By Susan Brown
When it comes to natural beauty, the Land of Enchantment is king. Across New Mexico, you’ll find some of the most challenging hikes in the nation because of both terrain and climate. But if you’re looking to explore something a little more family-friendly, we’ve got that too. Now gear up and get ready to navigate these five magnificent hiking trails in New Mexico.
The Gila Wilderness was the first to be designated as such in the world and con-tinues to be one of the largest uninhabited backcountry in the U.S. This 20-mile loop is an awe-inspiring hike that takes you through narrow pine-covered canyons up 8,600 feet to the top of the mesa. Along the way, you’ll see impressive geological features, as well as remnants of indigenous people’s culture. This is a rugged and difficult hike that can be done in a day, but is more fun as a two-day camping overnighter. Don’t miss the Gila Cliff dwellings!
The Wheeler Peak Wilderness is in the Carson National Forest, which encom-passes more than 1.5 million acres of mixed-use land. It is one of six wilderness areas within forest’s boundaries. This 10 mile out-and-back hike takes you through mature pine, fir and aspen trees, past Horseshoe Lake and along the ridgeline between Wheeler Peak and Simpson Peak. Plan for a full day of hiking along easy to moderate trail. Elevation gain is about 2,000 feet. Best done between May and October. Great for birding and nature walks.
The trailhead for this hike begins at Battleship Rock, looks just like it sounds. The midway point for this six-mile hike is McCauley Hot Springs, where a relaxing foot soak makes the return down the mountain all the more enjoyable. Along the way, you’ll see impressive obsidian rocks from the caldera, groves of Ponderosa pine, stunning red sandstone mountains, and a breathtaking waterfall. The winding trail is a series of switchbacks up the mountain, with some very steep sections. Be sure to follow the trail signs.
This loop trail is about five miles roundtrip, which will likely take 3-4 hours to trav-erse. With only 270 feet of elevation, and a relatively short distance, this moderate trail is kid-friendly. Take in the scenic overlook views of beautiful Chacoan buildings. The trail is also dog-friendly (but make sure to have a leash for your four-legged friend!). This is an excellent, beautiful hike the whole family will enjoy.
This trail may be 16 miles, but it’s easily navigable because it’s paved. The trail passes through the Rio Grande Valley State Park, and is accessible for hikers, runners, and bicyclists. The area is even wheelchair accessible. Have a baby in a stroller? No problem. This trail can accommodate. Guests can access the trail from one of the following areas: Alameda Boulevard, Paseo del Norte, Montaño Road, Campbell Road, and several other locations. Enjoy scenic views of Albuquerque along the Paseo del Bosque Trail.