steep with small, loose gravel.
Fee: $3.00.
Season: All year. Summer will be hot. Due to the openness of part of the trial, a hat and sunscreen are good to have whenever the sun is strong (normally April-October).
Dogs: Yes. on leash
Bikes: No. Part of the trail is in the Sandia Mountain Wilderness.
Handicapped accessible: No.
Trailhead facilities: trash can(s), vault toilet(s), water. A sign says the water is not potable.
Hike attractions: exercise, scenery, wilderness access, wildflowers.

When we hiked it:

Date: 2003-06-01
Time it took us: 5:00.
Usage (people/hour): 2.20. All of the people (9) were in the first half mile or so.
Cleanliness: 9.


Waypoint Type Description
130X130BTrail junctionJunction of 130 (Tunnel Spring) and 130B
TUNL SPRTHTrailheadTunnel Spring trailhead


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:

Exit 242 (Placitas) from I-25 and head east. After about 4.9 miles, turn right on Tunnel Spring Rd, which is also Forest Road 231. Continue following the Forest Road signs, as you wind your way amongst the houses. After about 1.3 miles, you cross a cattle guard and are at the first parking area (this is where the fee payment stuff is). A second parking area is just up the hill, and it has the toilet and trash cans.
Tunnel Spring Trailhead

About the hike:

Jemez mountains from Tunnel Spring trail
As you start this trail, you immediately get views of the Jemez.

Several of these cicadas were singing as we hiked.

At the wilderness boundary sign (GPS: 130X130B), go right. The trail is less distinct than the other choice (or, it was when we hiked this trail).

Cicada on the Tunnel Spring trail
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These horsetails grow near streams. Their high silica content made them good for scouring pans, hence their common name Scouringrush horsetail.
The trail heads up, and it is rocky. This part of the trail might be hazardous going down; the small rocks are like little ball bearings. Luckily, this is a loop trail, so you will not need to come back down.
Diana on the trail
View of the Jemez Mountains form the Tunnel Spring trail
The views of the Jemez remain excellent.
The trail joins 130; take the left branch at this junction. The trail now starts gently descending.
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View of the trail
You are above one cliff, and below another. You probably do not want to trip and fall up here. On the other hand, the views are great to the west through north.
You can see down to the trailhead from up here. This photo shows the two parking areas.
View of the trailhead from up on the trail.
Diana on the trail with the San Pedro mountains in the background.
As the trail descends, it also turns to the east. You can see the San Pedro mountains. It also opens up and dries out. You really need a hat here in the summer.
It is in this area where you start to really see the cactus, such as this claret cup that was blooming...
red claret cup blossom
yellow opuntia blossoms
...or this opuntia flower.

If you have sharp eyes, you may see animals such as this lizard.

After you start getting views down into Placitas, you will return to the junction where you turned and went uphill.


Plants we saw along the trail:

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