100 Hikes in New Mexico  by Craig Martin

100 Hikes in New Mexico Guide Book

by Craig Martin (The Mountaineers Books)
100 Hikes in New Mexico  by Craig Martin
New Mexico offers a surprising variety of terrain to explore: from the broad, dry valleys of the Chihuahuan Desert to the remarkable alpine lakes of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, and from the famous caverns of the Guadalupe Mountains to the rugged high desert of the Gila Wilderness. In this completely updated guide to New Mexico's hiking trails, veteran hiker and outdoor writer Craig Martin reveals the best scenery and historic sites to visit, whether you want a half- or full-day hike or a multiday backpacking trip.

© 2010 Craig Martin/The Mountaineers Books. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "100 Hikes in New Mexico" Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 100.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 100.

A hike at White Sands is a unique experience. This huge sand pile is composed of gypsum, not the more common quartz. Gypsum sand is softgrained and smooth, giving these dunes a different, pleasant feel to bare feet. The fine sand also makes for easy animal tracking. The gypsum weathers out of the ancient seabed rocks of surrounding mountains. It is dissolved and transported by runoff, accumulating in Lake Lucero in the western part of the monument. The gypsum precipitates out of the evaporating lake water and is deposited on the lake bottom. In this desert environment, the lake is completely dry most of the year. Strong, westerly winds then push the gypsum eastward into large dunes.
Three Rivers, NM - Hiking - Trail Length: 5
Argentina Peak is one of the easiest destinations along the crest of the White Mountains, and the views from the trail are no less spectacular than those from other, higher locations. Cool and shady canyons lead up to and down from the grasslands along the crest, and water is consistently available at several springs along the way. Campsites are limited along this route, but a few scenic spots are located along the crest and at Spring Cabin.
Capitan, NM - Hiking - Trail Length: 6.5
A climb to the top of Atalaya Mountain on the outskirts of Santa Fe provides hikers with a unique view of the old city. The steep but pleasant trail leads through shady piñon and conifer forests to the summit. Santa Fe, with its historic plaza and sprawling new growth, spreads out below. A couple hours on this trail can be a welcome relief from the usual tourist fare in Santa Fe. Be aware that summer weekend mornings can bring a lot of hikers to the trail.
Santa Fe, NM - Hiking - Trail Length: 7
The National Recreation Trail over Baylor Pass roughly follows the route taken by the Confederate cavalry while engaging the Union infantry in 1862 during the Civil War. Near Las Cruces, Colonel John Baylor was attacked by Union troops under Major Isaac Lynde. Baylor’s inferior force nonetheless held its ground against the Union, and apparently, the sight of blood was enough to send Lynde packing out of nearby Fort Fillmore, a supply base he considered indefensible. Legend has it that, as the Union soldiers destroyed the supplies at Fort Fillmore in preparation for their retreat, they were loath to pour out a store of good medicinal whisky, instead using it to fi ll their canteens. As they retreated toward San Augustin Pass, the July sun and whisky soon dehydrated the marchers. Baylor easily caught Lynde’s stragglers, who readily surrendered for a drink of water. Then Baylor and several hundred mounted troops dashed across the pass that would bear his name, and surprised Lynde’s main Union force at San Augustin Spring, where Lynde accepted Baylor’s demand for unconditional surrender.
Cloudcroft, NM - Hiking - Trail Length: 5
The high meadows of the Pecos Wilderness make for scenic midsummer walks with few peers. Either Beattys Flats or Mora Flats make worthy destinations; better yet, combine the two into a multiday trip into the heart of the wilderness. The journey takes hikers through long grasslands painted with extraordinary wildflowers and leads to the Pecos River and smaller streams where hungry trout willingly sip flies on the fast currents.
Cowles, NM - Hiking - Trail Length: 12.5
The White Mountain Wilderness is one of the most attractive backcountry areas in New Mexico. The mountains are the highest in southern New Mexico, with rounded, gentle hills along the crest that give the range its characteristic beauty. Montane grasslands, an unusual vegetation type found in only a few areas of the state, cover much of the crest, providing the chance to walk an open ridgeline with extensive views of the range itself and of the valley and canyons below. The geology also creates a well-watered range with many springs just below the crest. Campsites are plentiful in the grasslands.
