Mountain & Road Biking in New Mexico

Wide expanses of New Mexico offer some of the best bicycling opportunities in the world, whether your preference is street or trail. While there are thousands of accessible locations to ride in the Land of Enchantment, space limitations have forced us to offer only a handful of possibilities.
Local bicycle shops and chambers of commerce offer a wealth of further information about where to pedal for pleasure. Also, since most of New Mexico is still rural, roads might not be marked or could be on private land.

Mountain Bike Rides

“...Wide expanses of New Mexico offer some of the best bicycling opportunities in the world, whether your preference is street or trail. ”

NORTHWEST
Mount Taylor Ride
This out-and-back route follows part of the annual Grants to Mount Taylor Winter Quadrathlon, an annual bike-run-ski-snowshoe race from the town to the top of Mount Taylor then back in reverse order. Drive from Grants on Lobo Canyon Road, N.M. 547, a paved stretch that makes up the cycling leg of the quadrathlon, to milepost 13. At that point it becomes a maintained dirt road, FS 239. It’s at this point that you begin your ride. You will pedal through mixed conifer at an elevation of about 7,600 feet, moving into ponderosa pines and rocky canyon outcrops on the flanks of Mount Taylor. The route is an overall climb going out. It dips into several canyons and pops back out onto ridges between drainages. Medium to large-size wildlife can be seen in the area, including wild turkey, elk and deer.  Eight miles up tum right into Spud Patch, just off the main road. Find some shade along the bluff, enjoy a break, and keep an eye out for critters drifting into the meadow to feed. Then enjoy a leisurely descent back to your car.

NORTH CENTRAL
South Boundary Trail
The 23-mile South Boundary Trail traverses the mountains from Angel Fire to Taos. It’s a jewel of an all-day excursion in a setting of stunning mountain scenery, but this ride requires (at a minimum) an intermediate level of ability and stamina. It’s physically demanding with a hard four-mile climb at the start near Black Lake, south of Angel Fire. Once you finish the climb, it is an up-and-down trail with a long final descent back toward Taos. Following Carson National Forest Trail No. 164, the route starts at an elevation of 8,700 feet, topping out at 10,800 feet. It rolls on as single- track through spruce and aspen forests, winds through Garcia Park and Paradise Park, and offers sweeping views from the Paradise overlook. The trail finally leads to EI Nogal Campground at 7,200 feet on U.S. 64, just east of Taos. This ride requires plenty of food, water, tools and good equipment. 
West Rim Trail
The West Rim Trail tracks along he top of the 700-foot-deep Rio Grande Gorge near Taos. Start from the rest area on U.S. 64 just west of the bridge. Suitable for beginners, the trail presents only minor ups and downs. Much of it is relatively smooth, but loose basalt rocks will rattle wheels in places. There is not shade; ride early during warm weather. The trail ends at a parking spot one-half mile north of NM 567. Round trip is 18 miles.

NORTHEAST
The Rock Wall
The Rock Wall is a ride that’s well suited for those camping out in this area of New Mexico. The ride’s spine slices through the Valle Vidal unit of Carson National Forest like a shark’s fin in an out-and-back route that follows the west side of the Valle. The same roads offer a demanding loop option. Some 100,000 acres of high meadows lapped by tongues of timbered ridges, dominated by Little Costilla Peak and Ash Mountain, the Valle Vidal ranks as one of the best public-land elk habitats in the country.  To reach this ride from the east, take U.S. 64 five miles east out of Cimarron, then turn north on FS 1950 about 35 miles to the FS 1910 turnoff (Note: FS 1950 probably will be closed during calving season Jan.-Mar. 31). Driving these distances makes a combined bike-camp trip a good plan. Campsites include Cimarron, Shuree and McCrystal nearer the east side. To reach the west side entrance, take N.M. 196 and FS 1950 east from Costilla then Amalia. It’s 17 miles to the area boundary and 10 more miles to FS 1910 and on to the starting point at Cimarron campground, where you can stay overnight.

SOUTHEAST
Fresnal Canyon Loop
Fresnal Canyon, a loop ride near Alamogordo, follows easy-to-find, maintained U.S. Forest Service roads and takes riders through the historic villages of La Luz and High Rolls in the Sacramento Mountain foothills. From La Luz village, follow La Luz Canyon Road, FS 162B, for three miles to its junction with Fresnal Canyon Road, FS 162C, where you start the ride. Fresnal Canyon cuts in from the southeast and you pedal up-canyon three miles, staying on FS 162C past its intersection with FS 5576. The route takes an easterly shift for the next three miles into High Rolls. This southern end of the loop dips through High Rolls’ cherry and apple orchards, almost touching U.S. 82. From High Rolls, resume riding back northwest and north on FS 162 about three miles to La Luz Canyon Road. Turn west and you’ll soon be on asphalt and flying down to the start. Net elevation gain is more than 1,500 feet.

Roswell/Bottomless Lakes/Round-trip
Bottomless Lakes State Park is an intriguing mix of seven lakes along a mesa. From Roswell, head east on U.S. 380 nine miles and turn right south on NM 409. Ride seven miles to the visitor center at Lea Lake. Take a swim, if you like. The park road loops up to the mesa top and back out. Round trip from Roswell is 35 miles.

