Western Trips

Western Trips

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Hiking in New Mexico

Hiking in New Mexico is a fun activity to add to your western vacation. The state's topography along with the national and state parks and monuments are a hikers dream. Whether you're a novice or highly experienced hiker, New Mexico has a trail for you. Some of these are scenic and some are both scenic and quite historical.In fact, the Santa Fe area of Northern New Mexico is thought to be a hikers paradise. Hiking in New Mexico is just about for everyone and offers the full range of trails...easy to difficult.

In this article we want to highlight a few of the more popular and scenic hikes in Northern New Mexico. By all means, this list and description represents only a tiny sample of the Northern New Mexico's hiking and biking trails. The sample of New Mexico hiking trails described below all excellent day hiking routes and are easy to moderate in rating.

Some Interesting Trails

big tesuque trail in new mexico
Big Tesuque Trail
The Big Tesuque Trail- The trail begins at the Big Tesuque Campground on the Santa Fe Ski Basin Road (NM 475). This is about 12 miles north of Santa Fe in the Santa Fe National Forest and on the right side of the road. The trail begins on the other side of the road from the campground.

This is the Aspen Fir area of the beautiful Sangre de Cristo Mountains. This is a good day hike trail which is suitable spring through autumn. During autumn it's very popular for those wanting to see the golden aspen leaves that cover this part of the mountain.This is a 7.5 mile hike which is mostly downhill with a change in elevation of about 2,400 feet. You would want to leave a car at the Chamisa trailhead which is about 6 miles from the center of Santa Fe. This is considered a moderate hike.

aspen vista hiking trail santa fe
Aspen Vista Trail
Aspen Vista Trail- The Aspen Vista Trail starts at an elevation of 9,800 feet and ends in six miles at Tesuque Peak.The trailhead is located along the Hyde Park Road also called the Santa Fe Ski Basin Road (NM 475). The trailhead location is 13 miles north of the Santa Fe Plaza.

 This is a wide trail and actually a road which is closed to vehicles and to snowmobiles. It is an excellent cross country ski and snow shoe trail. Aspen Vista is another excellent trail to view the beautiful gold aspen leaves as they change to a golden color in early autumn. The best aspen viewing time is usually the first week or so of October. Similar to the Big Tesuque Trail, the Aspen Vista Trail traverses the Santa Fe National Forest in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

chamisa trail in santa fe national forest
A view from the Chamisa Trail
Chamisa Trail-This is another great New Mexico hiking and mountain bike trail close in to Santa Fe. The trailhead starts at Hyde Park road (NM 475) and is 2.5 miles in length. The trail eventually joins into the Winsor Trail. At the start there are two trails. The one you want to take is the one that immediately begins to climb. Your elevation will go from about 7,800 feet to 8,500 feet. The trail is rated as advanced and has steep grades but is still very good for mountain bikes. Just as with the two trails listed above, the Chamisa Trail is an excellent day hiking route. It's also an excellent trail for taking your dog along. When you reach 8,500 feet the trail will start to go downhill until it joins up with the Winsor Trail. The downhill portion goes into the Big Tesuque Creek basin where you can enjoy wildflowers and a beautiful green meadow.

The Chamisa trailhead location is the parking area on the left side of Hyde Park Road aboutsix miles north of the Santa Fe Plaza. You will be interested in our Western Trips story and photos on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route.

cerrillos hills state park trails
The trails at Cerrillos Hills State Park
Cerrillos  Hills State Park Trails- Hiking in New Mexico can be a historic adventure as well as a scenic trek. This is a lower elevation group of trails located with the Cerrillos Hills State Park just north of the town of Cerillos. Cerrillos was a booming mining town located along the popular Turquoise Trail just south of Santa Fe. The historic mining town of Cerrillos itself is about 25 miles south of Santa Fe. This was once a big mining town with four hotels and more than a dozen saloons. The terrain is quite a bit different as compared with the two higher elevation hikes described above. Rather than a hike through the woods, the Cerrillos Hills cover rocky rolling terrain. There are about 5 miles of trails at Cerrillos Hills.

One of the fun things about the trails at Cerrillos Hills is that they pass by old abandoned and closed up mines from the 1800's. Along many of the trails, hikers will discover many sealed mines, most with interpretive signs providing information about the region during its heyday. Mining in this region included gold, silver, turquoise, zinc and lead. The views on these well maintained trails are terrific.

Additional photos and articles you'll enjoy on our Western Trips site are Historic Cerrillos New Mexico and Gila County Arizona History and Hiking and Hiking the Crescent Moon Ranch Trail in Sedona Arizona

The two books listed for sale at the top of  this article are among the excellent hiking trail books on the market. In addition to the New Mexico trails described in the Falcon Guide, the Pacific Crest Trail hike is another very adventurous journey you'll find quite interesting.

Hiking in New Mexico is a fun addition to any western road trip planner. More information regarding the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the Santa Fe National Forest and Hyde Memorial State Park can be found at New Mexico Parks and at the USDA Forest Service Santa Fe National Forest site.

(Photos from author's private collection)

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