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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.