Difficult Hikes

These are the most difficult hiking routes in the preserve. Challenges will include long distances, steep terrain, deadfall, route finding, water crossings, lack of signage, and more. An additional consideration is that if your hike requires a vehicle permit, time is of the essence. Most of these hikes are full day commitments, so please check the operating hours for the main gate closing times. Overnight access is prohibited at this time. We recommend arriving early in order to secure a vehicle permit and to allow yourself adequate time to complete your adventure in a safe and enjoyable manner. Please remember, at this time no pets are permitted beyond the entrance station, even in your vehicle. Contact us at 575-829-4100 ext 3 or e-mail us for any updates and check the weather forecast prior to starting your adventure.
 
A grand view from atop a grassy hillside. Yellow aspens are downhill. A long valley with a single road extends into the distance under a blue sky. Forested mountains frame the valley.
The view from La Garita is considered to be one of the best

Photo: NPS/Coco Rae

La Garita Summit Trail

Length: 7.6 miles (12.2 km) out and back round trip
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation: 8556-10,335 feet
Trailhead: Locked cable gate marked VC12 on the north side of the road, about 1.6 miles east of the T-junction; 35° 58’ 20.29” N, 106° 30’ 15.79” W
Parking: Small dirt pull-out adjacent to the trailhead along the road. Vehicle permit required.
Route: One of the most popular trails, the route climbs steeply up the north rim of the caldera to reach the northern boundary fence line and then terminates in a lovely high meadow with spectacular views of the entire preserve.
 
A vast meadow is lined by a pine forest under a cloudy blue sky.
Twin Cabins Canyon along the hike

Photo: NPS/Coco Rae

Northwest Corner Trail

Length: 9.7 miles (15.6 km) out and back round trip; 12.3 miles (19.8 km) with Extension out and back round trip
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation: 8343-9020 feet
Trailhead: Locked cable gate marked VC10 on the north side of the road, about 5.5 miles west of the T-junction; 35° 57’ 56.34” N, 106° 37’ 7.53” W
Parking: Small dirt pull-out adjacent to the trailhead along the backcountry road. If vehicle access to the trailhead is closed due to road conditions and the Extension is required, park at the small dirt pull-out adjacent to the locked cable gate marked VC08 on the south side of the backcountry road, about 4.2 miles west of the T-junction (35° 58’ 8.6” N, 106° 35’ 54.12” W), and hike along the Extension to the trailhead. Vehicle permit required.
Route: The trail climbs steadily but gently northward to a rarely visited corner of the preserve, through shady groves of trees and past idyllic meadows perfect for a secluded picnic or birdwatching.
 
A forested canyon below trails off into the distance under a cloudy blue sky.
A rewarding view from San Antonio Mountain Trail

Photo: NPS/Coco Rae

San Antonio Mountain Trail

Length: 11 miles (17.7 km) out and back round trip
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation: 8394-9922 feet
Trailhead: Locked cable gate marked VC08 on the south side of the road, about 4.2 miles west of the T-junction; 35° 58’ 8.69” N, 106° 35’ 53.54” W
Parking: Small dirt pull-out adjacent to the trailhead along the road. Vehicle permit required.
Route: The trail heads south from Valle San Antonio, up a narrow drainage, and then steadily climbs as it passes through several beautiful glades before terminating just below the summit of San Antonio Mountain. Good opportunities for wildflowers, especially in spring and fall.
 
From a high viewpoint, a thick forest defines the foreground as mountain tower in the distance under a cloudy blue sky.
Cerro Seco Loop offers fantastic views of Redondo Peak

Photo: NPS/Coco Rae

Cerro Seco Loop

Length: 11.2 miles (18 km) round trip loop
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation: 8394-9706 feet
Trailhead: Locked cable gate marked VC08 on the south side of the road, about 4.2 miles west of the T-junction; 35° 58’ 8.69” N, 106° 35’ 53.54” W
Parking: Small dirt pull-out adjacent to the trailhead along the road. Vehicle permit required.
Route: The trail ascends a narrow drainage before circling around Cerro Seco lava dome, offering good views of Valle Seco and the northern rim of the caldera, with the best views saved for last. If you keep your eyes open you might even spot pikas. Best hiked counterclockwise.
 
A lush meadow holds a small pond. Forested mountains define the horizon under a clear blue sky.
Valle Seco along the hike

Photo: NPS/Coco Rae

Sulphur & Alamo Canyons Loop

Length: 12.2 miles (19.6 km) round trip loop
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation: 8069-9392 feet
Trailhead: Locked iron gate marked VC08 about 2 miles from the junction of Sulphur Creek Road/Forest Road 105 and NM 4 at mile marker 27; 35° 54’ 13.04” N, 106° 37’ 15.55” W
Parking: Small dirt pull-out adjacent to the trailhead along Forest Road 105. Vehicle permit not required. Not suitable for oversized vehicles.
Route: The trail follows Sulphur Creek, passing through an old sulphur mining area, before turning eastward to skirt beautiful Valle Seco. It slowly climbs the ridge at the edge of Valle Seco before dropping back down Alamo Canyon, passing three geothermal ponds along the way. Best hiked clockwise. GPS required, especially for Alamo Canyon.
 
