Situated on the border of America’s Southwest and Mountain West regions, New Mexico is the fifth-largest and 36th most populous state in the U.S., which also makes it one of the least-densely populated areas of the country. This scarcity of population, coupled with its unique mix of desert and mountain landscapes, is rapidly making New Mexico one of the most popular states in the country for mountain bikers.
In the article below we will highlight five of the most popular and well-ridden trails that have bolstered New Mexico’s reputation as an off-road cycling hotbed, and illustrate why the state’s nickname—the Land of Enchantment—is right on the money.
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Mount Taylor is located in New Mexico’s northwestern region, an area in which wooded, mountainous landscapes dominate the terrain. Here off-road cyclists will find a challenging out-and-back trail that follows a portion of the annual Grants to Mount Taylor Winter Quadrathlon, an annual bike-run-ski-snowshoe race that begins in Grant’s downtown region, heads to the top of Mount Taylor, and then reverses back in the same order.
The trail (loop) at Mount Taylor begins on Lobo Canyon Road, where riders pedal through a wide range of natural flora to an elevation of 7,600 feet, meandering through miles of Ponderosa Pine and rocky canyon outcroppings. The climb, which is manageable for all skill levels, is one of the most beautiful the state has to offer, with plenty of meadows and bluffs that are perfect for picnics and sightseeing.
Once riders reach the apex of Mount Taylor, they will then begin a (mostly) leisurely descent, although there are certain challenging sections in which the trail dips into—and out of—a series of canyons and drainage areas.
Wagon Road Loop
Located near Fort Bayard in southwestern New Mexico, the Wagon Road Loop is mostly an easy ride, known more for the spectacular views it offers than it is for its technical difficulty. The trail that makes up the loop runs directly through the Fort Bayard Wildlife Refuge, a place that consistently delights riders and hikers with its lush pinion and juniper vegetation, the Ponderosa Pines on the track’s higher elevations, and the many Elk and other animal species that call this refuge home.
The Wagon Road Loop spans a total of four miles in length, taking riders over a number of historically significant trails in the area, some of which include a variety of technical obstacles, such as rocks, roots, and berms.
Fort Bayard is located some nine miles east of Silver City on the north side of U.S. 180.
Fresnal Canyon Loop
The Fresnal Canyon Loop is located near the renowned city of Alamogordo in the southeastern portion of New Mexico. This easy-to-find and well-maintained course takes riders through the historic villages of La Luz and High Rolls in the Sacramento Mountain foothills.
A perfect course for both beginner and intermediate riders, the Fresnal Canyon Loop begins with a 3-mile gradual climb through La Luz before making an equally long easterly shift towards the town of High Rolls. The southern end of the loop dips through High Rolls’ cherry and apple orchards, almost touching U.S. 82. From High Rolls, riders simply head back in a northwest direction to FS 162, where they will eventually turn west to begin the fun, albeit gradual descent. The net elevation gain at the Fresnal Canyon Loop is just over 1,500 feet in total.
Las Huertas Canyon
Situated in Central New Mexico, Las Huertas Canyon is a dream spot for off-road mountain biking—a place that “beginner riders can nibble at and expert riders can swallow whole.”
The Las Huertas Canyon course begins near the willowy cottonwood trees that line the majestic Rio Grande River and culminates at the top of the Sandia Crest. In total, this 22-mile loop, which includes stretches of both pavement and maintained dirt road, includes roughly 5,700 feet of hard-fought climbing and a descent that is guaranteed to delight every rider in your group.
If they prefer, beginner and intermediate riders can break the trail into more manageable sections by simply following the well-marked maps that are posted throughout the course.
South Boundary Trail
Located in New Mexico’s north-central region, the 23-mile South Boundary Trail is an absolute jewel of a course, one that treats riders to some of the country’s most picturesque mountain scenery. Traversing the mountains from Angel Fire to the city of Taos, the South Boundary Trail requires, at minimum, an intermediate level of ability and stamina, due mostly to the ascents the ride includes at high elevations.
The South Boundary course commences at Black Lake with a precipitous and physically-demanding 4-mile climb, followed by an up-and-down section and a lengthy final descent toward Taos. Following the Carson National Forest Trail No. 164, the route starts at an elevation of 8,700 feet, and tops out at a whopping 10,800 feet above sea level.
In most places, the trail rolls on as single- track, taking riders through spruce and aspen forests, then winds through Garcia Park and Paradise Park, offering sweeping views from the gorgeous Paradise overlook. The trail finally winds up at EI Nogal Campground at 7,200 feet on U.S. 64, just east of Taos. The long ride requires a good supply of food and water, as well as bike tools and extra equipment.