By Nina Anthony, Updated Tuesday, May 6, 2014
Come springtime, ski racks in Taos are replaced by bike racks as locals and visitors from all over the country descend upon Taos County to take advantage of some of the best mountain biking in the Southwest — if not the U.S.
From high altitude trails with lots of technical challenges and fast descents through the alpine forests of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to gentler rides for beginners and families along the high-desert plateaus along the Rio Grande, mountain biking trails in Taos are as varied as the vistas and landscapes. The Carson National Forest alone boasts more than 60 trails within its 1.5 million acres.
Now, mountain biking enthusiasts will have even more choices as Taos Ski Valley recently announced the summer launch of its Pioneer Bike Park that will offer the first lift-accessed novice mountain biking trail in the country.
A series of trails in the new Pioneer’s Bike Park will include the new 3.6 mile Berminator, (click here to download a PDF of the Berminator trail map) an intermediate mountain biking track that begins from the top of Lift 1. A press release from the resort notes that the Berminator is the valley’s “first mountain bike flow trail” and will feature step downs, step ups, berm turns, rock drops and optional table top jumps. Taos Ski Valley plans a June 28 grand opening celebration that will offer an array of fun activities for the whole family, including bike demos from several manufacturers, live entertainment and more.
The new Pioneer Bike Park will give families and visitors even more ways to take in the great outdoors of Taos during the summer months.
10 popular mountain biking trails/areas in and around Taos:
Northside at Taos Ski Valley
Northside at Taos Ski Valley offers 1,200 acres of self-guided fee-based mountain biking on a mapped and signed private trail system of single- and double-track routes over terrain that’s best suited for intermediate and advanced riders. The looped network of trails takes riders through a variety of elevation changes through forests and meadows and breathtaking overlooks. Seasoned riders can pedal to the top of 12,163 ft. Frazer Mountain, the highest point on the property. Northside is open dawn to dusk from late June through October, weather permitting.
Angel Fire Bike Park
Angel Fire Bike Park offers more than 60 miles of trails for downhill, cross-country and all-mountain styles of mountain bike riding on one of the largest lift-access mountains in North America. Over the past couple of years, the park has undergone a series of major improvements to enhance existing intermediate and expert trails and expanding its offerings for beginners to provide families and individuals getting started in the sport with a safe and controlled environment to improve their basic skills.
Red River Ski Area
In the summer, you can mountain bike around Red River Ski Area at no charge. Strap your mountain bike on to the Platinum chairlift and cruise around the mountain on a variety of trails that provide breathtaking views. Experts can ride 4,000 adrenaline-pumping vertical feet downhill on expertly maintained trails. There are also hundreds of miles of marked biking trails located within the Carson National Forest near the Town of Red River. Pioneer Canyon Trail, accessible behind the Arrowhead Lodge, is a popular trail that leads to the ruins of 16 mines, relics of the area’s mining history. The trail offers some steep inclines and a water crossing.
Sipapu Ski and Summer Resort
This fast growing small resort, located just 20 scenic miles southeast of Taos in northwestern New Mexico offers over 300 miles of trails in the Pecos Wilderness and Carson National Forest. There are trails for riders of all abilities — all offering incredible views. Stop by Sipapu Lodge for tips and directions to nearby trails.
Enchanted Forest Cross Country Ski Area
Enchanted Forest Cross Country Ski Area is located 3 ½ miles from Red River off NM38. The 5-mile loop through rolling terrain offers gorgeous views of the Moreno Valley, the Wheeler Peak Wilderness, Gold Hill, Red River Ski Area and the Town of Red River. In the summer, Summer yurt rentals are available for $50/night starting in May. The yurts are primitive but clean and comfortable and offer a great way to sleep in the woods with easy access to the network of trails.
Devisadero Loop Trail
Devisadero Loop Trail is a local gem located just a few minutes east of town on Highway 64 that provides a good hard hour of technical mountain biking through forests of pinons, juniper and fir. Approximately ¼ miles from the trailhead you’ll find a fork in the trail. The right-hand fork leads directly the Devisardero Peak, elevation 8,304 feet. The left- fork switchbacks up to the ridgeline and loops eastward to Devisadero Peak. Devisadero Peak had once been used as a lookout point by the Taos Pueblo Indians to watch for approaching Apaches who would come down Taos Canyon to raid the pueblo.
South Boundary Trail
This popular Taos trail is among the most popular biking trails in New Mexico and has been noted one of the best mountain biking trails in the U.S. The 22.1 mile mostly singletrack trail winds through a mix of alpine forests and meadows that offer riders both strenuous and moderate stretches of terrain. Its “Heaven and Earth” section aptly describes the ride it provides through stunning scenery before rewarding riders with the mostly downhill stretch to Kyber Pass Road.
Talpa Traverse Trail
The beginning of this ride is the end of the popular South Boundary Trail (described above). It’s one of the closest trails accessible from Taos. Head east from the Town Plaza on Hwy 64 for just a few miles to the El Nogal parking lot on the right, just inside the Carson National Forest Service boundary. The trailhead is at the west end of the parking lot, just over the footbridge. The trail offers lots of descents through arroyos and plenty of steep little climbs. This is a popular trail for hikers and horseback riders, so be sure to yield.
Taos Valley Overlook Trail
The Taos Valley Overlook Trail is a system of trails located in the Orilla Verde Recreation Area off Highway 68 within the Río Grande Del Norte National Monument. Nestled along the banks of the scenic Río Grande at an elevation of 6,100 feet, the steep-walls of the Río Grande Gorge rise some 800 feet from the river to the rim. The Taos Valley Overlook trailhead is just a short drive from the campgrounds in the Orilla Verde Recreation Area and offers a variety of terrain for mountain biking.
Rift Valley Trail
The Rift Valley Trail, located within the Taos Overlook Trail system, provides a 10 -mile loop through the area. From the gate at the end of the parking lot, look for a singletrack immediately forking off to the right from the doubletrack in front of you. This will zigzag downhill through the sagebrush and scrub for a couple miles and bear left following the rim of the Rio Grande gorge. If you bear right at all the singletrack forks, the trail will eventually work its way back to toward the parking area. The narrow, twisty, flowy trails pass by some fantastic views of the Rio Grande Gorge.
Tips for Mountain Biking in Taos
When biking in the Taos area, you’re in high elevations, so, even if you’re an experienced cyclist in good physical shape, you need to take some precautions for high altitude biking. Begin your ride slowly to warm up and take frequent breaks as you ride so that you can both rest and stretch your muscles.
Come prepared for varied weather conditions. Monsoon season starts around the middle to end of July and lasts into September. This means rain—and even snow above 10,000 feet. Keep in mind, too, that a downpour can quickly turn a solid trail into slippery mud.
Many trails in the area are poorly marked. Orientation skills are important so that you don’t lose your bearing get lost in unfamiliar territory.
Taos Mountain Biking Tips and Ethics:
- Bring as much food and water as you can carry
- Ride only on designated trails for your protection and the protection of vegetation and soils
- Yield the trail to hikers and horseback riders.
- Be prepared. Bring along a repair kit and supplies that include an air pump, a chain tool, tire levers, patch kit, spare tubes, pliers and wrenches.
- You should always have the following items when biking: helmet, sunglasses, rain gear and extra clothing.
- Pack up any trash and take it back with you to be disposed of properly
- Watch out for animals. Never approach wild animals or startle them.
If you’d like to know about other mountain biking tracks in the Taos area, visit the Carson National Forest website and the BLM website for more information and trail maps. Gearing Up Bicycle Shop and Taos Cyclery in El Prado are also great resources for trail recommendations, trail maps and gear.