Cienega Canyon Map

New Mexico Orienteers' Cienega Canyon Map is located in the Sandia Ranger District of the Cibola National Forest, on the east side of Sandia Crest. Driving distance from Albuquerque is about 15 miles (20 minutes).

This map has many different start locations, in three picnic areas: Doc Long Picnic Area, Sulphur Canyon Picnic Area, and Cienega Canyon Picnic Area. Elevation is 6800 feet (2070 meters) at Doc Long and Sulphur Canyon, 7600 feet (2320 meters) at Cienega Canyon.

A parking fee usually applies. Vehicles with 15 or more seats pay $10, other vehicles pay $3. At the picnic area entrance are boxes containing envelopes. Write requested information on an envelope, tear off stub, seal cash or check inside, put envelope in drop box slot, and display stub inside vehicle front windshield.

Driving directions

Sandia Ranger District is east of Albuquerque, on both sides of I-40. Our Cienega Canyon Map is north of I-40 and west of NM 14. All start locations are accessible only from NM 536, about 2 miles west of Sandia Park.

From I-40 at Tijeras take NM 14 north through Cedar Crest to Sandia Park. Turn west onto NM 536 at a very large sign for Sandia Ski and Sandia Crest. Watch the left (south and west) side of the road for National Forest signs and turnoffs: Sulphur Canyon and Cienega Canyon share a turnoff and the Doc Long turnoff is 500 meters beyond.

From northern New Mexico the best route usually will be I-25 South to I-40 East. Alternate routes, more direct but slower, include NM 14 from Santa Fe to Sandia Park, and NM 165 from Bernalillo over the mountain to NM 536. For maps showing these routes and area campgrounds, see Jerry Boyd's Doc Long notes.

For a detailed map of all start locations here, see Cienega Canyon start locations.


Safety bearing here is east. If you need to abandon your course, go east and you will come to a paved road. You must check in at the Finish so we know you are safe. If you do not check in, we will start searching for you then call 911 to request New Mexico Search and Rescue.

High altitude makes the air thin and dry, and thin dry air makes temperatures at night fall on average 30 degrees F. Dehydration is a concern always, so drink ample water. Many orienteers carry water on their course. If you get wet then hypothermia is a concern; try to stay dry, and bring a change of dry clothes to the meet.

Winter weather in New Mexico usually is mild and dry, but wise orienteers come prepared for bad weather. We recommend you carry with you a warm hat, a high calorie snack, and a large trash bag to use as an emergency wind barrier and rain poncho. Carry these in a fannypack or small backpack or weatherproof jacket with pockets. Have extra warm clothing in your vehicle, and avoid wearing cotton.

Hazard trees, meaning dying or dead standing trees, are common here now due to recent severe drought and outbreaks of bark beetles. Trees fall mostly on gusty windy days, usually preceded by loud popping and snapping sounds.

Black bears have been seen during orienteering meets here. Please read the Forest notice boards at the Picnic Area, and discard garbage only in the bear-proof garbage bins.

Local attractions

Panning for gold
From here it is a short drive to Sandia Crest and a spectacular overlook view to the west. See all of Albuquerque, the Rio Grande, volcanic flows of Petroglyph National Monument, volcanic cinder cones, and the high desert west of the city. A cafeteria at the overlook serves burgers, sandwiches, salads, nachos and the like.

Besides orienteering, the Sandia Ranger District offers many ways to have fun. You can even collect fossils and pan for gold.

Gas, food, lodging

The picnic areas, open for day use only, have vault toilets (no provision for washing hands) and picnic tables. The group areas have shelters. Except in winter, potable water is provided.

Restaurants are nearby in Sandia Park (fancy bistro, dinner only) and at Sandia Crest (tourist cafeteria); more restaurants are a little farther away in Cedar Crest. The nearest gas station is on NM 14 at the intersection of NM 536.

Map history

The first orienteering-type map here was made for an international championship in amateur radio direction finding (ARDF), a field sport related to orienteering. Circa 2005 NMO expanded and added detail to the ARDF map, and the NMO map is used for both orienteering and ARDF.

Meets held on this map
2010.11.20 2 White, 4 Yellow, Orange, Green, Red 100+ expected
2009.07.25 White, Yellow, Green, Red 62 1 bear
2008.08.02 Orange, Red, Radio 10
2008.06.21 White, Yellow, Orange, Green, Red, and Radio 15
2007.07.14 White, Yellow, 2 Orange, Green, and Red 40
2006.03.25 White, Yellow, and 2 Orange 22
2005.11.12 2- and 4-hour Rogaine (Score O) 72 best score 1,320 of 1,380

External links

Local weather forecast
Cibola National Forest
Sandia Ranger District
Recreation Sites
Recreational Prospecting (Gold Panning)