Domingo Baca Trail / TWA Flight 260 crash site
ElevationAscent: 2,142' 653 m
Descent: -2,142' -653 m
High: 8,536' 2,602 m
Low: 6,394' 1,949 m
GradeAvg Grade: 12% (7°)
Max Grade: 50% (27°)
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“A steep climb into the Sandia Mountains leads to the 1955 crash site of a TWA airliner.”— Brendan Ross
The route will begin flat in Elena Gallegos, but features steep climbs, creek crossings and pushing through overgrowth as it ascends. On the way down, a panoramic view of Albuquerque unfolds as the trail exits the canyon.
Because the trail is occasionally indistinct for short segments, bringing a GPS is a wise idea (the Hiking Project mobile app is great, too!).
The turnoff from the creek bed about halfway through the hike, at N 35 10.886'W 106 27.594', can be easy to miss. It is marked both on the map here and shown with a picture; you may want to drop a pin on Google Maps or a similar app to keep track of your progress as you approach. If you miss it, the creek will dead end soon thereafter.
Here, you'll leave behind the flat open space trails (and its accompanying crowd) and begin the climb into Domingo Baca Canyon. Much of the trail will follow creekbeds, which can help with navigation if you get lost -- though it is generally not hard to follow. Roughly a half mile into the trail you'll find the foundation of a shelter. Not long after this the trail will enter into the trees and welcome shade.
Soon the trail will move directly alongside the creek bed, occasionally crossing it. At some points, a second trail will parallel the creek, a bit higher up. If you choose to take the higher trail, which is a little wider and more clear of rocks and roots, keep an eye on your GPS for where the trail leaves the creek bed, as it can be difficult to spot and is not well-marked (N 35 10.886' W 106 27.594', also shown on the map here). If you miss the turnoff, you'll eventually come across a dead end canyon.
After leaving the creek, the trail begins to climb more steeply, gaining most of its elevation over the remaining mile and a half. After passing through a short sandy area, you'll soon join another creek bed, which you'll stay along most of the way. Watch overhead for the cables of the tramway; the crash site is almost directly beneath it.
Shortly before reaching the crash site, you'll come across a large rock formation that you'll need to climb to continue. A well-placed branch has been left there to help out.
Continue past the rocks through some dense brush for about a quarter mile to the final resting place of TWA Flight 260. The trail heads directly to the first pieces of debris; part of the fuselage near the cockpit and a large section with the number 416 on the side. A marker has been attached telling the story of the crash. Other pieces of wreckage can be found in the area as well. Please respect the site as the location where sixteen people lost their lives and do not disturb the wreckage.
A few individuals have stated that they were able to push through the canyon further and eventually join the La Luz trail near the top by the tramway, but the marked trail ends here and further progression is extremely difficult. In other words, the best choice is to turn here and enjoy the way back. An expansive view of Albuquerque and the valley will open up as you exit the canyon near the foundation you passed on the way up.
Should you want to review another thorough description of the trail, which includes some useful waypoints to program into a GPS, you can find it here.
Additional information is available in this well-written Wikipedia article on the crash.
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Land Manager: USFS - Cibola National Forest Office