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Biking in Santa Fe Offers Great Adventure

Biking in and around Santa Fe offers a lot for biking afficionados…..

by Sean McGarrity
I have daydreams about ancient civilizations and secret
government bases housing the latest technologies, that
I am on an archaeological expedition or that the mountain
underneath my feet contains a subterranean laboratory,
or that I might turn a stone over and find a semi-precious
mineral from a nearby mine. This usually happens while
I’m riding my bike. Sure, I have an overactive imagination,
but this is all closer to reality than you might think.

New Mexico, you are never far from public land. National
Forests and Parks, Bureau of Land Management areas or
even just the municipal lands adjacent to most cities.
These lands in turn are never far from some kind of
historical site, be it part of an ancient native culture
or modern man’s expansion into the west from the turn
of the last century. The Federal government is hiding
things everywhere. Fusion experiments, missile test
sites, space shuttles, nanotechnology and robots, which
you may never see, but I swear they have it all right
behind that barbed-wire fence over there. The land is
also a rock hounds’ dream come true… remarkable
geology and natural phenomena abound.

There are high altitude alpine forests, deep sandstone
canyons and mesas, Sonoran deserts, and granite mountaintops.
This land is captivating enough by itself and I appreciate
the beauty of it for it’s own sake, but everything mankind
has used it for down through the centuries really adds
flavor to it. I find this kind of stuff fascinating,
and most of it I would have never been able to experience
without a mountain bike.

My interest in mountain biking, beyond the sheer fun
of it, is as a vehicle for exploring these places and
things. I offer the following general recommendations
for those visiting Santa Fe who seek to experience the
area’s great outdoors by mountain bike. Check with any
of the local bike shops when you get to town for more
You can rent bikes at Santa Fe Mountain Sports or Sun
Mountain Bikes if needed. These and other shops in town
such as New Mexico Bike ‘n Sport and Rob & Charlie’s
will often send beginning bikers on rides following
the train tracks south of the city, or on a sight-seeing
ride up Canyon Road. There are intermediate to strenuous
rides that originate from town as well… typically
following heavily used hiking trails in the foothills
east of town. They’re great if you only have an hour
or so to ride and don’t mind lots of other trail users.

The real good trails are up in the mountains and involve
a drive and some route finding. The Windsor trial east
of Santa Fe goes straight up the mountain. The popular
thing to do is a shuttle ride where you descend the
entire trail into the village of Tesuque. Without a
doubt, this trail is a classic; loads of fun, but you’ll
still be sharing the trail with many other users.
More solitary experiences can be had in the forests
further away from town. The Glorieta Baptist Center
east of Santa Fe is a good starting point for exploring
the Glorieta Baldy mountain area. A ride from the Center
on the canyon trail north will take you through a ghost
town and mine sites and eventually to a lookout tower
on Baldy’s summit. You are then rewarded with one of
the best technical trail descents in the area, looping
back to where you started. You will need to push your
bike up the trail at points, but it will be worth it.
If you don’t want to push your bike, there is a forest
road that goes all the way to the top, but this route
adds at least an hour and a half to the climb.

Further east is the town of Pecos, jumping point for
the vast Pecos wilderness. The wilderness is off-limits
to bicycles as far as trails are concerned, but the
forest access roads are fair game for all vehicles.
Riders who might not have good trail skills but can
handle the exertion of climbing up steep grades for
several hours can experience some of the most breathtaking,
high alpine country around from these roads. Some enthusiast
riders would balk at riding anything but a tight singletrack
trail, but the surroundings are unlike any other in
terms of how very far away from civilization and up
in the mountains you can get… tall, dense pines
and 10,000′ peaks surround the area. Try the Davis-Willow
campground road or the Viveash campground road with
Elk Mountain as a destination.

For a true trail riding experience, book a shuttle from
Native Sons Adventures in Taos to ride the South Boundary
trail. They will drive you and your bike into the mountains
above Angel Fire and drop you off at altitude. A moderate
half hour climb gets you to the top where you are then
faced with nearly twenty miles of some of the smoothest,
fastest trail descending in the state. There are spots
that intermediate riders will want to get off and walk,
but a sublime, grin-inducing ride is guaranteed. Hire
a guide or take a local with you. This route requires
intimate knowledge that you cannot get from a map.

The Jemez Mountains west of Santa Fe is the promised
land. Forest roads, hiking trails, cross country skiing
trails, jeep trails, motorcycle trails, and game trails
make one of the biggest networks of routes around. There
are intermediate and strenuous routes everywhere. Try
riding the network just east of the East Fork campground
area for some fairly level, rolling dirt roads and trails.
The center of the Jemez is actually the caldera, or
crater, which remains from a massive, prehistoric volcano
eruption. Strong trail riders can find routes that climb
up from the crater bottom and then follow its ridge
for miles. For the full experience in this area book
a camping trip from New Mexico Mountain Bike Adventures.
They can offer day trips in the Cerrillos area as well.

Wherever you ride your bike in New Mexico, keep your
eyes open for unexpected and exciting things. You may
find wildlife, or neat rocks and arrowheads. You may
even actually see UFOs, aliens, ghosts, or some kind
of radioactive glow. I once saw a group of local anachronists
re-enacting the claiming of New Mexico for the Spanish
Crown by the conquistador don Francisco Vasques de Coronado
in 1540. At 10,000’ they rode their horses out of the
fog towards me in period costume and armor, followed
by bald friars on donkeys. Maybe my daydreams aren’t
so far out after all.

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