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.
If you seek a physical challenge or a sense of solitude, you can find it in Valles Caldera's backcountry. Visitors will find ample opportunities to hike, mountain bike, horseback ride, fish, view wildlife, cross-country ski and snowshoe.

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

Backcountry Vehicle Passes

Up to 35 vehicle permits will be available at one time during the summer season as conditions allow. The backcountry is inaccessible to vehicles past the Cabin District from November 15 to May 14. Backcountry vehicle passes are only valid during operating hours on the date of access; no overnight access is granted. There is no additional fee for this non-transferable pass beyond the preserve's entrance fee. Passes can be revoked for violations of preserve rules & regulations.

  • Backcountry Vehicle Passes can only be obtained in-person on the day of use.
  • 35 passes are issued at one time. If you arrive at a time when all 35 passes have been issued, your name will be added to a waitlist, and once a pass is available, you will be permitted into the backcountry.
  • Pets are not permitted in the backcountry at this time; as such, passes will not be issued to those with a pet in their vehicle with the exception of documented service animals. Note: Emotional support animals are not considered service animals.
  • Backcountry Vehicle Passes must be returned to the Entrance Station before the park closes.
  • Special Use permits such as fishing and equestrian permits do not include access to the backcountry. Holders of these permits must still obtain a backcountry vehicle pass to access the backcountry.
  • Vehicle access may be unavailable if the roads are unsafe for travel. Closures will be posted on the alerts webpage.
  • Speed limit is 10 mph in developed areas around buildings and 20 mph everywhere else within the preserve.
  • Roads are unpaved and can be heavily rutted, have a washboard surface, and can be quite rough in spots. The road can be very slick during and after rain, and flash flooding and washouts may occur during periods of heavy rains, especially during monsoon season (July-August).

  • Passenger vehicles and motorcycles are permitted, but 4WD or high clearance vehicles are strongly encouraged. Buses, off-road vehicles (ATVs, UTVs, etc.) and non-street legal motorcycles are not permitted.
  • Pass holders are required to return to NM-4 no later than the gate closure time listed in the operating hours. Exit the preserve via the same route as entry. No other exits are designated.
  • Smoking is allowed only inside your personal vehicle: cigarette butts are trash and need to be disposed of properly.

  • Remember, safety is your responsibility. Information EVERY visitor needs to know.

    Click here to download our Driving Companion.

Last updated: November 1, 2022

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PO Box 359
Jemez Springs , NM 87025


575 829-4100 x3

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