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Los Alamos (NM, USA) Area Trails
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Los Alamos (NM, USA) Area Trails

 
Los Alamos (NM, USA) Area Trails

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Location: New Mexico, United States, North America

Lat/Lon: 35.88091°N / 106.30294°W

Object Type: Trails

Object Title: Los Alamos (NM, USA) Area Trails

 

Page By: scotthsu

Created/Edited: May 17, 2010 / Apr 13, 2011

Object ID: 622067

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Overview

Under construction; please check back often.

This page is a compilation of Los Alamos (NM, USA) area trails. Several of these trails are part of the trails system of the Santa Fe National Forest (Espanola Ranger District), but many more are part of the Los Alamos County trails network. Hiking, trail running, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, and horseback riding are popular on these (or a subset of these) trails, which have great access from various spots in and around the town of Los Alamos.

For the purposes of this page, I am including only trails in the immediate vicinities of the town of Los Alamos and Pajarito Mountain Ski Area, and the areas bordering the western portions of Los Alamos National Laboratory. There are many more trails farther north in the Jemez Mountains, to the west in the Valles Caldera National Preserve, to the south in Bandelier National Monument, and to the southeast around the town of White Rock. All of the trails listed on this page can be visited without a backpacking approach.

The trails visit a variety of terrain, including canyons, mesas, ridge-tops, passes, and peaks. Most of the terrain is forested with both conifer and deciduous species, although the immediate slopes around the town of Los Alamos are devoid of mature trees due to the Cerro Grande fire in 2000. Trail elevations range from ~6400' (Canon de los Frijoles within the boundaries of Bandelier National Monument) to over 10400' (below the summits of Caballo Mountain and Pajarito Mountain).

List of Trails

This list is organized more-or-less geographically, going counter-clockwise starting east of Los Alamos and ending in the south. Please click on the link if provided. A short description is given if there is no link provided. Under construction, descriptions and more links are slowly being added. Please feel free to attach your own "route pages," and I will add links (PM for faster service).

Pueblo Canyon (4.5 miles one-way, ~6480' to 6980')
This is a sandy dirt road along the bottom of Pueble Canyon. Access from the east is via the Bayo Canyon Trail which starts from NM 502 just west of the junction with route NM 4. Access from the west is via the Ranch School Trail which starts at the Larry R. Walkup Aquatic Center (2760 Canyon Road).

Kwage Mesa (~4.4 miles roundtrip, ~7000' to 7200')
Pleasant trail along the top of Kwage Mesa which is the northern branch of North Mesa in Los Alamos. There are fabulous views along the trail and at the end of the mesa. At the east end of the mesa, you can scramble a ways down until getting cliffed out eventually. Traveling east on S. San Ildefonso Road, make a left onto North Mesa Park Rd and drive to the end where this is a parking lot. The trail heads NE from here.

Bayo Canyon (~5.9 miles one-way, ~6400' to ~7250')
This is a dirt road in an open ponderosa forest along the bottom of Bayo Canyon. Access from the west is from a small parking area on the east side of the traffic circle at the eastern end of Diamond Drive. Access from the east is from NM 502 just west of the junction with NM 4.

North Bayo Bench (~2.2 miles one-way, ~6850' to 7250')
This trails parallels the upper part of the Bayo Canyon trail but on a bench on the north canyon wall. Access from the west is the same as for the Bayo Canyon Trail (see above). Access from the east is either from the Bayo Canyon Trail or from the cul-de-sac of Camino Encantado Rd on Barranca Mesa.

Otowi Mesa (3-6 miles roundtrip, ~6650' to ~7050') (see SP page)

Deer Trap Mesa (up to 3 miles roundtrip, 7180' to 7240')
This nice mesa-top hike starts out with some interesting scrambling along well-worn footprints in the soft tuff. After ~0.1 mile, it is easier to stay to the left and below the ridge-top. At ~0.3 miles, regain the ridge-top, and it becomes easy walking on the broad mesa-top. After 0.6 miles, the trail forks. The left (northern) branch ends after another 0.2 miles with good views to the north. The right (southern) branch continues on a good trail for 0.7 miles, ending where there are steep drop-offs. It is possible to continue farther if you wish by scrambling down. The start of this trail is at the eastern end of Barranca Rd, about 1.6 miles from the traffic circle at Diamond and San Ildefonso Roads.

