Cienega Canyon Picnic Site & Interpretive Trail

Area Status: Closed
This area is Closed

Cienega Picnic Site

Beautiful, shady, cool and green are just a few words that recreationists have used to describe the Cienega Group Picnic area. It is fairly flat, accessible, semi-private and accommodates up to fifty people. There are grills, bear proof trash containers and vault toilets provided and no shelter other than the surrounding shade trees. A stream, which draws birds and other wildlife, runs through the area.

Take a moment to enjoy the accessible interpretive trail along the nearby stream and meadow that provides a great learning experience on the area.

Whether it’s a picnic or a wedding, Cienega Spring Picnic area is a beautiful setting in which to enjoy the outdoors.

At a Glance

Current Conditions: \
  • Go online to for reservations or call 1.877.444.6777; TDD: 1.877.833.6777.
  • Reservations can be made on the day of arrival or can be made up to 12 months in advance. There is a $40-60 fee to use this picnic area, $40 for a weekday, $60 for a weekend (Friday - Sunday) or holiday.  This fee includes 10 day use passes. A $3.00 fee will be charged at the Fee Station on the site for any remaining vehicles associated with your party, unless you have, and display, a Sandia Annual Pass or an America the Beautiful Interagency Pass.
  • Dispersed picnicking is permitted during summer and winter months.
  • PLEASE NOTE: There is No Camping Allowed in developed picnic sites
Area Amenities: Interpretive Site,Accessible,Picnic tables,Toilets,Parking
Fees Requires a fee or an amenity pass. If you do not have a pass, you may purchase one online, or look for the Pay Station on site. Envelopes for payment are in the box next to the fee tube. CASH OR CHECK ONLY at pay station.
Open Season: mid-May
Usage: Medium-Heavy
Water: No
Restroom: Vault Toilet (3)
Passes: The Cibola honors all types of America the Beautiful passes which are available for purchase at the Cibola Supervisor's Office and at all district offices. Day use passes can be purchased online. Sandia Annual Passes can be purchased At REI in Albuquerque, the Sandia Ranger Station and the Cibola Supervisor’s Office.
Operated By: Forest Service
Information Center: Recreation: A variety of hiking and horseback riding trails are available from within the picnic area, including one leading to the mountain crest. The nearly 10-mile round-trip trail winds through a fir forest, abundant with wildflowers. Much of the hike is in the shade, although the terrain can be rough. Day hikes are available along the route. In non-drought times, the trails follow a mountain stream with a beautiful travertine waterfall.
  • If you choose to hike, please refer to the Sandia Mountain Trails map to plan your course.
  • Cell phone coverage is not guaranteed.
  • It is the recreationist’s responsibility to use a map.
  • Trail(s) are open for the following uses: Hiking and Horseback Riding.

General Information


An accessible interpretive trail leads along the nearby stream and meadow, called “La Cienega” which means “wet meadow.” This unique trail was cooperatively built, by the New Mexico Association for the Blind and the Forest Service, for persons with a disability or otherwise limited physical mobility


From Albuquerque, drive east on I-40 to Exit 175 to Cedar Crest. Follow N-14/The Turquoise Trail for approximately 6.5 miles, to NM 536/Sandia Crest Scenic Byway. Turn left onto 536 and follow it for about two miles. Turn left at the Cienega/Sulphur Picnic Area sign. Stay to your left and follow the road for about .6 miles to the “T”. Turn right and continue until you reach the gated area to your right.

  • NOTE: If you have  reserved the Cienega Spring Group Picnic site, REMEMBER to pick up the gate key at the Sandia Ranger Station M-F between 8 and 4:30. 505-281-3304.
  • Water and electricity, firewood/charcoal are not available at the site.

Amenity Passes and Gate Keys:

Each reservation comes with 10, “day use” Amenity passes and a Gate Key, which should be picked up at the Sandia Ranger Station, Monday through Friday between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. There is a $10 deposit that will be refunded upon the return of our key. There is a ‘key drop box’ outside the door at the Sandia Ranger District. We are not open on weekends.

Once the ten (10), “day use” passes are distributed to your party, a $3.00 fee will be charged at the Fee Station on the site for any remaining vehicles associated with your party, unless you have, and display, a Sandia Annual Pass or an America the Beautiful Interagency Pass. Have Questions? (505) 281-3304.

  • Additional dispersed picnic areas, outside of the Cienega Group Picnic area, are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Each area can accommodate a small family group and have no covering. Tables and grills provided.
  • Please DO NOT park in front of any gates. They must be accessible at all times.

General Notes:

(MVUM) Official Motor Vehicle Use Map - North

More About Bears

Living With Large Predators in New Mexico

About the Civilian Conservation Corps

Obtain firewood near your destination and burn it on-site: Don't Move Firewood

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information



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Interpretive Site
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  Elevation : 
7,500 ft