While other parts of the state have flashy trails for mountain biking, the area around Gallup is transitioning into a mountain-biking beacon with a wide variety of trail experiences available – including bike camping.
Headlined by the Zuni Mountains Trails System, which is an ongoing, two-decades-plus project, Gallup is quickly becoming an epicenter of a burgeoning mountain biking industry.
About 50 miles of single-track have been carved through the mountains within McKinley County, said Brian Leddy, president of Adventure Gallup & Beyond.
“On our end of the trail system, we have 50 miles of mountain biking, hiking and equestrian trails, all non-motorized,” he said. “It’s beautiful single track with separate trail heads so you can access it in a couple of different ways.”
Originally consisting of user-built trails that the U.S. Forest Service eventually brought into the service as an official trail system, the Zuni Mountain trails including access points that are about 20 miles from Gallup, south of Fort Wingate near the old lumber town of McGaffey, Leddy said.
“Riders are going to find well-marked and signed, non-motorized trails,” he said. “It’s in a ponderosa pine forest, so you’re riding amongst the tall pines in the shade. It’s primarily about 8,000 feet in elevation which fluctuates a little bit, but they’re considered easy to moderate trails. There are a few easy ones and a few hard ones, but for the most part, these trails are going to suit the average rider.”
The area includes two developed campgrounds, as well as an abundance of dispersed camping sites for those who like to bike and camp.
“This area is perfect for that,” Leddy said. “A lot of times, I’ll see people coming in from the Albuquerque area and they’ll just find a spot. You’re in the national forest, so you can park wherever you want to and have some solitude and privacy. That’s the cool thing about the Zuni Mountains, there’s not a lot of people. It’s not crowded. You can ride the trails without seeing anyone and for some people that is a real bonus.”
Additionally, a connecting, 18-mile route along the exposed McKenzie Ridge is under construction.
“This is going to be a big, epic, point-to-point trail,” he said.
It will join with what is eventually going to be the Twin Springs System, so in total there will be more than 100 miles of connected trails.
While developed Twin Springs trails are still in the developmental stages, Leddy said, there are definitely some primitive riding opportunities for the true adventurers. There are miles of cow paths, dual-track forest roads and single track logging corridors.
There is no signage and the roads are unimproved and dirt, so rain will turn them into mud slides quickly. This area is closed from December until mid-April due to unpredictable weather on the Continental Divide.
Within Gallup itself, the High Desert Trail system has 22 miles of trails over rugged, exposed terrain.
“It’s fast and flowy,” Leddy said. “It’s definitely beginner-friendly, although Third Mesa can be challenging for beginners. The best thing about it is that it’s close to town. It’s quick and easy to access the trails.”
Organized in three loops with connectors, the trail scenery also includes unique rock sculptures, metal sculptures, sun dials and other interesting features.
The Gallup North Hogback trail occasionally requires some bike toting as it climbs at a high degree through switchbacks and some stone steps at the outset. On top of the ridge, however, a more moderate trail heads south, although it still includes a few hike-a-bike sections. Most of the trail though is seat-friendly and accompanied by great views and wide-open spaces. The trail includes steep, technical spots so use care when traversing.