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Hiking In New Mexico

Updated on March 27, 2015

New Mexico has vast deserts, towering mountains, and diverse plant and animal life. Hiking in New Mexico can be both interesting and challenging.

Tent Rocks - New Mexico Hiking
Tent Rocks - New Mexico Hiking | Source

Hiking In New Mexico

There are too many worthwhile hiking trails in New Mexico to list in a single article. There are literally hundreds of hiking trails covering thousands of miles all around New Mexico.

This article contains a list of suggestions based on popularity and unique features. It is a good starting point for a hiker who wants to get to know the hiking trails of New Mexico. This article is broken down into geographic areas in order to make it easier to find hiking trails near to your location.

Tent Rocks - New Mexico Hiking
Tent Rocks - New Mexico Hiking | Source

Near Albuquerque, New Mexico

One of the coolest things about hiking in New Mexico is the number of ancient petroglyphs you can see just walking around. Some of the best hiking trails for petroglyphs are located near the main population center of Albuquerque.

  • The Petroglyph National Monument has a number of great petroglyph viewing trails including the Cliff Base Trail, the Mesa Point Trail and Rinconada Canyon. The petroglyphs here are 1000 years old and sit among dramatic lava formations. The hikes are short and easily manageable by families with young children.
  • Cedro Peak is a short drive from Albuquerque. It is in the Manzanita Mountains and is known for its leisurely pace and thick forest of pine trees. In addition to hiking, Cedro Peak is popular with mountain bikers and bird watchers.

The Sandia Mountains have several very nice hiking trails a short distance from Albuquerque:

  • The Cienega Loop is a day long hike that runs along a stream and past a waterfall. The hike from Cienega Canyon to the Crest Trail is gorgeous. It is lined with fir trees and wildflowers. The trees keep much of the trail in the shade.
  • The Tunnel Spring Loop offers views of the San Pedro Mountains, the Jemez Mountains and Cabezon. The path is lined with cactus blooms during the summer.
  • The Tres Pistolas Trail is a favorite in the winter. Since it faces south, the winter snow melts faster there. The Tres Pistolas Trail is also popular with runners.
  • The hike from the Elena Gallegos picnic area along the Pino Trail to the Crest Trail has a gentle incline and is nice for families.
  • The Faulty Loop Trail offers a nice view of Cedro Peak and a small cave near the trailhead. It follows a stream for a while then ventures into a forest filled with juniper trees. It changes to primarily ponderosa fir as the elevation increases.
  • The Tree Spring Loop is a relatively long trail that takes an entire day. As you hike up and down elevations you will notice the plant life changing. Hikers are rewarded with some stunning views when you get up to the Crest Trail.
  • The Crest Trail is famous for its views of Albuquerque. It also offers spectacular views of Ladron Peak, the Manzano Mountains, the Jemez Mountains, the San Pedro Mountains and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. This is an easy trail that can be handled by most hikers at any time of the year.

Sandia Mountains
Sandia Mountains | Source

Western New Mexico

In the western part of New Mexico, hikers can explore fascinating lava formations at the El Malpais National Monument and the Cebolla Wilderness.

  • The El Malpais National Monument has two especially dramatic lava formations. Lava Falls is a short hiking trails that is easily accessible to just about everyone. The Big Tubes Trail is a bit more difficult because of its uneven ground. You first head through a forest and emerge at some of the largest lava tubes on the continent. It is definitely worth the effort.
  • The Cebolla Wilderness also has two very worthy hiking trails. The trail to the La Ventana Arch takes you to this impressive natural arch. It is the second largest in the state of New Mexico. The Narrows Rim Trail takes hikers along a ridge above the lava flows. This offers a very different perspective of them. The Narrows Rim Trail also has nice views of La Ventana Arch.

Southern New Mexico

  • If you really like petroglyphs, you will love the Three Rivers petroglyph site. It has more than 21,000 of them scattered around accessible trails. There are also some very nice viewpoints of the Tularosa Basin and Sierra Blanca.
  • Dog Canyon in the Sacramento Mountains is a pleasant hike in nice surroundings. It is challenging if you climb all the way to the top. There are large patches of wildflowers and nice views of the San Andreas Mountains and Tularose Basin.

Northern New Mexico
Northern New Mexico | Source

Northern New Mexico

  • Bandelier National Monument has two notable hiking trails. The Tyuonyi Overlook Trail has views of Tyuonyi and access to two archaeological sites. The Frijolito Ruins Loop takes you a pueblo that dates back more than 500 years.
  • In the Jemez Mountains you can hike to the Slot Canyon and the unusual Tent Rocks. You can also get a nice view of the Rio Grande from Powerline Mesa and the Ancho Rapids View.
  • You can hike down to the Rio Grande Gorge from Cebolla Mesa. This trail offers a changing variety of plant and animal life as you drop elevation.
  • The Sangre de Cristo Mountains has several very nice trails. The Black Canyon Trail is perfect for children and has plenty of wildflowers and butterflies. You can also see them on the Borrego/Bear Wallow Trail, but this trail is a bit more challenging with a significant incline. For spectacular views, try the Hyde Park Circle Trail.

Northwest New Mexico

Most of the notable hiking trails in Northwest New Mexico are in the Chaco Culture National Historic Park. The Chaco Canyon Overlook is a beginner trail that has spectacular views of Chaco Canyon and Fajada Butte. For something a little more challenging, trek the Pueblo Alto Loop.

You can visit three archeological sites and see bizarre rock formations and slot canyons. The Jackson Staircase is carved directly into the cliff wall. For pictographs, walk the Supernova Pictograph Trail. One pictograph records a supernova that happened in the year 1054.

Southeast New Mexico
Southeast New Mexico | Source

Southeast New Mexico

Carlsbad Caverns National Park offers some great hikes outside of the caves. The Old Guano Road Trail goes from the visitor's center to White's City.

It is a pleasant desert walk. The Rattlesnake Canyon Trail takes you past a variety of cacti and spectacular canyon scenes.

Southwest New Mexico

The most famous site in Southwest New Mexico is the Gila Cliff Dwellings. There is a one mile long trail that gets you there. Archeologists believe that people lived there at the end of the 13th century. Another nice hike can be found at Rockhound State Park.

The Thunder Egg Trail is a loop that offers nice views of the Big Florida mountains and exposure to interesting rocks and plantlife.

© 2015 Discover the World

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