With a new Rio Grande del Norte National Monument and wilderness area, as well as millions of acres of land managed by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, Northern New Mexico offers exciting opportunities to hike, camp and ride with stunning, diverse landscapes as a backdrop. Below is a partial list of Taos-area trails with brief descriptions of each.
When hiking, biking or riding, be sure to be prepared! Bring a friend, a map, water and extra layers, and let someone know where you’re going. Show courtesy to your fellow forest users, wildlife and the landscape. Dispose of waste properly, and pack out anything you take in.
The recently designated Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Area is home to steep trails, stunning peaks and opportunities for solitude in high meadows. Though getting into the high country can be a challenge, and hikers should prepare for sudden changes in weather, the payoff is worth the pain.
Off of Highway 150, on the way to Taos Ski Valley, trailheads on the north side of the road lead to Lobo Peak. Yerba, Manzanita, Italianos and Gavilan trails follow canyons to the ridge, from which the 12,115-foot Lobo Peak can be reached. To reach Lobo Ridge, the trails range in length from 2.5 miles (Gavilan) to 4.2 miles (Manzanita). Hike a bit farther north from Lobo Peak to reach Flag Mountain, which can also be accessed from the Lama Canyon and San Cristobal Canyon trails to the west.
Between Questa and Red River sits the Columbine Campground and Columbine Creek Trail, which meets the Gavilan Trail atop Lobo Ridge after more than eight miles of hiking. The Deer Creek Trail, part of the Columbine-Hondo Recreation Trail, as well as the Placer Fork and Willow Fork trails split from the Columbine Creek Trail to the east and lead to the 12,700-foot Gold Hill. Gold Hill can also be reached from Long Canyon Trail, accessed from the Taos Ski Valley parking lot, as well as from Goose Lake, which can be accessed by off-highway vehicles from the eight-mile-long Goose Creek Trail, just southeast of Red River.
Wheeler Peak Wilderness
Williams Lake and Wheeler Peak, accessed from the Taos Ski Valley parking lot near the Twining Campground, are some of the Taos area’s most popular hiking destinations. At 13,100 feet, Wheeler Peak is the highest point in New Mexico. A moderate, two-mile hike will take you to the 11,000-foot Williams Lake, surrounded by an amphitheater of rugged peaks. Another 2,000 vertical feet in less than two miles of switchback-heavy trail will take more intrepid hikers to Wheeler Peak. The Peak can also be reached by way of the seven-mile-long Bull-of-the-Woods trail, also accessed from the Twining campground, as well as from the Lost Lake and East For trails. Those trails can be accessed south of Highway 578, which forks at the Red River junction. Forest Road 58 goes to the Lost Lake Trail and 58A to the East Fork Trail.
Latir Peak Wilderness
Latir Peak Wilderness sits just north of Wheeler Peak Wilderness. The rugged area culminates in several peaks over 12,000 feet high, including Cabresto Peak, Venado Peak and Virsylvia Peak. High-alpine lakes, including Cabresto and Heart lakes, also sit within the wilderness area, which is bordered on the north by private land. Trails in the wilderness area can present hikers with significant challenges, including steep elevation gains and losses.
The wilderness can be accessed from the west, near El Rito. Cabresto Campground, which sits above Cabresto Lake, can be accessed by motorized vehicle on Forest Roads 134 and 134A, which include about two miles of “primitive road.” Heart Lake is approximately a four-mile hike from Cabresto Lake using Lake Fork Trail #82.
Taos Canyon (Devisadero, etc)
Taos offers some top-notch hikes near town, as well. The ever-popular Devisadero trail consists of a sun-exposed, five-mile loop of moderate difficulty. Parking is available at El Nogal Campground, across the street from the trailhead off of U.S. 64, or Kit Carson Road, just east of the intersection with Paseo del Cañon, or Highway 585.
The South Boundary Trail is also accessed from El Nogal Campground. At more than 20 miles long, it is well-suited to mountain biking.
Farther southeast of Taos, along Highway 518 on the way to Peñasco, hikers can enjoy the moderate, four-mile-long Amole Canyon Trail or the more difficult Comales Canyon Trail. Comales Canyon ascends through rocky terrain and aspen stands to nearly 11,000 feet.
