Gallup is quickly becoming the epicenter of a thriving ATV industry

The Zuni Mountain Trails System with over 80 km of trails winds through towering Ponderosa Pines and crosses the Continental Divide. (Courtesy of Brian Leddy/Adventure Gallup Beyond)

While other parts of the state have flashy trails for mountain biking, the area around Gallup is becoming a mountain biking beacon with a wide variety of trail experiences available, including the bike camping.

Headlining the Zuni Mountains Trails System, which has been an ongoing project for more than two decades, Gallup is quickly becoming the epicenter of a booming mountain bike industry.

About 50 miles of single track have been carved through the mountains of McKinley County, said Brian Leddy, president of Adventure Gallup & Beyond.

“At our end of the trail system, we have 50 miles of mountain biking, hiking and horseback riding trails, all non-motorized,” he said. “It’s a nice single track with separate trailheads so you can access it in different ways.”

Originally composed of user-built trails that the U.S. Forest Service eventually commissioned as an official trail system, the Zuni Mountain trails, including access points located approximately 20 miles from Gallup , south of Fort Wingate, near the old lumber town of McGaffey, Ledy says.

“Runners are going to find well-marked and signed non-motorized trails,” he said. “It’s in a ponderosa pine forest, so you ride among the tall pines in the shade. It’s mostly about 8,000 feet in elevation that fluctuates a bit, but it’s rated as easy to moderate trails. There are a few easy ones and a few difficult ones, but for the most part these trails will be fine for the average cyclist.

The area includes two serviced campgrounds, as well as an abundance of scattered campsites for those who enjoy biking and camping.

“This area is perfect for that,” Leddy said. “A lot of times I see people coming from the Albuquerque area and they just find a place. You are in the state forest, so you can park wherever you want and have some solitude and privacy. That’s the cool thing about the Zuni Mountains, it’s not crowded. There are not too many people. You can hike the trails without seeing anyone and for some people that’s a real bonus.

Additionally, an 18-mile connector road along the exposed McKenzie Ridge is under construction.

“It’s going to be a big, epic point-to-point track,” he said.

It will join what will eventually be the Twin Springs system, so in total there will be over 100 miles of connected trails.

Although Twin Springs’ developed trails are still in the developmental stage, Leddy said, there are certainly some primitive riding opportunities for true adventurers. There are miles of cow trails, double-lane forest roads and single-lane forest corridors.

There is no signage and the roads are unimproved and dirt so rain will quickly turn them into mudslides. This area is closed from December to mid-April due to unpredictable weather conditions on the Continental Divide.

In Gallup itself, the High Desert Trail system has 22 miles of trails over rugged and exposed terrain.

“It’s fast and smooth,” Leddy said. “It’s definitely beginner friendly, although Third Mesa can be difficult for beginners. The best thing about it is that it’s close to town. It’s easy and quick to access the trails.

Organized into three loops with connectors, the trail landscape also includes unique rock carvings, metal sculptures, sundials, and other interesting features.

The Gallup North Hogback Trail requires a bit of biking at times as it climbs to a high degree through switchbacks and some rock steps at the start. At the top of the ridge, however, a more moderate trail heads south, although it still includes some hiking sections. Most of the trail though is seat friendly and comes with great views and wide open spaces. The trail includes some steep and technical spots, so be careful when crossing.

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