A note on Del Agua Trail in the northern Sandias

Narrowleaf Cottonwoods, Del Agua Canyon, Sandia Mountains, Cibola National Forest, New Mexico
Narrowleaf cottonwoods in lower Del Agua Canyon


Most hiking maps and guides show the Del Agua Trail as having its own trailhead, about 550 meters WSW of the Piedra Lisa north trailhead. Sandia Pueblo has now acquired, fenced off, and posted the land crossed by the lowest portion of the old trail. The new route into Del Agua Canyon begins at the north trailhead for the Piedra Lisa Trail. From the parking area and pit toilet, hike about 100 meters up the Piedra Lisa Trail to the information kiosk, and you'll notice a signed trail heading off to your right. It's posted as the Tightrope Trail (17) but that's the place to turn. Soon you'll come to a second fork, which is also signed; turn left to follow the Del Agua Trail (248). This new section of the Del Agua Trail heads southwest over a ridge shoulder, then rejoins the old trail and curls left into Del Agua Canyon.


The new arrangement is actually a good one for loop hikes. You could hike up Del Agua and down Piedra Lisa (or the other way around) and wind up right at your car. Speaking of which, the dirt road into the Piedra Lisa north trailhead gets rough in places, so use a high clearance vehicle to get there.


schist boulder, Del Agua Trail, Sandia Mountains, Cibola National Forest, New Mexico
A schist boulder shows what time, heat, and pressure can do to rock. That object in the lower right corner of the photo is a hiking pole.


As you enter the canyon you'll see a splash of bright green. If the leaves of those trees seem rather narrow for cottonwoods, it's because they're Narrowleaf Cottonwoods, not the Fremont's Cottonwood that's so common along local rivers and streams.


petroglyphs, Del Agua Canyon, Sandia Mountains, Cibola National Forest, New Mexico
Petroglyphs in lower Del Agua Canyon. To the left, a bird and lightning bolt. Down and to the right, a second bird with two Roman crosses that were added later.