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La Cueva Canyon, Lower

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Flake n' Bake 
Gemstone East 
Gemstone West 

La Cueva Canyon, Lower  

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Location: 35.2045, -106.4874 View Map  Incorrect?
Page Views: 47,764
Administrators: Aaron Hobson, Jason Halladay, Anthony Stout, LeeAB, Marta Reece, Kristine Hoffman (sitewide)
Submitted By: Anthony Stout on Mar 21, 2007

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Another crux to avoid on the approach. Lion track...


Just beyond the foothills, this area is somewhat unlike the steep walls of the upper Sandia Mountains. Starting in Albuquerque, a beautiful hike next to a stream takes you to some quality low angle slab and crack climbing.

Getting There 

Get on Tramway and head north for a while. Find the Juan Tabo Picnic Area exit (Forest Road 333) and turn right after the second cattle guard (FR 333B). Follow this road to the La Cueva picnic area. Take the LaCueva trail (#83) east for about 1/4 mile to a point where the trail forks. The south (right) fork leads into the canyon. GPS coordinates are to the parking area.

Climbing Season

Weather station 2.2 miles from here

16 Total Routes

['4 Stars',0],['3 Stars',3],['2 Stars',13],['1 Star',0],['Bomb',0]

The Classics

Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for La Cueva Canyon, Lower:
Flake n' Bake   5.5 4b 13 IV+ 11 MS 4a     Trad, Alpine, 2 pitches, 200'   Flake n' Bake
Opal   5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b PG13     Trad, Alpine, 3 pitches, 260'   Gemstone East
Broken Ladders    5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b     Trad, Alpine, 1 pitch, 100'   Gemstone West
Surf Naked   5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b     Trad, Alpine, 3 pitches, 300'   Gemstone East
Revenge of the Elderly   5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b     Trad, Alpine, 4 pitches, 275'   Gemstone East
Gemstone   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Trad, Alpine, 2 pitches, 180'   Gemstone West
Pair of 4s   5.9- 5c 17 VI 16 HVS 4c PG13     Trad, Alpine, 1 pitch, 150'   Gemstone West
Shoots & Ladders   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Trad, Alpine, 2 pitches   Gemstone West
Emerald City   5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a     Trad, Alpine, 2 pitches, 280'   Gemstone East
Seamingly Hard   5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b     Trad, Alpine, 1 pitch, 200'   Gemstone West
Browse More Classics in La Cueva Canyon, Lower

Featured Route For La Cueva Canyon, Lower
Topo of Emerald City and alternate finishes

Emerald City 5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a  NM : Sandia Mountains : ... : Gemstone East
This brilliant route is the jewel of the Gemstone area, and certainly one of the best of the grade in the Sandias. Every move on this route is engaging; there are no trivial sections, and no sub-par stone. The route offers excellent protection, but you have to work for nearly every placement.P1, 5.8++, 160 feet. Begin in the 'center' of the Gemstone East area, on a large, sloping ledge, just left of the start of Opal. With a 60m rope its possible to belay 20 feet below this ledge a...[more]   Browse More Classics in NM

Photos of La Cueva Canyon, Lower Slideshow Add Photo
There are two cruxes on the approach to the Gemsto...
There are two cruxes on the approach to the Gemsto...
Gemstone East (left half of pic) and Gemstone West...
Gemstone East (left half of pic) and Gemstone West...

Comments on La Cueva Canyon, Lower Add Comment
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By Bill Lawry
From: New Mexico
Jun 15, 2008
Interesting to see different names in different references.

  • Gemstone East and West Areas
  • Lower La Cueva Canyon East and West Slabs
  • Emerald Highway Area and Gemstone Area
By Bill M
From: Fort Collins, CO
May 21, 2012
hillmap.com/m/ag1zfmhpbGxtYXAt... more or less.
By Howard Snell
From: Belen, New Mexico
Oct 28, 2012
Road to Lower La Cueva Canyon Trail Head was gated & locked this morning (10/27/12). We parked at the Tram parking lot and took the Tram - La Luz cross over trail to get into Lower La Cueva Canyon. Adds 35 or so minutes to approach but LLC was deserted.

I've looked through the Sandia Ranger District website for information, but I can't find any details so I'm not sure how long the trail head will be closed. If you're planning on climbing in Lower La Cueva Canyon you might call the Sandia FS (505.281.3304 & check on the closure. If you don't want to use the Tram access you could try the housing area to the N. It looked like there might be access through there, but I wasn't sure about the private property issues.
By Howard Snell
From: Belen, New Mexico
Oct 31, 2012
Update: Vehicular Access to Lower La Cueva Canyon Trail Head Closed Until May 2013.

I just called the Sandia Ranger District to check on the status of the apparent closure of the road leading to the Lower La Cueva Canyon Trail Head. It appears that the road will remain closed until May of 2013. The primary closure is the picnic area (current budgets don't allow appropriate maintenance). The person I spoke with, Mary, said that it is OK to park at the gate and walk in to the Lower La Cueva Canyon Trail, and it is OK to walk in on the La Luz / Tram crossover trail from open parking areas at the La Luz Trail Head or the Tram parking area. Parking at the Tram lot can require payment (although not always), but Mary suggested that a Recreational Pass for the Sandias should allow you to park at the Forest Service Information Area where the crossover trail heads North.

If you're planning on climbing in Lower La Cueva Canyon parking at the Tram adds 1.45 miles to your approach. Walking up the La Cueva Picnicground road from the locked gate adds 1.35 miles.
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