SOUTHWEST
Wagon Road Loop
Wagon Road Loop near Fort Bayard is an easy ride. Trails run through Fort Bayard Wildlife Refuge north of the fort.  Vegetation is pinon-juniper mixed, and Ponderosa pine at higher elevations. Elk and numerous wildlife species call the refuge home. The four-mile Wagon Road Loop is the rider’s starter kit. Several old roads, including historically interesting trails, lace the area, offering casual exploration or longer, more physically and technically challenging rides.
Fort Bayard is nine miles east of Silver City on the north side of U.S.  180. Go through the fort area on FS 536 about 4.5 miles to the Gila National Forest Service administrative site. Here, veer left and park at the nearby National Recreation Trail parking lot. The loop starts there, goes back to and then north on FS 536. It swings left for a mile’s climb, winds around Castle Knob to join the old Wood Haul Road and then drops south. At 3.8 miles, it heads left on single-track to the start. Elevations range from 6,500 to 6,850 feet and there are some rocky patches.
“A” Mountain Loop Trail
“A” Mountain near Las Cruces gets its name from the whitewashed rocks shining from Tortugas Mountain on the southeastern edge of the city. The 4.5-mile loop around the mountain’s base offers a mix of hard-pack, sandy washes and a few rocky patches. It’s just tough enough for an intermediate or stronger rider to push hard for a quick morning’s workout, or for a beginner to learn on. This is desert riding where jackrabbits and roadrunners outrun you through the creosote bush, mesquite and prickly pear cactus. Follow University Avenue east from 1-25 onto Dripping Springs Road. There’s a dirt lot pullout about a mile from the interstate. From there ride east to start the loop. Expect a rocky climb on a primitive road at the beginning. It changes to single-track and becomes more hard packed in less than a mile. Follow the well-worn path, keeping the mountain on your right for a clockwise loop. To extend the ride, reverse it-it looks and feels different going in the opposite direction.

CENTRAL
Las Huertas Canyon
Las Huertas Canyon is a ride beginners can nibble at or one that experts can swallow whole. Start near the cottonwoods lining the Rio Grande and end, if you like, at the top of Sandia Crest. The full 22-mile route includes stretches of pavement and a maintained dirt road. While physically demanding, with some 5,700 feet of climbing, the route can be broken into sections for those wanting less of a workout.
Start at an elevation of 5,000 feet along the bosque at N.M. 44 in the town of Bernalillo. There’s plenty of parking and the Rio Grande is nearby, as well as plenty of restaurants. Head east toward the Sandias, crossing 1-25 via an overpass. Pedal straight to the village of Placitas on N.M. 165, which is paved. Once past the village the road turns to dirt and the road name changes to FS 16 at the Cibola National Forest boundary. You are at an elevation of 6,100 feet and 10 miles from your car. If you park in Placitas instead, you cut that starting distance in half, at least.
You pedal through the northern side of the Sandias along the canyon bottom marked by prairie grasses and pinion-juniper. As you pedal upward, the vegetation begins to change to cool-weather ponderosa pine. Sandia Man Cave is located in this seven-mile section and makes for an interesting stop. The dirt road ends at the junction of FS 16 and N.M. 536 at an elevation of 8,700 feet. For those of you who want to polish your knobbies on asphalt, turn right and pedal five more hard-earned miles to Sandia Crest at 10,700 feet. Your reward is spectacular views of the Rio Grande Valley and Mount Taylor to the west and the Jemez Mountains to the north. This is a daylong ride, but there are a number of places to top off your water bottles along the way and there’s a restaurant at the crest.  Cycling the dirt-only stretch shortens the ride and climb considerably.



SAFETY

Whether you choose to ride a bicycle on the road or trail, think safety first. Always pack rain gear; always ride single file on roadways and beware of fast traffic from in front and behind; know that dehydration is common; and carry a first aid kit, food and repair kit, especially when biking off road. Use common sense, practice safety and follow laws and regulations. Consult local bike shops, officials and riders. Ride in groups. Plan, prepare use your head and count only on yourself.

Road Bike Rides

“...Local bicycle shops and chambers of commerce offer a wealth of further information about where to pedal for pleasure. ”

NORTH WEST
Chaco Culture National Historical Park Loop
There are several ways from the highway to reach Chaco Culture National Historical Park, where, cyclists will find eight miles of flat, paved road that’s ideal for families wanting to add some exercise to their sightseeing. Begin your bicycle tour at the park’s visitor center. Ride west and follow the signs that direct you around the eight-mile circuit tour.  Along the tour there are bicycle racks at the various archaeological sites, like the impressive ruins of Pueblo Bonito and Casa Rinconada.  Park your bike and walk through these historic structures. The circuit ends back at the visitor center. For those who want to ride farther, pedal the short distance to pavement’s end on the road running east past the campground and the road leading to the park’s southern entrance. This adds several extra miles to the trip. Or ride the loop again. You will be surprised at what you missed your first time around. There are mountain bike riding opportunities at the park and park employees can provide detailed information.