Pajarito Trail (3.3 miles one-way, ~6960' to ~7500')
From Craig Martin's book: "The Pajarito Trail is more than a century old and is a portion of a long trail formerly known as the Telephone Trail. This trail paralleled the telephone line that connected Espanola to the Los Alamos Ranch School and continued beyond the school into the Jemez Mountains. The southern half of the Pajarito Trail connects Rendija and Guaje Canyons... The northern section once connected Guaje Canyon and Garcia Canyon. The route out of Guaje Canyon is almost entirely overgrown, blocked by rock falls and fallen trees..." Access is from N. San Ildefonso Road; from the traffic circle at the eastern end of Diamond Dr., go ~0.4 miles and turn left to stay on N. San Ildefonso Rd. which then drops down a steep hill, turning into dirt after another 0.5 miles. Shortly thereafter, turn left into a large gravel parking area, and the trail starts here. The trail drops down to the bottom of Rendija Canyon and then rounds the SE edge of Beanfield Mesa before dropping into Cabra Canyon. The trail then heads up over Guaje Ridge (1.4 miles to this point) and down into Guaje Canyon (1.9 miles to this point). Beyond this, the trail is in poor shape and difficult to follow, disappearing at times completely.

Guaje Mountain (3.8 miles roundtrip, ~6960' to 7636')
This unranked summit north of Los Alamos offers good views of the town and surrounding area. The trailhead is the same one as for the Pajarito Trail above. At 1.4 miles at a saddle on Guaje Ridge, a rocky trail heads east then south for 0.5 mile to the summit.

Cabra Loop and Beanfield Mesa

Rendija Canyon

Upper Guaje Rd (to Guaje Ridge Trail, ~4 miles RT, 7150' to 7750')
This hike starts near Guaje Pines Cemetery and follows an old unmaintained road up to Guaje Ridge. The devastation of the 2000 Cerro Grande fire dominates the landscape although it is good to see very young evergreens surviving (as of 2011). From Diamond Rd near the golf course clubhouse, go north on Range Rd until you reach the cemetery. Either park at an obvious spot for several cars just beyond the cemetery, or make a right on a dirt road and drive ~0.2 miles until you can go no farther and park there. From here, follow the obvious old road. Views at the intersection with the Guaje Ridge trail are spectacular, with an unbroken view of the Sangres from the Latirs to Ski Santa Fe.

Woodland Trail

Perimeter Trail

Guaje Ridge

Mitchell & Natural Arch Trails

Guaje Canyon (SP page, SFNF page)

Caballo Mountain

Cerro Rubio

Pipeline Rd

Quemazon & Quemazon Nature Trials

Nordic Ski Trails (Pajarito)

Camp May and UN 10250

"Ron Harper" (Aspen run at Pajarito Mtn) & other Pajarito Mountain trails

Nail Trail

Pajarito Canyon

Canon de Valle (SP page, SFNF page)

Cerro Grande

Water Canyon (~3.4 miles roundtrip, 7700' to 8200', or 5 mile loop by continuing on FR 181 and Perimeter Trail back to TH)
This trail climbs up Water Canyon, starting at NM Route 501 about 1/4 mile north of its T-intersection with NM Route 4. The trail crosses the seasonal creek many times and encounters both burnt and unburnt parts of the forest from the 2000 Cerro Grande fire. Steep cliff and hillsides rise above the trail on either side for most of the 1.7 mile length to the end of the trail at its intersection with Forest Road 181. A good option for a ~5 mile loop is to go right on FT 181 and follow the road all the way back down to NM Route 4. There are good expansive views of the surrounding area all the way to the Sangre de Cristo's in the distance along FT 181 before the road drops down steeply to NM Route 4. Upon reaching Route 4, you can either hike south back to the TH along the road or follow the single-track Perimeter Trail that parallels the road.

Apache Spring (~5.6 miles roundtrip, 8182' to ~8640' to ~7760')
This is a varied hike that starts through open forest along an old abandoned road, then heads up the bottom of a gully (near its namesake spring) to a plateau (trail overgrown in spots here as of Oct. 9, 2010), before descending ~800' down steep switchbacks to the floor of Canon de los Frijoles where a small creek (Rito de los Frijoles) typically runs year round. If you wish, you can hike down the canyon for another ~9 miles to the Bandelier National Monument Visitor Center. The Apache Spring trailhead is located on the south side of Route 4 about 1.5 miles west of its junction with Route 501. There is room to park ~3 cars. If full, there is another larger parking area just 100 yards east on the north side of Route 4.

Upper & Middle Frijoles

Ponderosa Campground & Escobas Mesa

Burnt Mesa

Maps

Los Alamos County Trail Network map
Los Alamos street map (PDF download)

Other references and external links

Santa Fe National Forest
Los Alamos Country Trail Network
Craig Martin, Los Alamos Trails, 2nd edition (All Seasons Publishing, Los Alamos, 2006).
Santa Fe, Bandelier, Los Alamos, Sky Terrain Trail Maps (best waterproof topo map of the area)

Images