Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Sun Mountain Loop - Santa Fe, NM

Distance: 5.5mi roundtrip
Starting Elevation: 7,000ft
Summit Elevation: 7,920ft
Total Elev Gain: 1,400ft
Run time: 65min

Earlier this summer the city finally formalized hiking access to Sun Mountain. The trails have been there as long as I can remember, there was just never any central trailhead. Folks would set out from St. John's College or other informal waypoints and, as with many of the older trails around town, you just had to know from memory that a trail spur started behind that fence post, or that pinon, or up the driveway 40ft then veer left. New homes in the area over the last twenty five years have also closed off some sections of north-south trail that used to connect to the Arroyo Chamisos. In a fairly publicized development dispute a couple years ago, the Save Sun Mountain campaign came about, and donated money was rounded up to buy the last parcel of undeveloped land off the mountain's west slope which was then placed in trust for public access. The trailhead was mostly built out last summer, then left fenced off and unopened from what I could only guess was a reaction to the dangers of an incredibly destructive fire-season. The city finally opened it all up earlier this summer and it now gets a fair amount of traffic, particularly before sunset.

The new public easement and trailhead

I've yet to see a map of the existing trails on and around the mountain, particularly off the northside of Sun Mountain where access to St. John's College is a mess of unimproved trail, cairns to nowhere, spiderwebs of bullshit, and deadend ravines and drainages. The one well defined thru-trail heads away from St. John's, into the saddle with Moon Mountain, then east into the Arroyo Chamisos at the foot of Atalaya. It's marked decently with cairns but can be difficult to follow at dusk.

From the summit: Moon mountain at right, rising moon at top left, south Atalaya ridge at center

After poking around these these trails and hills over the last few weeks I finally mapped out the best existing loop during a run with Hoskisson over the Thanksgiving weekend. Beginning from Museum Hill the full loop is just short of six miles, the section of climbing is a bit less than one mile (trailhead-to-summit) with about 800ft of climbing.

We made the summit in 28min from the Cristobal Lane trailhead (Note: the area at Conejo Rd and Calle de Leon is fire lane access only. Neighbors have asked me to make clear this is not a trailhead nor open to parking; use the Cristobal or Cam. Corrales trailheads), running the loop counter-clockwise. 65min to run out the full loop. Sections of the climb are scrambling-steep and not rideable by bike.

Nearby Trails:
  - Atalaya Mountain
  - Dorothy Stewart Ridgeline
  - Upper Arroyo Chamisos &  East Foothill Trails
  - Moon Mountain

View Sun Mountain Trail Loop - Santa Fe, NM in a larger map


  1. Thanks for publishing a trail map!

  2. You bet. How does a lovely trail like that go so long without a map? Some trails are not meant to be public and require some level of anonymity, this is not one of them. Particularly with the addition of the new trailhead.

    So where is the map for Moon mountain? I'll have it up soon.

  3. This is a trail that will be amazing for youngsters it will also rip your balls of!



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