Wide and wild New Mexico offers some of the best bicycling opportunities in the world, whether your preference is street or trail.
MOUNTAIN BIKE RIDES
From Gallup, you can easily access three trail systems. The High Desert Trail System is the least technical. In the Zuni Mountains the Hilso Trail Head leads to 26 miles of trails. The Twin Springs Area offers a collection of primitive singletracks and popular camping spots. (800) 380-4989; www.thegallupchamber.com
South Boundary Trail – Taos
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 upand-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.
The Rock Wall – Cimarron/Valle Vidal
The Rock Wall is a ride that’s well suited for those camping out in this area of New Mexico. 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.
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.
“A” Mountain Loop Trail – Las Cruces
“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. To extend the ride, reverse it – it looks and feels diferent going in the opposite direction. (575) 541-2444; www.staysunny.org
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. 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. http://www.sandovalcounty.org
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. Santa Fe/Ski Area/Round-trip
Cycling from Santa Fe’s Fort Marcy Complex to the 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 an 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 faint-hearted. Always take a light jacket and keep an eye out for late afternoon summer storms. The ride down is fast, so check your brakes.
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. Turn around at the state line and return to Raton.
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. Turn 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. Turn left 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. There are numerous cave features in the limestone wall surrounding it. After taking a long, leisurely break, turn around and ride back to Carlsbad.
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.
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. www.newmexico.org