More Than One Way to Skin a Cat

It started with a plan to drive in 3 separate cars and meet at the Embudito trailhead. Then the 5 of us would pile into one car for the 20-mile drive around the mountain to the Three Gun Spring trailhead. The hike would end at Embudito and somebody would have to drive back to Three Gun Spring to get the other car. Then Lee came up with a better idea.

We met at Embudito but then Ken, Sue and Russ took our car and drove to Three Gun Spring. Meanwhile, Lee and I started hiking up the Embudito Trail. After a couple of hours on the trail we encountered our 3 friends as they were making their way up the mountain from the other side. We had lunch together, they handed us our car keys and the 2 groups parted ways to finish going back down the way the other group had come up.

After 8 miles of hiking it was good to find our car waiting for us, knowing we could just head home and nobody had to spend time doing a car shuttle. Embudito Trail and Three Gun Spring Trail are hikes that we have done before, but we’ve never had the opportunity to put them together in one nice day hike. We’ve done them separately and then it would be an up and back down hike because it would be too far to hike around the mountain to connect up with the car at the starting point.

No cats were harmed in the making of this enjoyable hike.

Interactive map of today’s hike.

Hike for me and Lee started at Embudito Trailhead.
Hike for me and Lee started at Embudito Trailhead.
About a mile up looking behind us at Albuquerque.
About a mile up looking behind us at Albuquerque.
Looking ahead to the high point somewhere to the left of the 2 green hills where we would meet the downhill trail.
Looking ahead to the high point somewhere to the left of the 2 green hills where we would meet the downhill trail.
Cloudy today but increased visibility across the valley to Mt. Taylor in the distance.
Cloudy today but increased visibility across the valley to Mt. Taylor in the distance.
Leaving desert behind on Embudito Trail and now in the woods.
Leaving desert behind on Embudito Trail and now in the woods.
Quite a few patches of leftover icy snow on the north slopes.
Quite a few patches of leftover icy snow on the north slopes.
Getting high enough to see section of Sandia Crest with the radio towers.
Getting high enough to see section of Sandia Crest with the radio towers.
Yeah! We reached the intersection and now will be descending the mountain.
Yeah! We reached the intersection and now will be descending the mountain.
Lots of interesting boulder piles on 3 Gun Springs Trail.
Lots of interesting boulder piles on 3 Gun Springs Trail.
Through those hills but we don't have to go quite as far as the dirt roads in the distance.
Through those hills but we don’t have to go quite as far as the dirt roads in the distance.
Looking south. Manzano Mountains in the distance.
Looking south. Manzano Mountains in the distance.
View of Albuquerque from this side of the mountain.
View of Albuquerque from this side of the mountain.
Our car is parked down there somewhere at the trailhead in Tijeras Canyon.
Our car is parked down there somewhere at the trailhead in Tijeras Canyon.
Nope, not going that way. Beginning of hike for our friends was the ending point of the hike for us.
Nope, not going that way. Beginning of hike for our friends was the ending point of the hike for us.

Whitewash Trail

Because the Sandia Mountains are practically in the backyard of Albuquerque, we have done numerous hikes there in the years we have been here. Since it isn’t a big mountain range, you would think that we would know most of the trails by now. But yesterday our friends, Ken and Sue, introduced us to an interesting trail, labeled on some maps as the Whitewash Trail, but not appearing at all on other maps.

The hike required a shuttle, parking one car at the Embudido Trailhead in the foothills on the east side of Albuquerque. Then driving east of town through Tijeras Canyon we started the hike on the Three Gun Springs (Tres Pistoles) Trail. We have done that trail a number of times in various combinations, as it connects with a couple of other trails.

Map of hike on Three Gun Springs and Whitewash Trails.
Map of hike on Three Gun Springs and Whitewash Trails.

It’s a steep ascent for 3 miles up to Oso Pass, which is about a mile below South Sandia Peak on the Crest Trail. This is where we left familiar trails and took an unmarked trail heading west along a ridge that would eventually descend the mountain and get us back to the foothills. We could now see the advantage of hiking this Whitewash Trail in the Sandias that we hadn’t been on before. It had very distinctive views of the city, as well as views of the Crest towards the north and the south from different perspectives.

At Oso Pass, looking up at the Crest under the clouds somewhere.
At Oso Pass, looking up at the Crest under the clouds somewhere.

South Sandia Peak shrouded in clouds behind us viewed from Whitewash Trail.
South Sandia Peak shrouded in clouds behind us viewed from Whitewash Trail.

Looking at north end of Sandias from Whitewash Trail.
Looking at north end of Sandias from Whitewash Trail.

At lower elevations on the ridge when the trail was still obvious.
At lower elevations on the ridge when the trail was still obvious.

The fact that there are no trail signs for this trail wasn’t a problem in the beginning. It was easy to follow the trail along the ridge at the higher elevations. But once we got out to the more open areas and could actually see where our car was parked in the foothills below, that’s where the problems began. Somewhere along the way we got off trail and found ourselves scrambling over steep, rocky terrain, trying to make our way downhill without slipping and falling into a cactus or other obstacle.
A view down into the city which couldn't be reached before scrambling over a lot of rough terrain.
A view down into the city which couldn’t be reached before scrambling over a lot of rough terrain.

It looks like an easy way down into the city but it was in the wrong direction.
It looks like an easy way down into the city but it was in the wrong direction.

Looking to the south before ascending into the foothills.
Looking to the south before ascending into the foothills.

The parking lot is to the right of the water tank but no direct route to get there.
The parking lot is to the right of the water tank but no direct route to get there.

It was a relief to finally reach level terrain in the foothills, but, unfortunately, we had gotten so far off course that we were not in the section of the foothills where our car was parked. It was another mile or so trudging through the desert before we rounded a hill and could see once again the parking lot that was our goal. I was quite exhausted after trekking 9 miles, a third of it a very steep ascent and a third of it trying to scramble back down the mountain. But, as is always the case, it was an enjoyable day spent doing our favorite outdoor activity.

An interesting canyon, but a final obstacle to scramble around before reaching the bottom--and then another mile across the desert.
An interesting canyon, but a final obstacle to scramble around before reaching the bottom–and then another mile across the desert.

I created an interactive map from the GPS track of our hike. If you click on the link for the map it allows you to zoom in and out and move around to get a better idea of where we were.
A map of the hike