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The Only Three Trails You Need in Albuquerque

David: I would like to welcome Brett Oblack as our newest contributor sharing special goodies that inform, inspire, and entertain our passionate TALON tribe on EB. Brett will be sharing New Mexico perspectives as well as other musings of value for our community as he moves through his own journey of exploration in the trail and ultra world.

bretto_artLiving in Albuquerque is a trail-runner’s paradise. There is no “commute” to find great trails and no real possibility of getting lost on the way to the mountains or trails. The Sandia Mountains dominate the city’s landscape, and all a trail-runner needs to do is point themselves toward the mountain range. Once you reach the end of a neighborhood, there will be the start of a trail somewhere nearby.

For someone new to trail running or to Albuquerque, there are three trails in the city that will provide you with everything you need to train for trail ultra-marathons.

Trail 365


Fans of Breaking Bad will remember the John B. Robert Flood Control area from the show’s final season. It is a great place to park and connect with the Foothills trail system. A short two-mile warm-up from here will take a runner to Trail 365, which runs parallel to the Sandias and has just the right balance of technical, runnable and uphill sections. The climbs throughout the length of the trail are never difficult individually, but after a decent number of miles it does add up to quite a workout. The length and variety of the trail make it perfect for a race-simulating long run, a mid-length tempo run or hill repeats on some of the short but steep climbs.

Trail 365 is easily accessed via many other trailheads and neighborhoods along its entire length, which extends to the Sandia Tramway in the north and nearly to I-40 to the south. Multiple bike paths can be taken east to reach the trail, effectively allowing a runner to create any length of run necessary from anywhere in the city. The trail can be busy, but if you arrive early in the morning or explore some of the less-traveled offshoot trails, you’ll only have to share the path with roadrunners and jackrabbits.

Map: Albuquerque Open Space Foothills Map (Trail 365 and others)

La Luz Trail


The most iconic trail in the state of New Mexico, the La Luz Trail is a rugged, 7.5 mile climb starting at an elevation of 7,000′ with around 3,800′ of elevation gain from the trailhead to the Sandia Crest summit at 10,678′. The views along the route are fantastic, encompassing almost all of Albuquerque. It is a great specificity workout for climbs like Hope Pass in the Leadville 100 or some of the long, steep climbs in the Jemez Mountains 50M race.

Parking is possible at the trailhead, two miles below the trailhead off a forest service road or at the Sandia Tramway station (2.3 miles of trail connect the locations, making it possible to take the Tram down from the top of the mountains to return to your vehicle). For the ultra-runner looking for a true long-run challenge, you can even park at the Flood Control area previously mentioned and follow trail 365 to the Tramway, and from there to the La Luz Trail for a link-up of around 15 miles one-way. The top of the Sandias are also accessible by car from the east side of the mountains, so if you can bribe someone for a ride they can meet you on top of the mountain and return you to your vehicle.

The La Luz Trail is also the site of nine-mile trail run, starting at the Forest Road below the trailhead and finishing at the Sandia Crest. The race has been around since the 1960s and is limited to 400 participants determined by a lottery.


The Academy Loop

While it isn’t technically a “trail”, this 5k loop course consists of a mix of paved bike path, sidewalk and dirt. While it is regularly busy, the course is never constricted enough to make it actually feel crowded. Runners can cover the entire 5k loop without worrying about stopping for traffic and breaking their rhythm.

Even as an ultra-distance runner it is important to get in the semi-regular speedwork session to shock our bodies into remembering how to go at a pace faster than the ultra-shuffle. The Academy loop is perfect for that. The 5k length is well-suited for a mile-repeats speedwork session. Twice around the loop provides enough distance to warm-up, run a few mile repeats with recoveries and cool-down. If you are the competitive type, the amount of other runners on Academy might provide a nice boost to run faster too.

Albuquerque offers a massive amount of trail-running options, almost all of which can be reached by bike paths or adjacent neighborhoods. Having a few go-to trails can provide the motivation necessary to get out the door for tough workouts.

Map: Academy Loop (Courtesy Albuquerque Road Runners)

If you run in Albuquerque or nearby, what are your go-to trails?

– Brett Oblack

[All photos credit Brett Oblack.]

About the author

Brett Oblack Brett Oblack found himself unable to run a quarter of a mile without gasping for air. He then trained for races from the 5k to the marathon which solidified an obsession with running. Brett's love of the Southwest landscape led him to trail-running, ultra-running and climbing. For more information on Brett, check out the About page where you can check out his personal blog.

One Response to “The Only Three Trails You Need in Albuquerque”

  1. on 23 Mar 2014 at 10:57 am Brian


    Great article and thanks for sharing. I wish I had known about these trails when I was in Albuquerque four weeks ago. Now I’m better informed for when I return.

    Big thanks!