- The Cibola National Forest includes 1.6 million acres in the Datil, Gallinas, Magdalena, Bear, Manzano, Sandia, San Mateo and Zuni Mountains, with elevations ranging from 5,000 to 11,301 feet. Vegetation varies from desert, up through juniper, pine and spruce-fir forest.
Sandia Crest is the most popular scenic attraction on the forest and one you will not want to miss. You can ride America's longest aerial tram to the crest of Sandia Mountain and stop by the Four Seasons Visitor Center, or you can make the scenic drive up the east slope. The panoramic view from the crest observation point at 10,678 feet above sea level, is unequaled elsewhere in the state and is a "must see" for most visitors. The Tijeras Pueblo Ruins site, adjacent to the Sandia Ranger Station, is a popular year-round educational destination and offers several summer programs. 9,375 foot Capilla Peak is accessible by car. Mount Taylor, at 11,301 feet has a good road within a mile of the top. In wintertime, the Sandia District offers a downhill ski area, snow play area, and cross-country ski trails, open usually from the first good storms in December to about the middle of March. Other points of interest in the area include nearby Indian Pueblos, additional prehistoric ruins, ice caves and lava flows.
The Cibola has four designated Wilderness Areas: Sandia Mountain, Manzano Mountain, Withington and Apache Kid Wildernesses.
Recreation - The Cibola National Forest offers recreational opportunities in any season. The mountain scenery and cooler summer temperatures lure vacationers to enjoy camping, horseback riding, pack trips, fishing, and elk, deer, or turkey hunting. Winter activities include downhill and cross-country skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and snowmobiling.
CAMPING: Most campgrounds are more than an hour's drive from Albuquerque; Tajique or Fourth of July campgrounds on the Mountainair Ranger District are nearest and are approximately 50 miles from the Albuquerque city limits.
HUNTING AND FISHING: The Cibola National Forest has only limited fishing opportunities -- those are at McGaffey Lake near Gallup, New Mexico, Tajique Creek in the Manzanos and Las Huertas Creek in the Sandias. Some game animals in the Cibola National Forest include deer, elk, antelope and turkey.
OHV'S AND MOUNTAIN BIKES: While there are no trails specifically designated as jeep trails or motorcycle trails on the Cibola, there are numerous old woods routes and logging roads throughout the districts which may be enjoyed by mountain bike, motorcycle or jeep. Motorized and mechanized vehicles (including bicycles) are NOT permitted in any designated wilderness areas.
Climate - Climate on the Cibola varies greatly with elevation. The day to night temperature change is extreme, especially above 7,000 feet. Even in summer, nights are cool to cold depending on elevation. You'll find snow at timberline until June. Expect frequent afternoon showers in July and August. Winter brings snow which can be heavy in the higher elevations and temperatures can dip below zero. Sunny days are common however, even in the winter, with temperatures normally reaching into the 30's and 40's, or higher at the low elevations.
The Cibola National Forest is scattered in different segments, over the mountain ranges of central New Mexico. The Forest is headquartered in Albuquerque, with offices also in Magdalena, Grants, Mountainair and Tijeras. Interstates 40 and 25 run through the general area. The Cibola also administers National Grasslands in northeastern New Mexico, western Oklahoma, and northwestern Texas.