NORTH CENTRAL
Santa Fe/Ski Area/Round-trip
Cycling from Santa Fe’s Fort Marcy Complex to parking lot at the Santa Fe Ski Area is a ride that excites cyclists who like to track their mileage and elevation gain. It’s a 30-mile round trip up N.M. 475, better known as Hyde Park Road, to the ski basin and back to Fort Marcy. You start at elevation of 7,040 feet and climb to 10,300 feet-an elevation gain of 3,260 feet. Completing the full 30-mile ride isn’t for the hearted. As you head toward the ski area you pass Hyde Memorial State Park, the halfway point and a great place to turn around if tired. There are numerous and picnic sites nearby. The two-mile ride through the park is the steepest section of the road. Once through the park, you enter Santa Fe National Forest where the grade is less, but the higher altitude starts to take its toll. Several short downhill sections offer only a momentary break from the steady climb. A good place to stop is at Aspen Vista, a major pullout only a few miles from the summit. Always take a light jacket and keep an eye out for late afternoon summer storms. The ride down is fast, so check your brakes.

NORTHEAST
Raton/Sugarite Canyon/Round-trip
This 22-mile ride is moderately strenuous, but offers some spectacular views of the region. Park in one of the public parking areas along Railroad Avenue in Raton near the historic Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway Depot. Ride north on Railroad Avenue to North First Street. This becomes N.M. 72. Ride east on North First to the junction of N.M 526. This is about six miles from the start of the ride. Go north on N.M. 526 in Sugarite Canyon to Sugarite Canyon State Park. It is about 5 miles to the New Mexico and Colorado state line. Along the way, you ride past the remains of Sugarite Coal Camp. This camp was in operation between 1910 and 1941. You also pass Lake Alice and ride across the dam at Lake Maloya. Note the distinctive basalt caprock in the area. Bartlett Mesa is to the west and Horse Mesa is to the east. Turn around at the state line and return to Raton.

SOUTHEAST
Carlsbad Caverns/Sitting Bull Falls/Round-trip
This is a strenuous 70-mile ride that begins at Cavern City Airport on U.S. 62/180 just south of Carlsbad. Ride approximately four miles southwest on U.S. 62/180 to the junction of Eddy County Road 408. This is Dark Canyon Road. Tum right and begin this unusual ride through a deep, limestone-walled canyon near Carlsbad Caverns National Park. The road does not lead to the park but continues approximately to N.M. 137. Tum left on and ride approximately 2.5 miles to Lincoln National Forest Road 276.
Follow the signs on Lincoln National Forest Road 276 and ride the final 7.6 miles to Sitting Bull Falls. This unique canyon oasis is a popular recreation area. There is a waterfall coming over the top of the limestone canyon rim. A large pool lies at the base of the waterfall. There are numerous cave features in the limestone wall surrounding it. After taking a long, leisurely break, tum around and ride back to Carlsbad.

SOUTHWEST
Mesilla Valley/Round-trip
A gracious flat ride, this a cruise through the Mesilla Valley south of Las Cruces. Enjoy the rural countryside as you roll through the area’s famous pecan orchards. Park at New Mexico State University’s Pan American Center. Ride west on Stewart Street. Turn left on Union at the T, riding through the I-10 underpass and continuing on to the intersection with NM 28, just over three miles total. Turn left on NM 28 and pass through San Miguel to La Mesa for the turn around. Numerous other roads lace the valley. It is a 25-mile round trip from University to La Mesa and back.

CENTRAL
Sandia Peak Summit
A good number of road cyclists include this moderate-to-difficult ride east of Albuquerque on their list of favorites. Many local multi-stage and hill climb races utilize this 15- to 17-mile section of road with an elevation gain of about 3,000 feet. The ride begins at Cedar Crest on the east side of the Sandia Mountains.  Drive east out of Albuquerque on 1-40 then get off on the N.M. 14 exit to Cedar Crest. You can park your car anywhere along the state highway, but a recommended parking stop is at the U.S. Post Office. Otherwise, save a few miles of pedaling by parking at the Doc Long Campground on N.M. 536, which is the actual road to the summit.
If you begin in Cedar Crest, ride three to four miles (depending on where you park) to the junction of N.M. 14 and N.M. 536. Tum west up N.M. 536 and begin you ascent to the 10,678-foot summit at Sandia Peak. Cedar Crest sits at an elevation of about 6,800 feet and during the summer the weather is typically warm. But the higher you climb into the forested mountainside, the temperatures cool and often times drop rapidly. Be sure to bring a windbreaker for the fast descent back to Cedar Crest.

SAFETY

Whether you choose to ride a bicycle on the road or trail, think safety first. Always pack rain gear; always ride single file on roadways and beware of fast traffic from in front and behind; know that dehydration is common; and carry a first aid kit, food and repair kit, especially when biking off road. Use common sense, practice safety and follow laws and regulations. Consult local bike shops, officials and riders. Ride in groups. Plan, prepare use your head and count only on yourself.