Ruidoso, NM - Hiking - Trail Length: 9.25
The Big Tesuque Trail is the forgotten link in the extensive trail system on the west face of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains near Santa Fe. Hikers flock to nearby trails, but Big Tesuque is usually an excellent choice for a walk in solitude.
Santa Fe, NM - Hiking - Trail Length: 8
The sprawling El Malpais National Monument and National Conservation Area are jointly administered by the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management. They feature some of the most recent lava fl ows in North America, perhaps as young as 3,000 years old.
Grants, NM - Hiking - Trail Length: 2
In art-rich New Mexico, the Bisti–De-Na-Zin Wilderness is the only gallery dedicated to a mud swamp. The duck-billed dinosaurs who lumbered across the muck 70 million years ago would be flabbergasted to see what’s become of their claustrophobic swamp. Gone are the braided streams, giant turtles, and tree ferns; in their stead are rainbow-colored slopes of shale—the erstwhile swamp mud—dotted with living matter turned to stone.
Farmington, NM - Hiking - Trail Length: 10
Mesa Montosa is part of the northern boundary of the basin of Mesozoic rocks surrounding the Rio Chama. On the way to the mesa top, a short side trip leads to Box Canyon. The spur dead-ends at a pour-off—a normally dry waterfall—about 200 feet high and with a noticeable overhang. In the Box, hikers are surrounded on all sides by yellow rock cliffs. Throughout late fall to early spring, seeps in the cliff face are frozen, decorating the alcove with pillars of ice. Beyond Box Canyon, the trail climbs through time as well as altitude, beginning with Jurassic Entrada Sandstone, which is the cliff-forming rock of the canyon walls. The yellow, green, and purple muds of the Morrison Formation form a broad bench above the cliffs. Finally, the trail climbs the next cliff, the Cretaceous Dakota Sandstone.
Espanola, NM - Hiking - Trail Length: 10
At Broad Canyon the foothills are softly stroked with creosote bush and the rolling slopes are slashed with cliffs of tan volcanic rocks tilted this way and that. For those who enjoy something a bit different, it is a place of solitude and wild exploring. Both Valles and Broad canyons are narrow defiles filled with rocky delights. A hike at White Sands is a unique experience. This huge sand pile is composed of gypsum, not the more common quartz. Gypsum sand is soft-grained and smooth, giving these dunes a different, pleasant feel to bare feet. The fine sand also makes for easy animal tracking. The gypsum weathers out of the ancient seabed rocks of surrounding mountains. It is dissolved and transported by runoff, accumulating in Lake Lucero in the western part of the monument.
Alamogordo, NM - Hiking - Trail Length: 9
Although the summit of Caballo Mountain is closed to public access, the landmark meadow on its south fl ank provides one of the most extensive views in the Jemez Mountains. The view across the Rio Grande rift to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains is ample reward for the long, steep climb to the top. The journey to Caballo is made more challenging by the fact that the trail crosses Guaje Canyon—a 900-foot ascent on the return. The trip leads through several high meadows, which are prime elk habitat, and offers viewpoints into the Valles Caldera National Preserve along the way.
Los Alamos, NM - Hiking - Trail Length: 14
The Great Plains may seem an unusual setting for volcanic activity, but the Raton-Clayton volcanic field covers more than two hundred square miles and holds about one hundred volcanic centers from which lava has flowed during the past 8 million years. These volcanoes mark the easternmost limit of recent volcanic activity in the United States. The trail to the lakes is surprisingly gentle, threading through deep conifer forest up and above the canyon of the East Fork of the Red River. Ample campsites are available along the way, and this beautiful area invites more than a day trip. Both lakes host good populations of trout and are popular destinations for anglers.
Red River, NM - Hiking - Trail Length: 1
It’s a curious twist on the old disappearing stream trick. At The Sinks in Wyoming, the Lost River in Idaho, and a score of other spots, visitors can watch a river suddenly disappear into the gravels of its bed. At Cave Creek in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the stream in question makes a detour into a cave to flow a hundred yards inside the bordering mountain, then trickles out into the sunlight again. Limestone is the key here, and water seeping into fractures in the rock gradually formed the surprisingly deep caves. Some of the stream water is perhaps diverted within the caves to travel a system of fissures and contribute flow to springs farther down the creek.
