Travertine Falls

Cedar Crest / Albuquerque / Cibola National Forest / Sandia Wilderness, New Mexico, USA

About Travertine Falls

Hiking Distance: 1.2 miles round trip
Suggested Time: 45-60 minutes

Date first visited: 2017-04-14
Date last visited: 2017-04-14

Waterfall Latitude: 35.09533
Waterfall Longitude: -106.39368

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

Travertine Falls was a bit of an exercise in missed timing as you can see from the picture above. Apparently Spring Break was a little too late to experience this seasonal waterfall, which was probably best seen immediately after a good rain storm or more towards the Winter Season of a high rainfall year as opposed to the mid- to late Spring when I showed up. That said, the waterfall was actually more of a side attraction to the travertine alcoves and cave neighboring the waterfall itself. Even the neighboring trails offered nice views and a chance to experience a bit of Nature without getting too deep in the desert. Indeed, despite the falls being in its trickling state, I still saw quite a few families, retirees, and even after-work people fitting in this hike between their day jobs and the day-to-day things they do at home as this place was pretty close to the city of Albuquerque.

The hike started from a small loop road (just beyond a sparsely built-up residential area) acting as both the trailhead parking as well as a cul-de-sac of sorts. After passing a sign acknowledging that I was entering the Sandia Wilderness of Cibola National Forest. Beyond the signage, the classic dirt trail gently went uphill alongside what appeared to be a dry wash or gully while also straddling bright cliffs on the other side. In addition, there were some prickly shrubs and trees flanking the trail, but they weren’t substantial enough to provide adequate shade. With the low humidity of the area coupled with the fairly constant exposure to the sun, I was definitely glad to have brought one of my larger stainless steel bottles of water as well as adequate cover from my hat and long-sleeved shirt and pants (despite the warm temperatures being in the 80s on the afternoon of my hike).

At around 0.4 miles from the trailhead, I encountered a signposted trail junction where I kept straight to continue to Travertine Falls and didn’t go up the switchback on my right to the Crest Trail No. 130. After another 0.1 miles on the waterfall trail, I gently ascended up to the base of what appeared to be an impressive travertine formation with a cave as well as a trickling streak on the far right side of this formation. It turned out that the streak was the actual Travertine Falls itself, and even though it was trickling, there was enough water to make the steep ascent up to its base pretty muddy. As for the travertine alcove or “cave”, it seemed to have evidence of someone making a little campfire at its mouth. When I got up to the base of the falls, I noticed there was a steep trail-of-use that linked up with what turned out to be a continuation of the Crest Trail No. 130.

Anyways, in the afternoon that I showed up, the sun was pretty much against the falls when I was facing it (i.e. not easy to take photographs). However, the alcove was very cool and shady, which provided welcome relief from the sun. When I had my fill of this falls, I scrambled up to the Crest Trail then descended a couple of switchbacks to get back down to the original trail I had taken earlier. Along the way, I saw cacti flanking the trail, and I managed to get commanding trailside views of an unsightly quarry in the distance as well as some hills with a cell or radio tower on its top. When all was said and done, I was back at the trailhead less than an hour after I had gotten started. According to the GPS logs, I had hiked about 1.2 miles round trip though it could be a little shorter had I not scrambled up to the Crest Trail No. 130.


From the I-40 and I-25 interchange in Albuquerque, I drove east on the I-40 for about the next 14 miles. I then took the Tijeras exit (337, 333) and kept right at the fork for West Tijeras (don’t take the fork on the left for Cedar Crest Hwy 14). Eventually, I then turned left at the next opportunity to go north onto the NM-337, which went under the I-40. At the T-intersection beyond the underpass, I then turned right and immediately kept left at the fork to remain on the Arrowhead Trail Road. There was a “Dead End” sign on the right followed by a “Canyon Estates” sign on the left, and these were the clues that I was going the right way. So I’d take this road all the way to its end in another 0.6 miles, where there was a one-way loop and a sign telling me to keep right. This loop was where I was to find parking for the trailhead.

Overall, this drive would take me on the order of 20 minutes. That said, I took another 5-10 minutes longer due to traffic on the I-40 in Albuquerque. Another complicating factor is that if you blindly follow the GPS coordinates for this trailhead, there’s a high likelihood that it would route you to the Hwy 14 towards “Cedar Crest East Tijeras” and then making you turn left onto the unpaved Penny Lane after going north on the 14 for a few minutes. I had made the mistake of doing this and wound up at a trio of dead-ends with “Private Property” signs all over the place. Clearly, the owners here have had to deal with misrouted visitors. So the bottom line is to heed the directions above and be very wary of blindly following the GPS in this case.

For some context, Albuquerque was about 64 miles (a little over an hour’s drive) south of Santa Fe, 325 miles (about 5 hours drive) east of Flagstaff, Arizona, 790 miles (about 13 hours drive) east of Los Angeles, California, and 647 miles (about 10 hours drive) west of Dallas, Texas.

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Video showing the approach to the travertine formations then up to the trickling waterfall before ending off by entering one of the caves

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Tagged with: cibola national forest, cedar crest, albuquerque, new mexico, waterfall, travertine, cave

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