Thursday, November 11, 1999
Highlights: Magnificent panoramic views of Abiquiu Reservoir, rugged cliffs above Ghost Ranch, Jemez and Sangre de Cristo mountains. Location: Take U.S. Highway 84 northwest out of Española toward Abiquiu. Continue past Abiquiu. About a mile beyond the Ghost Ranch Conference Center turn left onto FR 151. Follow gravel road 0.7 miles then turn right onto dirt track. Rim Vista Trail No. 15 is signposted. Follow dirt track 0.2 mile, bear right at Y and park at trailhead. Round-trip distance: 4.5 miles. Difficulty: Moderate. Elevation: 6,700-7,900 feet. Cautions: U.S. Forest Service, Carson National Forest. Printable map
Rim Vista Trail
As an escape from it all, this trail reminds you why hiking is worth aches and pains at any price.
The sign at the turn-off for FR 151 from U.S. 84 about a mile beyond Ghost Ranch Conference Center warns that the road is unsuitable in wet conditions and for low clearance vehicles. Take this seriously.
Although conditions were bone dry in late October, this was not a suitable road for my Mazda Miata. Anyone with an SUV can probably barrel along the washboard surface zigzagging to avoid the deep ruts.
After 0.7 miles you turn right onto a dirt track with even deeper ruts. This is where we parked the plucky Mazda and walked the short distance to the trailhead where the SUVs were parked.
The trail quickly dips and climbs through a steep-sided arroyo, then skirts a narrow ridge. The ridge tops a hogs back from which you look down across a ravine to a swirling cliff face of weathered Entrada sandstone. This is the first of many panoramic views that make this trail worth every uphill step.
In the relatively short course of 2.2 miles you climb more than 2,000 feet. If you are not particularly fit you will feel the steady climb. The early part of the trail ascends through open landscape with little shade.
After about half a mile it winds through piñon and juniper woodland. Blue plastic diamonds nailed to the trees mark the trail.
The woodland continues as the trail turns south and then westward again. From time to time there are gaps in the trees giving a sweeping view southeastward over Abiquiu Reservoir.
By the time you reach the home straight atop the Dakota sandstone mesa you will feel as though you have covered much more than 2.2 miles. This is the point to find a comfortable rock to sit on to rest and enjoy the views. In the relative foreground are the sharply angled Mesozoic Period rock cliffs above Ghost Ranch where painter Georgia O'Keeffe settled in 1949. In the distance are the snow-capped Jemez and Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
Return to the trailhead by the same route.
Due to the lack of shade in the early part of the hike it is advisable to take plenty of water, wear hats and sunscreen. It was pleasant in the mid-70s temperature of a bright late October afternoon, but in high summer the steady climb through open country could be tough.
There is a camp site about 5 miles further along FR 151.
The dirt road ends approximately 12 miles after the trail at the Christ in the Desert Benedictine Monastery in the Chama Canyon. The monastery, founded in 1964, maintains a guesthouse for men and women.