Travertine Falls

Cedar Crest / Albuquerque / Cibola National Forest / Sandia Wilderness, New Mexico, USA

About Travertine Falls


Hiking Distance: 1.2 miles round trip
Suggested Time: 45-60 minutes

Date first visited: 2017-04-14
Date last visited: 2017-04-14

Waterfall Latitude: 35.09533
Waterfall Longitude: -106.39368

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Travertine Falls was a seasonal waterfall, which was probably best seen immediately after a good rain storm.

Or, perhaps it might also be best seen more towards the Winter Season of a high rainfall year.

Travertine_Falls_016_04142017 - The travertine formation that harbored Travertine Falls
The travertine formation that harbored Travertine Falls

As you can see in the photo above, my experience with this waterfall was a bit of an exercise in missed timing.

Apparently, Spring Break (i.e. mid- to late Spring) was a little too late in the season to see this waterfall perform.

That said, Travertine Falls was actually more of a side attraction to the travertine alcoves and cave neighboring the waterfall itself.

Even the neighboring trails offered nice views and a chance to experience a bit of Nature without getting too deep in the desert.

Travertine_Falls_026_04142017 - Looking at the trickling part of the travertine formation that I believe was where Travertine Falls would tumble over
Looking at the trickling part of the travertine formation that I believe was where Travertine Falls would tumble over

Indeed, despite the falls being in its trickling state, I still saw quite a few families, retirees, and even after-work people fitting in this hike in their day-to-day lives.

After all, this place was pretty close to the city of Albuquerque.

Moreover, the hike to the waterfall was only 1.2 miles round trip.

Travertine Falls Trail Description

The hike to Travertine Falls started from a small loop road (just beyond a sparsely built-up residential area) acting as both the trailhead parking as well as a cul-de-sac of sorts (see directions below).

Travertine_Falls_007_04142017 - The trail to Travertine Falls climbed along this very sun-exposed and dry section of trail with some rocks strewn about
The trail to Travertine Falls climbed along this very sun-exposed and dry section of trail with some rocks strewn about

Soon thereafter, I passed a sign acknowledging that I was entering the Sandia Wilderness of Cibola National Forest.

Beyond the signage, the classic dirt trail gently went uphill alongside what appeared to be a dry wash or gully while also straddling bright cliffs on the other side.

In addition, there were some prickly shrubs and trees flanking the trail, but they weren’t substantial enough to provide adequate shade.

With the low humidity of the area coupled with the fairly constant exposure to the sun, I was definitely glad to have brought one of my larger stainless steel bottles of water.

Travertine_Falls_013_04142017 - A signed trail junction where going ahead went to the Travertine Falls while going up the switchback to the right was the Crest Trail No. 130
A signed trail junction where going ahead went to the Travertine Falls while going up the switchback to the right was the Crest Trail No. 130

I also brought adequate cover from my hat along with a long-sleeved shirt and pants (despite the warm temperatures being in the 80s on the afternoon of my hike).

At around 0.4 miles from the trailhead, I encountered a signposted trail junction where I kept straight to continue to Travertine Falls.

I didn’t go up the switchback on my right to the Crest Trail No. 130.

After another 0.1 miles on the waterfall trail, I gently ascended up to the base of what appeared to be an impressive travertine formation.

Travertine_Falls_021_04142017 - Looking out from inside the cave of the travertine formation around Travertine Falls
Looking out from inside the cave of the travertine formation around Travertine Falls

It had a cave as well as a trickling streak on the far right side of this formation.

It turned out that the streak was the actual Travertine Falls itself.

Even though it was trickling, there was enough water to make the steep ascent up to its base pretty muddy.

As for the travertine alcove or “cave”, it seemed to have evidence of someone making a little campfire at its mouth.

Travertine_Falls_032_04142017 - Context of where Travertine Falls should be with the Crest Trail No. 130 continuing further upstream and uphill
Context of where Travertine Falls should be with the Crest Trail No. 130 continuing further upstream and uphill

When I got up to the base of the falls, I noticed there was a steep trail-of-use that linked up with what turned out to be a continuation of the Crest Trail No. 130.

Anyways, in the afternoon that I showed up, the sun was pretty much against the falls when I was facing it (i.e. not easy to take photographs).

However, the alcove was very cool and shady, which provided welcome relief from the sun.

Brief detour on the Crest Trail No. 130

When I had my fill of this falls, I scrambled up to the Crest Trail then descended a couple of switchbacks to get back down to the original trail I had taken earlier.

