Hike Page

Sandstone Bluffs End to End Hike
In El Malpais Region

Map File Source: NG Topo

map Hike Key: H10426
Last Updated: 12/15/2020
Last Updated By: Marilyn Warrant
Hike Class: C (Challenging)
Hike Distance: 6.3 mi
Minimum Elevation: 6673 ft
Elevation Change: 314 ft
Total Uphill: 536 ft
Total Downhill: 536 ft
Avg. Grade: 5 %
Route Type: CCW Loop
On Trail: No
Paved or Gravel Roads: Yes
GPS Advised: Yes
Drive Distance Round Trip: 160 mi
Drive Time One-Way: 1:15
Hiking Seasons: Spring, Fall, and Winter
New Mexico Game Unit: 13
Hike Status: Published
Access Description: El Malpais North Access


Vistas, arches, sandstone formations, pueblo ruins & petroglyphs, a green microclimate, elk signs, and unusual flowers in season. See how many arches you can find!


The climb back to the van at the end of the hike is very steep (>20% grade). Bring your hiking poles and wear boots with good soles.

Trailhead Directions

From Albuquerque take I-40 west for about 70 miles to Exit 89 at Grants. Go south on SR 117 for 9 miles to a road on the left where there is a sign for the BLM Visitor Center. Stop there for a break. Then continue south for a few hundred feet to a dirt road on the right marked Sandstone Bluffs. Take this road to a parking area on the right at the top of the hill and PARK (0.0 mi).

Actual Hike

Hike northeast downhill, enjoying the views to the west of the lava flows and Mt. Taylor. Admire the arches and other sandstone formations. At the FENCE (1.3 mi), go through the opening then to your right downhill to the SHARDS (1.9 mi) and RUINS (2.1 mi). Stop at the ARCH TOP (2.2 mi) (you can go out on it part way). Continue along the mesa then go DOWN (2.85 mi) to its base. Make a U-turn, and walk on the edge of the lava flows to a GREEN (2.95 mi) microclimate with signs the animals like it too. Go southwest following various paths to a panel of INSCRIPTIONS (3.6 mi). This is often a good spot for lunch. Go uphill from here then back down to an old HOME (3.8 mi). Go south to some ROCK STAIRS (4.1 mi) to your left and go under a BARBED (4.3 mi) fence. Now walk southwest along the base of the cliffs past another NATURAL (5.0 mi) arch around the southern end. Go through a GATE (5.8 mi) to your right when you come to a fence. Go as far as an old CABIN (6.0 mi), make a 90 deg turn to your left, take the path through the trees, then hike steeply back up to the van about 0.3 mi away.


If some hikers aren’t up for the steep climb at the end, an option is to follow the OptOut track (shown in blue) from the CABIN for about 0.7 mi back to a HWY GATE. The van can come around to pick them up.


PARK N34 56.693 W107 50.298
FENCE N34 57.617 W107 49.711 (1.3 mi)
SHARDS N34 57.959 W107 49.533 (1.9 mi)
RUINS N34 58.090 W107 49.574 (2.1 mi)
ARCH TOP N34 58.110 W107 49.641 (2.2 mi)
DOWN N34 58.477 W107 49.199 (2.85 mi)
GREEN N34 58.444 W107 49.290 (2.95 mi)
INSCRIPTIONS N34 58.151 W107 49.664 (3.6 mi)
HOME N34 57.989 W107 49.802 (3.8 mi)
ROCK STAIRS N34 57.781 W107 49.818 (4.1 mi)
BARBED N34 57.626 W107 49.831 (4.3 mi)
NATURAL N34 57.117 W107 50.084 (5.0 mi)
GATE N34 56.602 W107 50.452 (5.8 mi)
CABIN N34 56.540 W107 50.258 (6.0 mi)

HWY GATE N34 56.369 W107 49.671 (6.7 mi)

Map Filename: SandstoneBluffsEndToEndMapRev_MW.jpg
Hike GPS File Name: SandstoneBluffsEndToEndWayTrackRev_MW.gpx
Hike GPS File: Click link to download hike waytrack file

Text Author: Marilyn Warrant
Map Author: Marilyn Warrant
Waypoints Author: Dennis Vick
Track Author: Dennis Vick
Maintainer: Marilyn Warrant
Editor: Howard Carr

Photos of This Hike
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