Thursday, March 9, 2000
Highlights: Outstanding views on the way to the top. During migration season (March 1-May 5), HawkWatch volunteers will be on hand to help you identify the fly-by raptors. Take binoculars. Location: From Tramway and Central take I-40 to Carnuel exit 170 and drive Historic Route 66 until you see the Monticello turnoff (just west of Roy's Taxidermy). Follow Monticello to Alegre Drive and turn left on gravel road. Follow it as it curves into Tres Pistoles and you will see the parking lot on your right. Difficulty: Strenuous Round-trip distance: About 4 miles Elevation: 6,200-7,700 feet Cautions: Stay on path at all times to protect the landscape. Wear appropriate shoes and sun gear. You won't see many raptors on rainy or snowy days. Best seasons: Year round, weather permitting. Get an early start in summer. Maps: Available at the Sandia Mountain Ranger Station, 11776 Highway 337, Tijeras, N.M. Call 281-3304. Printable map
This trail was built to move hikers up to the HawkWatch observation site, and it's short but steep.
About a quarter mile from the trailhead for this unique hike, you pass a giant mouse rock on your left. Hike a bit farther and you pass through the gate to Sandia Mountain Wilderness. Take the trail to the right, the one marked with a painted raptor next to the post reading "Hawk Watch Trail." Follow the fence line for about 1/2 mile, still heading upward.
When you come to a rock cairn, look south to I-40 and be thankful you're not stranded in the mile of stalled trucks waiting to move on. Already, you're over halfway to eagle land as the trail takes a few switchbacks through huge granite rocks. It ends at the top of a giant rock pile with a front-row seat for the flyby.
Take your binoculars and follow the directions of the HawkWatch observers. They will be scanning the skies through May 5 and can help you identify the raptors that fly past. An education host will also be available.
Sue B. Mann