Rio Grande del Norte National Monument – North
The freshly designated, 242,500-acre Rio Grande del Norte National Monument offers spectacular hiking along the Rio Grande Gorge, as well as around the volcanic features contained by the monument. These include Ute Mountain and Cerro de la Olla, which present unique challenges due to steep terrain and difficult trail-finding.
However, well-traveled trails into the Gorge give hikers opportunities for all levels of hiking (for a vehicle fee). North of Taos, west of Highway 522, a series of trails surrounds the Wild Rivers Visitor Center. La Junta Trail is a short but steep hike to the confluence of the Rio Grande and the Red River. Campers can take advantage of campsites by the parking lot or in the Gorge.
Big Arsenic Springs Trail is a moderate, one-mile hike to cold-water springs; Little Arsenic Trail sits to the south and is also about a mile each way. River Trail runs along the Gorge and connects the aforementioned trails over the course of its 2.5 miles.
The Red River Fault Trail is mountain bike friendly. It consists of a moderate 5-mile loop. El Aguaje Trail is less than a mile long and takes hikers to the Red River. The Pescado Trail is nearly two miles one-way and allows access to the Red River Fish Hatchery.
The Chiflo Trail is an easy half-mile to the Rio Grande, while the difficult two-mile Guadalupe Mountain Trail contains a thousand-foot change in elevation that allows for excellent views. The Rinconada Loop Trail is an easy, six-mile loop around the rim that is bicycle friendly. The East Rim Trail is an easy, 3.5-mile-one-way trail that skirts the rim of the Gorge. Las Vistas De Questa Trail is seven miles one-way, while the moderate Punto de Coyote Loop Trail is less than four miles long but offers two scenic overlooks.
Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument – South
The West Rim Trail runs north and south near the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge on U.S. 64, northwest of Taos. The trail is relatively flat and runs nine miles one-way, making it ideal for mountain biking.
La Vista Verde Trail, off Highway 567 just north of the Taos Junction Bridge near Pilar, is just over a mile each way; this easy trail offers great views of the Rio Grande Gorge.
The Petaca Point Trail takes hikers on a four-mile trek from above the Taos Junction Bridge to the confluence of Arroyo Petaca and the Rio Grande above the Petaca Campground.
A series of Taos Valley Overlook Trails snakes through the flat brush east of the Gorge, off of Highway 68 near Mile Marker 35. About 20 miles of trails in the area offer great views of the Gorge and mountains.
The Slide Trail is just over a mile one-way and can be accessed from the end of County Road 110, which heads west from Highway 68. The difficult Picuris Trail is less than a mile long and is located just east of the Taos Junction Bridge; hikers on the trail end up on the east rim of the Gorge.
Las Minas Trail is an easy half-mile from the Rio Grande Gorge Visitor Center off of Highway 68 near Pilar. Hikers are rewarded with good views of the Gorge from an overlook. And La Senda del Medio Trail starts at the Pilar Campground, runs along the east side of the Rio Grande and connects with the other campgrounds on the river. About 2.5 miles one-way, the moderate trail also offers good views of the Gorge.
Carson National Forest
Camino Real Ranger District
The 4.4-mile-long 70 Moto Forest Trail is open to off-highway vehicles, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling. It can be accessed from Forest Road 76, south of Angel Fire, and from Valle Escondido. The trail accesses Osha Meadow and Osha Pass.
The Agua Piedra Handicap Trail 6 is just short of a mile long and is open for hiking. It is located on Highway 518, east of the Agua Piedra Campground, and can be accessed from the Agua Piedra barrier-free fishing day-use site along the Rio Pueblo.
Agua Piedra Trail 19A is open to hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. The trailhead is located in the Agua Piedra Campground, and the trail is non-motorized below the junction with Trail 22.
The 4.2-mile-long Agua Sarca Trail #16 is open to hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking. The trail, listed as easy to intermediate, can be accessed from the north side of Highway 518 or Forest Road 722. It includes a series of meadows and offers opportunities for solitude.
The information listed above was provided by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.
For a full list and brief descriptions of the trails in the Carson National Forest, compiled by ranger district, visit www.fs.usda.gov/activity/carson/recreation/hiking.
For a list comprising trails in the Santa Fe National Forest, visit www.fs.usda.gov/activity/santafe/recreation/hiking.
For more information about the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument or other BLM-held lands, visit www.blm.gov/programs/recreation/recreation-activities/new-mexico.