Santa Fe, NM - Hiking - Trail Length: 5
The Rio Grande has carved a gorge 60 miles long and up to 1,000 feet deep through the thick sheets of lava that emanated from the volcanoes of the Taos Plateau. The river within the gorge remains wild and free-flowing, fed by snowmelt in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains and by thousands of springs within the gorge itself. The basalt walls are steep, and house-sized boulders have tumbled from them to line the river or break the current as in-stream rocks. The polished rocks at streamside are slick, and the water off the banks is often ten feet deep. Ducks, mergansers, geese, and bald eagles are frequent sights along the river.
Cowles, NM - Hiking - Trail Length: 7.4
The oldest recorded mining operations in the Southwest were located at the nondescript mound of Mount Chalchihuitl in the Cerrillos Hills. At least 1,500 years ago, Ancestral Pueblo people used sharp sticks and shaped rocks to extract turquoise from the volcanic outcrops on the low mountain. Spanish colonizers at Santa Fe mined the colorful rock in the seventeenth century. In the 1880s, silver and zinc ores brought a new wave of miners to foothills above the Rio Galesteo.
Cerrillos, NM - Hiking - Trail Length: 5
In the Jemez Mountains, geography and geology combine to create an unusual plant community that adds a distinctive feature to the scenic quality of the range. Volcanic soils on young peaks can support dense mixed-conifer forest and do so on three sides of the summits. The intense southwestern sun beats directly on the south-facing slopes, resulting in warm, dry conditions much of the year. Forest vegetation has diffi culty growing on the south slopes, and many of the highest peaks in the eastern Jemez support extensive, roughly triangular grasslands on their sunniest side. Cerro Grande (Big Hill) has one of the largest montane grasslands in the Jemez.
Los Alamos, NM - Hiking - Trail Length: 4
At 5,200 acres, the Dome Wilderness is the smallest wilderness area in the southwest. The Dome sits on the more remote edges of the adjacent Bandelier Wilderness and offers considerable solitude and scenery to adventurous hikers. Named for St. Peters Dome, the highest point in the area, the wilderness area encompasses portions of the isolated Sanchez Canyon, a scenic gem with colorful walls, lush vegetation, and a desert waterfall. The dome of Cerro Picacho offers outstanding views of the southern portion of the Jemez Mountains as well as of the fi nger mesas of Bandelier National Monument. FR 289, the approach road, is closed each year from winter to May 15, so this is a summer and fall hike.
Costilla, NM - Hiking - Trail Length: 8
In the heart of the Jemez Mountains, the Valles Caldera National Preserve includes six major grassland valleys. The valleys are located in an immense volcanic collapse crater, the Valles Caldera. The valles were well-known for their scenic beauty, and for ninety years efforts to transform the ranchland into a public park failed. Finally in 2000, a political compromise created the Valles Caldera National Preserve. The enabling legislation required the former ranch be an experiment in public land management, and that it remain a working ranch as more traditional recreational activities took place. The preserve is managed by a board of trustees who have to date taken a unique approach to access to public land. Access fees are charged for very specifi c activities, and private vehicles are not permitted beyond the recreation staging area. Only a few hiking trails are open and visitors must ride a shuttle to trailheads. Hikers are required to stay on the established trails, and no overnight use is permitted. The result is hikers can enjoy a scenic walk with the knowledge that only a limited number of other visitors are on the preserve.
White Rock, NM - Hiking - Trail Length: 6.5
Cinder cones are huge piles of material spewed from a volcanic vent. Nothing fancy—just bits of rock that were shot into the air and then fell nearby to form a conical mound. Most of the rocks are pebble-sized and called cinders; larger rocks shot higher may cool slightly on the trip down and form volcanic bombs, distinguished by their striated appearance. The resulting piles can rise several hundred feet, forming round hills with small craters in the center. The Chain of Craters Wilderness in El Malpais holds more than two dozen cinder cones that rise as much as 500 feet from the surrounding plain, and the Continental Divide Trail meanders through the chain for 20 miles. By setting up a shuttle, this relatively easy hike through the waterless piñon-juniper woodland and sparse ponderosa pine stands surrounding the craters makes an exciting two-day backpack; other hikers may simply want to explore the craters as an out-and-back trip from the northern parking area.
Grants, NM - Hiking - Trail Length: 20