By Susan Brown
With the right pair of shoes and a little determination, trail running in New Mexico can be one of the most rewarding athletic experiences. With vast expanses of desert terrain and spaces of lush vegetation, the diverse topography of New Mexico makes for an excellent trail running state. Here are five awesome spots to do so in the Land of Enchantment.
This paved urban trail wanders along the banks of the Rio Grande River for 16 miles through the center of town and the Rio Grande Valley State Park. It was put in place as part of an open land initiative and is just lovely— beautiful, lush vegetation, flowing water, wildlife and birds of all types and sizes help make the environment a pastoral oasis. Most of the trail is away from streets so there are no cars to contend with. If you run the whole trail you’ll pass the Rio Grande Conservation Center, Albuquerque Bio Park and the Zoo. Bosque translates to forest, so it’s shaded, mostly by cottonwoods.
Built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corp, this trail is still in good shape. Under the oversight of the Cibola National Forest for the past 75 years, it’s a wide smooth multi-use trail that’s been well-maintained. It’s basically a run up the mountain and then a loop back down. Along the way, you’ll experience the heady aroma of ponderosa pine, junipers, and piñon pine. At the top, is the historic McGaffey Fire Lookout Tower. Take a moment to enjoy the panoramic view of the landscape below. Switchbacks to the top of the ridge make this run a little easier on the uphill—the downhill is just fun.
For most of the year, spring through fall, this multi-use trail is a must-run. On a mesa above the Rio Grande and Red River, it traverses the Wild Rivers Recreation Area. As you run along the canyon rim, at just about any point, there are panoramic views of the 800-foot canyon below, snowcapped peaks in the distance and the breathtaking desert plains laid out before you. It’s about a five-mile loop with a 400-foot elevation gain—all gravel, packed and smooth.
Part of a mosaic of trails that wander through the Gila National Forest, this 11-mile network is accessible year-round. Running the entire network would give you an invigorating workout. The Continental Divide cuts right through the entire running maze and connects trails to other sections of the forest. This largely unspoiled area is an outdoor tableau of majestic mountain scenery. The area is also home to lots of wildlife, including black bear and timber wolf—be on the lookout. Elevation is about 6,500 feet.
There are a number of trails in this area that actually overlook the Rio Grande River Gorge and provide stunning views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Most of the terrain is fairly level, no huge ascents or descents. As you cross the mesa, you’ll run along the gorge, into forested areas and wide-open meadows, all the while surrounded by sagebrush, piñon, Junipers, rocks and arroyos. Accessible year-round.