February 25, 1999
Highlights: An accessible hike in the foothills on the city's eastern edge. This trail that makes use of horse trail 193A can also be hiked counter-clockwise. A short way past the wilderness entrance, go to your right toward large boulders high on the ridge. Location: Drive to the end of east Indian School Road and circle down into the city's large parking lot. Gate opens at 6:30 a.m., closes at 10 p.m. Round-trip distance: About 2 1/2 miles from parking lot. No parking fees. Difficulty: Moderate. Some steep areas to climb. Elevation: About 6,260-6,840 feet. Cautions: Trail can be snowpacked in patches. Watch for icy rocks near waterfall. Protect your dogs by keeping them on a leash. No bicycles or motorbikes allowed in Sandia Mountain Wilderness. Maps: Sandia Mountain Wilderness Map, Cibola National Forest. Station. Printable map
Embudo Circle (193-193A)
This popular trail offers a satisfying circle walk and good views from the edge of the city. After a cell-burning walk up the incline past the city water tank, you drop down to the wilderness entry, as traffic and noise fade into the western skyline.
Juncos and finches fly among chamisa bushes as if leading your way. White-tailed mule deer can often be spotted in the distance.
The many granite boulders resting along the trail emerge in varied shapes of rabbits, turtles, fish or totem poles as shadows change with the light. Give your imagination full play as you search the shapes for turtle rock or a hawk-nosed chief Indian lying atop the ridge. You can sometimes see a totem pole, free-standing fish or a perched rabbit ready to hop, each changing as you pass by.
Heading toward the canyon, listen for the sound of trickling water. Follow it toward the six-foot waterfall. An old cottonwood grows along the stream next to steep-sided granite that sometimes serves as practice rocks for climbers. As you pass the waterfall, be careful of slippery rocks steps going above it. After the smooth approach, you'll be climbing between boulders through the canyon.
Though the trail is not obviously marked, keep looking to the left for a way above the muddy stream. If you dead-end at a picnic spot, just backtrack until you see the trail moving to higher ground. Because of heavy use, this area looks as though there are choices of paths. Stay to the left and go higher.
The trail soon drops down and crosses an arroyo past a venerable oak with knurled roots clinging stubbornly to the ground. The ancient tree still produces a scant crop of acorns from its tallest branches.
Above this landmark, the trail splits: The left leads up to Three Gun Spring and meets the Crest Trail. Take the trail to the right and head to the ridge for views of Albuquerque spread before you.
As jet contrails scissor a cloudless blue sky, Mount Taylor seems closer than the 70 miles. The dark ragged edge of the escarpment snakes along the forefront of west mesa. Take a moment to enjoy views from the high point before heading back.
Sue B. Mann