Bill Spring Trail Loop Hike in the Sandia Mountains

Sandia Mountains, Cibola National Forest, New Mexico, hike, hiking
Heading up the Bill Spring Trail


This loop hike is mostly shady. It’s a little over 3 miles long, with some up-and-down, between 7280 and 7840 feet. The hike can be done in a morning, and ends at picnic tables where you can have lunch before returning to town. Part of the route will be muddy after heavy rain, or icy in the dead of winter. Two parts are in canyon bottoms, something to consider during flash flood weather. Much of the hike is close to the Crest Highway, and it starts and ends in picnic areas, so for the most peace and quiet (and parking), do this one during the work week.


The hike begins in the Doc Long picnic area, off the lower Crest Highway. To get there from Albuquerque, drive east on I-40 and take the Tijeras exit. Stay in the left lane of the exit ramp and head north on the Turquoise Trail (NM 14), through Cedar Crest. Turn left onto the Crest Highway (NM 536). Once in the National Forest, pass the Sulphur Spring picnic area and turn left into the Doc Long Picnic area (the turnoff is clearly marked). Park along the picnic area road (FR 166A).


The Bill Spring Trail (196) begins northwest of the loop at the end of the road, along the parallel stretch of pavement on the other side of the streambed (at about 35 deg. 10.649 min. N, 106 deg. 22.779 min. W). The trail provides a pleasant ramble up a leafy canyon bottom, lasting 0.6 mile. You’ll pass the location of Bill Spring, which like many springs in the Sandias has gone dry. 


At about 35 deg. 10.979 min. N, 106 deg. 23.321 min. W, you’ll encounter the unmarked end of the Bill Spring Trail, at a T intersection with the Faulty Trail (195). Take the well-worn turn to the left (the sketchier right turn heads towards the nearby highway). After wandering mostly south 0.3 mile, you’ll encounter the marked intersection with the lower end of the Oso Corredor Trail (265). Take the left fork, continuing on the Faulty Trail. You’ll trend east and south, then west and south, for 1.3 miles, on wooded slopes.


Sandia Mountains, Cibola National Forest, New Mexico
Looking toward upper Sulphur Canyon from the Faulty Trail.


At about 35 deg. 10.379 min. N, 106 deg. 23.224 min. W, the Faulty Trail drops into the bottom of Sulphur Canyon. There you’ll find the intersection with the upper end of the Sulphur Canyon Trail (281). Wolf Spring, just upstream, has also gone dry. At the intersection, turn left onto the Sulphur Canyon Trail, and follow it down the bottom of Sulphur Canyon. Like the Bill Spring Trail at the start of the loop, this part of the hike is a pleasant ramble in a leafy canyon bottom. About 0.3 mile later, you’ll encounter a paved road (FR 281), which you follow down into the Sulphur Canyon picnic area. 


One slight problem: you’re parked at a different picnic area, Doc Long. Near the bottom of the Sulphur Canyon picnic area, an 0.2 mile long connector trail (the Doc Long-Sulphur Link Trail, 345) will get you where you need to go. The signed start of this trail is at about 35 deg. 10.4035 min. N, 106 deg. 22.6154 min. W, along a path through the picnic area (it doesn’t start at the roadway). Climb the short distance onto the low ridge, then turn left (NNE) and follow the trail until it drops into Doc Long.


Sandia Mountains, Cibola National Forest, New Mexico
Sulphur Canyon Trail


Want to extend this loop hike a bit? When you reach the upper end of the Sulphur Canyon Trail (281), ignore that left turn and continue generally south on the Faulty Trail. About 35 deg. 10.3081 min. N, 106 deg. 23.1511 min. W, you'll encounter the Cienega Horse Bypass Trail (266). Take a sharp left turn and follow that trail generally eastward and downward, until you strike the paved road into Cienega Canyon. You can walk that road northward to Sulphur Canyon, but the Wagon Trail (228) now extends all the way north to that canyon. If you prefer that option (I recommend it), you'll pick up the Wagon Trail a few steps before you reach the pavement. Once in Sulphur Canyon, take the Doc Long-Sulphur Link Trail (see above) to complete the loop.


Want to extend this hike a lot more? See the page for my Armijo Trail loop hike and come down the Armijo Trail and up past the Cienega equestrian trailhead.


If you accessed this web page directly, see this page for a local trail map.