50 Hikes 50 States Project–New Mexico
You win some. You lose some. After having a blast in Arizona on our last hike in our 50 Hikes 50 States Project, we continued back to Colorado through New Mexico. We stopped in Taos to do our New Mexico hike after a nice stay with friends in Santa Fe.
Up until now, all of our hikes had been fun, jaw-dropping, or at least interesting. I felt like we were getting into a rhythm of how to pick good hikes, sort through reviews on websites and apps, and trust our choices. So when it came to New Mexico, I felt confident we’d have a slam dunk.
New Mexico’s land of enchantment lives up to the hype. With fun national parks like Carlsbad Caverns National Park, funky other-worldy kitsch like Roswell (see our quirky road trip), and gorgeous and artsy Santa Fe, how could we possibly get a miss in New Mexico?
The Light of Taos
Sorting through the hiking choices, and thinking about places we hadn’t visited in New Mexico, I couldn’t wait to get to Taos. The one thing I’d always heard about Taos–“it’s the light!” Photographer and artist friends have raved about the way light bounces in Taos making guaranteed great pics. So my husband and I got up early, said thanks for the quick overnight stay to a dear friend, and we headed north out of Santa Fe to our selected hike for our 50 Hikes 50 States Project, Slide Trail.
New Mexico’s Slide Trail
We didn’t plan to do Slide Trail. My research had pointed us elsewhere. Yet on the way to our first choice, we stopped at the Rio Grande Norte National Monument Visitors Center. As I always do, I chatted up the rangers about our national project, and asked about the trail we had picked out. They had never heard of it.
So we described our criteria–3 to 5 miles, preferably a loop, uniquely identifies the area, and not above 8000 feet. Based on our needs, the team recommended Slide Trail (point your GPS to 36.35012, -105.71334.)
The Slide Trail’s start is at the end of a dirt road near the edge of a canyon just south of Taos. The morning’s crispness nipped our ears and fingers, so we bundled up for the low temp and high altitude of Taos. Bright blue skies bounced the whites and greens of the landscape. The trailhead’s signs weren’t helpful, but a quick google maps review showed up that Slick Trail started to the right of the trailhead on the north end of the parking lot. You’ll know you’re there when you see a bunker of concrete and debris with a bit of painted graffiti. From there, it’s all downhill.
We had the place to ourselves.
Down a small dirt path from the parking lot, we started to quickly find a wider gravel trail that headed into the Rio Grande Gorge. Once an old road that was closed due to a rock slide, we found an easy hike, down into the canyon. We thought we’d find interesting vegetation and perhaps some mud swallows in the walls of the canyon. Aren’t canyons generally fun and inspiring?
To the Bottom and Back Up
I was bored to tears. The gravel road went straight into the canyon on a steady decline. Although I hate switchbacks, they would have been a nice change of pace to this constant and consistent downhill into the canyon. Granted, the trees did beam a brilliant gold and orange against the bright blue sky, but nothing could keep my interest.
After about 1.5 miles down, we approached the river, which we thought would be the Rio Grande, but rather it was the Pueblo de Taos Rio, which isn’t big nor river like. More a creek than a river. Supposedly this creek gives up great trout, but I wasn’t there to fish.
I was cold and under-dressed for the shady side of the gorge.
My husband and I took a picture then turned around and drudged back up the 1.5 miles to the top of the gorge. I don’t think we even talked on the way up. A boring trail in the cold, crisp wind didn’t spark a breath of creative conversation. Nary a bird, coyote nor squirrel entertained us on the way back up.
Chalking up a bad choice to a boring hike, we thought we might be able to salvage the Taos stop with an interesting lunch in what we thought would be an inspiring downtown that would rival Santa Fe. Sadly, we kept driving.
Other Great Hikes in New Mexico
But I will say this. As we continued east out of Taos to Raton along Highway 64 through Angel Fire, Eagle Nest and Cimarron State Park, we passed some gorgeous places I’ll definitely go back and hike, including New Mexico’s segment of the Continental Divide Trail. Canyons, buttes, and valleys await exploration; but not on this day.
So I’m sorry to say that our hike in New Mexico was a bust. You win some. You lose some. Fortunately, I travel to and through New Mexico several times a year, so I’ll seek out a better trail next time. After all, it is the land of enchantment, so there must be a charm there waiting for me. Do you have a suggested hike that fits the criteria above and one you’d recommend? Would you shoot me a quick message and perhaps a picture? I’d love to hear and see what you think would be an awesome hike in New Mexico. So far, I’m batting 0%. Thanks!