La Luz Trail

La Luz * is one of the best-known trails in the Sandia Mountains. The views are spectacular with a true sense of adventure along the way.

However, La Luz is also one of the most challenging trails in the Sandias. The trail takes you from the hot desert to the cool Canadian forest in the upper Sandias. The trail is 7 ¾ miles long with an elevation gain of 3,775 feet. Many hikers start at the lower Tram terminal which increases the hike to 9.6 miles with 4,000 feet of elevation gain.

Hiking La Luz is strenuous and only recommended for people who are well prepared physically, and able to take care of themselves in the event of a mishap. Cell phone coverage is poor, and it may be necessary to spend the night on the trail. This is no fun during a winter ice storm or a summer drenching rain.

View of The Thumb from near La Cueva Overlook along La Luz Trail.

USFS La Luz Area Trail System Map

The most recent USFS Trail Map for La Luz can be found by clicking on the small-format image. The map can be downloaded and is compatible with the Avenza Maps smart-phone app.

Summer Hiking

In the summer, the trail is generally visible and easy to follow. What makes hiking La Luz strenuous is the length and relentless elevation gain. Additionally, there are few trees in the first few miles and this area can be very sunny and hot in the summer. Start early to reach the shady forest before the heat of the day.

The average slope is 9% and there are few level areas to catch your breath. There is also a talus field which is called the rockslide. This area is very rocky, and the footing is difficult. Sturdy boots are needed to protect your feet and ankles. Be prepared for late season ice and drenching thunderstorms.

Winter Hiking

In the winter, La Luz is a whole different trail. The lower areas can be warm, and hikers are often lured into continuing up the trail – unaware that hiking becomes far more difficult as they gain altitude.

The upper sections may be buried under five feet of snow , untracked, and almost impossible to follow. Winter hiking can be technical with specialized winter equipment such as snowshoes and crampons needed to reach the top. The upper sections of La Luz are very narrow and travel next to a steep cliff. Only the most experienced and prepared hikers should attempt La Luz in the winter.

Remember, you can also hike part of the trail. Use common sense when hiking. If you encounter ice and snow and don’t have the winter experience and equipment – turn around. There are many trails in the lower Sandias which are safer to hike in the winter.

Click to enlarge and download map.

Hiking Safety

There have been 82 La Luz area search and rescue incidents in the last dozen years. Many hikers have been injured, and several people have died. During snowy years, there have been as many as 16 search and rescue incidents in one year.

While hiking La Luz is truly rewarding, it is a strenuous hike and should only be attempted by hikers in good physical shape who are aware of and well prepared for the seasonal conditions.

Always remember that up is optional on La Luz. Use common sense and turn around if needed.

La Luz Hike Smart Safety Campaign

In an effort to improve safety and reduce the number of rescue incidents, FOSM has partnered with the Forest Service and local search and rescue organizations including Cibola Search and Rescue, Albuquerque Mountain Rescue, and Sandia Search Dogs, New Mexico to create and support a La Luz Hike Smart Safety Campaign. (More details are available here.)

Additional seasonal information on hiking La Luz as well as recommended equipment are provided in the writeups accessible at right or below (depending on your screen size).

Click to access safety document (pdf).
Click to access safety document (pdf).