The local mountain biking guide El Norte | Big spaces
In the growing world of mountain biking, Taos is overshadowed by neighboring destinations like Crested Butte and Moab which have achieved legendary status. But the reality is that northern New Mexico is home to a world-class riding that’s on the radar, and so much more is not yet. If you are willing to do without some luxuries, like … say, road signs or beacons … or a lot of infrastructure, you will be pleasantly surprised, if not totally delighted.
Here’s a quick rundown of the best of Taos. For more details on these trails, visit taosmtb.org/trails where your dirty friendly neighborhood bags have it all. Consider clicking “Join” while you’re at it to become a member and maybe win a new Yeti bike.
The Grand Rides – If you have a half-day or more, consider setting up a shuttle to experience New Mexico’s iconic epic, the South Boundary Trail. Start high above Angel Fire and hike over 20 miles (mostly) downhill through aspen groves, vast parks and finish with a very technical gnar just above town. Alternatively, the Lost Lake loop at the exit of the Red River is a high altitude lung breaker with both serious climbs and descents. Finally, the more remote Continental Divide Trail is accessible from Hopewell Lake and explored north or south. Chances are good that you have this famous trail primarily for yourself.
· Near the city – The Talpa Traverse is a highly addicting 3.5 mile intermediate roundtrip in the foothills above the Weimer district, a must-see for local cyclists. This unofficial trail in the Carson National Forest is used by hikers, cyclists, runners, and horses, but is not specifically designed for any of the above cases. Be sure to be considerate and remember that cyclists must yield to all other trail users. Honorable mention: Trail 18.
Ideal for beginners – The Rift Valley Resort is a great place to start biking in Taos. Start at the top of the “Slide Road” at the end of County Road 110 to find easy gravel sections, then continue to explore the full 10-12 mile loop, which includes more intermediate sections and wonderful views of the Río Grande Gorge. Honorable mention: West Rim / Petaca Point Trail.
Expert shredding – Downhill enthusiasts may want to invest in a lift ticket to the famous Angel Fire Bike Park or Taos Ski Valley, where the Green Chile Flow Trail marks the start of larger bike park projects. Another adventurous option without an elevator is to take the often overlooked North Boundary Trail. This old pack trail has made a comeback in recent years with long stretches of cruising forest that suddenly turn into confusing, gentle, and challenging descents punctuated with delicate switchbacks, boulders, and roots that aren’t your squad. After all this, the route joins the Divisadero loop, ending with another technical descent. Beware of hikers who will be amazed at the sight of anyone on wheels tackling the rocky escalator sections of this trail. Honorable mention: Ride Northside.
Hidden gem – North of Arroyo Hondo along the gorge, the Horsethief Mesa loop is totally unmarked, but well known to local bikers. It is the toughest and most rugged older brother in the Rift Valley with even more striking views. The BLM is currently considering developing the area into a full-fledged trail system. The agency is currently collecting public comments on an environmental assessment of the plan until June 14. Honorable Mention: We’re not saying it.
In the event of the forest being closed: We are in a period of drought and dry conditions have forced parts of the Carson National Forest to close in the past. If it closes, Rift Valley and Horsethief Mesa are on BLM land, as are the underrated Vistas de Questa trails near the Wild Rivers Recreation Area and the unofficial Ojo Caliente trails behind the resort. thermal spa west of Taos.
Stay safe and hydrated on the trails this summer. And don’t forget: what could be more striking than a panoramic view of the Río Grande gorges or the Sangre de Cristos? Try to take it with the adrenaline rush of an epic, dirty descent that continues to pump through all the arteries.
Eric Mack is a board member of the Taos Mountain Bike Association, taosmtb.org.