Backcountry Access

Woman running along a trail in a rugged backcountry area of Valles Caldera.
One of the many ways to enjoy the Valles Caldera backcountry.
Some of the best adventures take place in the Valles Caldera backcountry. Visitors will find ample opportunities to hike, mountain bike, horseback ride, fish, cross-country ski, snowshoe, and view wildlife.

Visitors can access the backcountry by foot, mountain bike, horseback, or personal vehicle. For those accessing by personal vehicle or horse, a back country vehicle permit or equestrian permit is required. A permit is not needed if accessing by foot, mountain bike, skis, or snowshoes.

Backcountry Vehicle Permit

  • Up to 35 backcountry vehicle permits will be available each day during the summer season (mid-May thru October) as conditions allow. No permits will be issued within two hours of closing as more time is needed to travel safely into and back from the backcountry.
    • Backcountry vehicle access may be unavailable if the roads are unsafe for travel.
    • Closures will be posted on our alerts webpage.
  • Permit holders are allowed to travel only on designated roads and to park only in designated parking areas that have not reached the maximum vehicle capacity. (map)
  • The backcountry vehicle route is unpaved.
    • The dirt and gravel road can be heavily rutted, have a "washboard" surface, and can be quite rough in spots.
    • Roads can be slick during heavy rains.
    • Flash flooding and washouts may occur during periods of heavy rains, especially during monsoon season (July-August).
  • The permit allows the permit holder and all passengers that can legally fit in the vehicle access to the backcountry.
    • Passenger vehicles and motorcycles are permitted.
    • 4WD or high clearance vehicles are strongly encouraged.
    • Buses, off-road vehicles (ATVs, UTVs, etc.) and non-street legal motorcycles are not permitted.
  • There is no additional fee for this permit beyond the preserve entrance fee.
  • The backcountry vehicle pass is only valid between preserve operating hours on the date of access; no overnight access is granted.
    • Permit holders will need to leave the backcountry in enough time to check out BEFORE the main gate closes.
  • Permit holders will be exiting the preserve the same way they came in. No other exits are designated.
  • Speed limit is 15 mph thru the Valle Grande district and 25 mph everywhere else within the preserve.
  • Smoking is allowed only inside your personal vehicle: remember cigarette butts are trash and need to be disposed of properly.
  • Only service animals are allowed in the backcountry, no pets. (This rule applies even if you have no intentions of letting your pet out of the car at any time.)
  • Permits are non-transferable.
  • Permits can be revoked for violations of preserve rules & regulations.
  • Remember, safety is your responsibility.
  • Information EVERY visitor needs to know.
How to Obtain a Permit
  • Beginning mid-May, you may walk into the Valle Grande Contact Station to pick up a permit for that day if permits are still available.
    • At this time, reservations for permits are not accepted.
  • Given the limited number of permits available each day, it is very likely the permits will be issued out early, especially on weekends.
  • Operating Hours

Last updated: June 20, 2017

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

PO Box 359
Jemez Springs, NM 87025


(575) 829-4100 x3

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