Travertine_Falls_042_04142017 - Looking towards a hideous-looking quarry operation from the Crest Trail No. 130 on the return hike from Travertine Falls
Looking towards a hideous-looking quarry operation from the Crest Trail No. 130 on the return hike from Travertine Falls

Along the way, I saw cacti flanking the trail, and I managed to get commanding trailside views of an unsightly quarry in the distance as well as some hills with a cell or radio tower on its top.

When all was said and done, I was back at the trailhead less than an hour after I had gotten started.

According to the GPS logs, I had hiked about 1.2 miles round trip though it could be a little shorter had I not scrambled up to the Crest Trail No. 130.

Authorities

Travertine Falls resides in the Sandia Wilderness of Cibola National Forest near Albuquerque in Bernalillo County, New Mexico. It is administered by the USDA Forest Service. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Travertine_Falls_006_04142017 - Following the conventional dirt trail that was leading gently uphill from the trailhead to the Travertine Falls
Travertine_Falls_011_04142017 - Even though the Travertine Falls Trail was flanked by some dry-looking trees, this was pretty much the extent of the shade that I was getting throughout this hike
Travertine_Falls_017_04142017 - Angled look up at what was left of Travertine Falls during my mid-April 2017 visit
Travertine_Falls_022_04142017 - Looking towards the opening of the 'cave' within the Travertine Falls-supporting formation, which also had some markings
Travertine_Falls_035_04142017 - After having my fill of Travertine Falls (or what was left of it), as I was making my way down the Crest Trail No. 130, I noticed a hill in the distance with what appeared to be some kind of antenna
Travertine_Falls_036_04142017 - Here was some cacti along the Crest Trail No. 130 highlighting the arid climate of this part of the Albuquerque vicinity

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To reach Travertine Falls from the I-40 and I-25 interchange in Albuquerque, I drove east on the I-40 for about the next 14 miles.

I then took the Tijeras exit (337, 333) and kept right at the fork for West Tijeras (not taking the fork on the left for Cedar Crest Hwy 14).

Eventually, I then turned left at the next opportunity to go north onto the NM-337, which went under the I-40.

Travertine_Falls_002_04142017 - This was the trailhead parking for Travertine Falls
This was the trailhead parking for Travertine Falls

At the T-intersection beyond the underpass, I then turned right and immediately kept left at the fork to remain on the Arrowhead Trail Road.

There was a “Dead End” sign on the right followed by a “Canyon Estates” sign on the left, and these were the clues that I was going the right way.

So I’d take this road all the way to its end in another 0.6 miles, where there was a one-way loop and a sign telling me to keep right.

This loop was where I was to find parking for the trailhead.

Overall, this drive would take me on the order of 20 minutes.

Travertine_Falls_001_04142017 - Looking towards the exit of the one-way loop at the trailhead parking area for Travertine Falls, which was near some private homes
Looking towards the exit of the one-way loop at the trailhead parking area for Travertine Falls, which was near some private homes

That said, I took another 5-10 minutes longer due to traffic on the I-40 in Albuquerque.

Misrouting Woes

Another complicating factor was that if I had blindly routed to the GPS coordinates for this trailhead, there was a high likelihood that it would route me to the Hwy 14 towards “Cedar Crest East Tijeras”.

That would make me turn left onto the unpaved Penny Lane after going north on the 14 for a few minutes.

I had made the mistake of doing this and wound up at a trio of dead-ends with “Private Property” signs all over the place.

Clearly, the owners here have had to deal with misrouted visitors.

Travertine_Falls_049_04142017 - Looking back towards the trailhead and trailhead parking for Travertine Falls with some hints of private homes nearby
Looking back towards the trailhead and trailhead parking for Travertine Falls with some hints of private homes nearby

So the bottom line is to heed the directions above and be very wary of blindly following the GPS in this case.

For some context, Albuquerque was about 64 miles (a little over an hour’s drive) south of Santa Fe, 325 miles (about 5 hours drive) east of Flagstaff, Arizona, 790 miles (about 13 hours drive) east of Los Angeles, California, and 647 miles (about 10 hours drive) west of Dallas, Texas.

Video showing the approach to the travertine formations then up to the trickling waterfall before ending off by entering one of the caves

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Tagged with: cibola national forest, cedar crest, albuquerque, new mexico, waterfall, travertine, cave



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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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