1. Yapashi Ruins Trail
Distance: 6 miles one way
Perhaps the best trail on the plateau rises from Frijoles in
2. Dripping Springs Trail Complex
Distance: Short — distances vary
More info: The Bureau of Land Management website has all the details you’ll need to get there.
From a distance, the half million acres that make up Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument outside of
Park at the A. B. Cox Visitor Center, about 10 miles east of the I-25 University exit, and pick up a map. The trailheads depart from the visitor center, and all are under 2 miles long.
Dripping Springs climbs past the ruins of Colonel Eugene Van Patten’s Dripping Springs Resort. The colonel was a celebrated Confederate Civil War leader, and Pancho Villa once stayed here. Continue on past the ruins of several other old settlements. Follow the nearby Crawford and Filmore and La Cueva Trails and you’ll get incredible views of the Chihuahuan Desert below.
3. Gavilan Trail
Distance: 2.5 miles one way
In Northern New Mexico’s Taos County, the Gavilan Trail climbs into the mountains of the Columbine Hondo Wilderness. It’s the steepest and fastest route to the ridge connecting the highest peaks in the state, and the views stretch all the way into Colorado.
The trailhead itself sits at an elevation of 9,000 feet and traces the Gavilan (“hawk”) Creek into a forest of towering pines and spruce trees. Because of the elevation, wildflowers bloom for most of the summer — the route is decorated with geraniums, asters, wild raspberry, and wild strawberry.
From Gavilan Falls, the terrain becomes heart-thumpingly steep until you spill out into a flower-filled meadow dotted with aspens. This is the perfect place for lunch and a nap. But don’t turn around before finishing the climb to the nearly 12,000ft ridge, just another half hour hike up.
Be prepared for sudden thunderstorms even on the best summer day. Water, food, rain gear, and a quick-drying fleece sweater are recommended.
4. Sierra Ladrones
Distance: 7 miles round trip
More info: Bureau of Land Management
Southwest of Albuquerque rise the remote “thieves’ mountains.” 200 years ago, when Navajo and Apache raiders took sheep and cattle from the Spanish settlements along the Rio Grande, they frequently retreated here to avoid capture. Today the mountain range is a 45,000-acre wilderness study area under the auspices of the Bureau of Land Management.
There are no marked trails in the area and very little water, so to tackle this epic hike you’ll need to make sure you’re well prepared with food, water, maps, and perhaps camping equipment. Just in case.
There are two toothy summits to hit in the Ladrones, the tallest topping over 9,000 feet — it’s around a 7-mile round trip from the scrubby parking area. You can reach the high saddle between the peaks by way of a long fin extending to the northwest. The path isn’t terribly steep, but it’s rugged. Keep an eye out for rattlesnakes, mountain lions, and lightning.
5. La Luz Trail
Distance: 8 miles one way (take the
This is an incredibly popular trail — you don’t come here for solitude. Found on the west face of the Sandia Mountains, right on the edge of
One of the best things about this climb is that you experience multiple climatic zone and ecotones, which means rapid flora and fauna changes as you gain elevation. Oh, and then there’s the view. Not only is the city below impressive, you get to see all the surrounding mountains from up high: Mount Taylor to the west, the Sierra Ladrones in the south, and the snow-covered Sangre de Cristo mountains to the north. Yup, worth the effort.
6. Trampas Lakes Trail
Distance: 6 miles one way
Rating: Moderate to difficult
11,400 feet above sea level in the expansive Pecos Wilderness, just northeast of Santa Fe, the Trampas Lakes are an alpine, flower-strewn wonderland at the foot of jagged peaks capped in snow year round.
The trail climbs up a shaded canyon from Trampas Campground in Carson National Forest. While the trail grade is moderate, it never lets up. After several miles the canyon opens into a meadow created by a decades-old avalanche. From here it steepens into switchbacks until you come to a sign indicating the locations of the various lakes. Hidden Lake is to the west, the Trampas waters straight ahead.
This is a fantastic place to camp, explore the basin, and climb to the ridge above, but if you do so please respect these delicate ecosystems and set your camp at least 300 feet from the water. Also note this is designated wilderness — no motorized vehicles or mountain bikes.
7. Gila Loop Trail
Distance: 20 miles
More info: Check out The Gila Wilderness: A Hiking Guide by John A. Murray to plan your trip and visit the
Located in the
The trail leaves from
The loop can be accomplished in one very long day, but you’d be wise to take at least two days, camping along the way.
8. Zuni-Acoma Trail
Distance: 8 miles one way
For over 1,000 years, the pueblos of
For experienced hikers, 8 relatively flat miles may seem like a walk in the park. But be warned: This is a serious adventure that will take about 6 hours one way. The Zuni-Acoma Trail crawls over rugged lava flows and frequently disappears — it’s marked in many places by nothing more than simple rock cairns.
Located 16 miles south of Interstate 40, the western trailhead begins on NM-53. The eastern trailhead can be found on NM-117. Carry plenty of water, wear solid, reliable boots, and above all…enjoy.