By Susan Brown
A hike is an invigorating way to exercise that gets you out-and-about in the great outdoors. It doesn’t take much—a pair of shoes, a hat, a water bottle, and the desire to see nature on its own terms. Here are five inspiring and energizing hikes that take you through some of New Mexico’s most beautiful terrain.
This trail, roughly eight miles roundtrip, is the longest in Chaco Culture National Historic Park. It winds its way past Pueblo and Navajo petroglyphs etched into a cliff face, the spectacular “Supernova” pictograph, the Penasco Blanco great house where you’ll see a number of great kivas, as well as remnants of an irrigation system that included canals, ditches, and storage ponds. At certain points in the ruins, there are lovely views of Chaco Canyon and Escavada and Chaco wash. It’s relatively level, but the sand along the way makes for some difficult hiking.
This trail takes hikers right across sections of a very rough lava flow, making trav-ersing strenuous but exciting. Along the way, the trail winds through a vibrant forest of aspen, ponderosa pine, piñon and juniper, and areas of beautiful wildflowers. The trail also crosses a lava bridge as you wind your way around the lava tubes, one of which is the longest in North America. Be sure to get a permit to explore the caves in this same area. Not a super long hike, but one that takes you over some rugged terrain.
Views of the Sangre de Cristo, Jemez, Sandia, San Pedro and Ortiz mountains greet you when you finally make your way up this, at times, steep climb. The trail follows the Tesuque Creek for awhile before making its way up and into the San-gre de Cristo Mountains. The three-mile roundtrip loop is challenging and makes for a good workout.
In the desert, the length of a trail doesn’t define its difficulty—conditions do. This trail is primitive and the surrounding area is desolate so the almost four-mile out-and-back can be exhausting. However, the landscape it takes you through is spec-tacular: sweeping views of the New Mexican terrain for miles, views of chaparral covered canyons, an occasional cactus in bloom, and plenty of lizards and other reptiles (watch your step!).
This day hike takes you through a thick forest wilderness to a crest of the Manzano Mountains. The seven-mile trail traverses through a wilderness area that features a waterfall, multiple creek crossings, occasional wildlife spotting, and beautiful scenery filled with wildflowers, giant ferns, and striking aspen trees. This high elevation, out-and-back trail is best done from April through November.