Thursday, January 20, 2000
Highlights: An easy-to-find trail leading up and into a mixed conifer forest that crosses the saddle at 8,500 feet and descends toward Little Tesuque Creek Trail (aka Winsor Trail). Stunning wildflowers in mid-summer and snow-cushioned trails in winter help create memorable year-round outings. Location: From Santa Fe Plaza, go north on Washington and turn right on Artist Road. Check your odometer and drive 5.7 miles toward Hyde Park. The Forest Service sign reading "Trail #183 -- Big Tesuque -- 2 1/4 miles" appears on the left. This is 1/2 mile after passing the Santa Fe National Forest sign on the right. Parking area available. Difficulty: Moderate Round-trip distance: 4 1/2 miles Elevation: 7,800-8,500 feet Cautions: Can be snowpacked in winter, but if the snow is fresh, traction is good. Best seasons: Year-round, weather permitting Maps: Mountains of Santa Fe," Revised 1996, Drake Mountain Maps. Also appears in "Day Hikes in the Santa Fe Area," Fourth Edition, published by Santa Fe Group of the Sierra Club, 440 Cerrillos Road, Santa Fe, N.M., 87501. Printable map
For a peaceful winter hike, take Chamisa Trail just off Hyde Park Road in the Santa Fe National Forest, where you can roll a snowball of hiking images and take them home to melt around crackling pine logs and cones.
The crunch of new snow underfoot and flakes swirling from slender aspen branches above provide a serene setting for this hike in winter months. You can snowshoe or hike Chamisa, depending on snow levels. And in early summer, you can return to check out the many varieties of wildflowers that find a home there.
This easy-to-follow trail starts out on a steep grade -- a good warm-up -- levels off for a bit, then climbs again for over a mile until you come to the saddle at 8,500 feet. Here the trail descends to the southeast and turns to the north on a downward trend for about three-fourths of a mile. You know you have come to the end when you see a sign reading "Little Tesuque Trail," also known as Winsor Trail, intersecting Chamisa and heading all the way to the Santa Fe Ski Basin, 61/2 miles higher. (Editor's note: The Little Tesuque Trail will be featured in next week's Treks & Trails.) This turnaround is a natural stopping place for a quick lunch before returning on the same path.
You may be amazed when you notice a crooked limber pine and new views along the trail that you missed on the ascent. Back at the trailhead, treat yourself to a steaming cup of hot tea and start planning your next hike from the many choices New Mexico offers.