The view from a rocky ridge with some small scatterings of snow. A clear blue sky with a line of mountains in the far distance. Forested slopes roll into the distance.
High up along Valle Jaramillo Loop

Photo: NPS/Coco Rae

Valle Jaramillo Loop

Length: 13.7 miles (22 km) with two-car shuttle one-way route; 17.1 miles (27.5 km) without two-car shuttle round trip loop
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation: 8595-10,000 feet
Trailhead: Locked cable gate marked VC03 on the west side of the road, about 7.6 miles from the Valle Grande Entrance Station; 35° 55’ 14” N, 106° 30’ 1.37” W
Parking: Small dirt pull-out adjacent to the trailhead along the road. If using a two-car shuttle, leave a second car at the small dirt pull-out adjacent to the locked cable gate marked VC0201 on the west side of the road, about 4 miles from the Valle Grande Entrance Station (35° 53’ 23.65” N, 106° 29’ 52.56” W). Vehicle permit(s) required.
Route: The trail heads up Valle Jaramillo along tranquil Jaramillo Creek before climbing up the north face of Redondo Mountain and contouring below Redondito Peak, crossing a high saddle, and then dropping down the south face for views of eastern Valle Grande. Best hiked counterclockwise. A two-car shuttle can reduce the distance by nearly 4 miles.
 
A grassy valley with trees off to the left. Three main forested mountain peaks starting along the left under a sparsely cloudy blue sky. A dirt path veers off to the lower right.
Eastern side of Valle Grande along the hike

Photo: NPS/Coco Rae

Cerro del Medio Loop

Length: 13.8 miles (22.2 km) round trip loop
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation: 8563-9016 feet
Trailhead: Locked cable gate marked VC05 on the east side of the road, about 6.5 miles from the Valle Grande Entrance Station; 35° 54’ 48.95” N, 106° 29’ 9.55” W
Parking: Small dirt pull-out adjacent to the trailhead along the road. Vehicle permit required.
Route: Although the trail is long it is very nearly flat, and may be hiked in either direction. The trail goes up Obsidian Valley, past some of the largest specimens of obsidian you’ll likely ever see, and then circles Cerro del Medio lava dome, passing through rarely visited Rincon de los Soldados and finishing with sweeping views of Valle Grande. Excellent opportunities for elk sightings, and a great trail for mountain bikers. All resources in the preserve are federally protected. Collection is strictly prohibited and enforced. Extensive deadfall may be encountered in this area.
 
A lush narrow valley where a small pond is surrounded by tall grass, bushes, and tall pine trees. A steep forested slope climbs from the center up to the right. A thin and clear blue sky makes for a beautiful day.
The remote Mirror Pond offers solitude

Photo: NPS/Coco Rae

Redondo Creek–Mirror Pond Trail

Length: 13.9 miles (22.4 km) out and back round trip
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation: 7845-9344 feet
Trailhead: Locked iron gate at Redondo Meadow parking area, near mile marker 28 on the east side of NM 4, at the jeep road marked VC02; 35° 52’ 22.36” N, 106° 37’ 16.46” W.
Parking: Small dirt pull-out adjacent to the trailhead along VC02. Vehicle permit not required. Parking not suitable for oversized vehicles.
Route: The trail heads gently up a pretty valley as it follows Redondo Creek, skirting the edge of Redondo Meadow and passing through old geothermal drilling areas. The trail climbs quickly but briefly before turning south to contour along Redondo Mountain, and ends at tranquil Mirror Pond.
 
The view from atop a forested mountain reveals a series of alternating rolling forests hills and  grassy valleys. The sky is mostly clear and blue.
Redondo Border Trail offers excellent views into this wild and scenic landscape

Photo: NPS/Coco Rae

Redondo Border Trail

Length: 15.9 miles (25.6 km) out and back round trip
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation: 8069-9732 feet
Trailhead: Locked iron gate marked VC08 about 2 miles from the junction of Sulphur Creek Road/Forest Road 105 and NM 4 at mile marker 27; 35° 54’ 13.04” N, 106° 37’ 15.55” W
Parking: Small dirt pull-out adjacent to the trailhead along Forest Road 105. Vehicle permit not required. Parking not suitable for oversized vehicles.
Route: The trail passes through an old sulphur mining area, complete with fumaroles, before it turns eastward to head up Alamo Canyon and pass three geothermal ponds. Once it reaches the ridge it turns southwestward to contour along Redondo Mountain, offering great views of the northern rim of the caldera. GPS required, especially for Alamo Canyon.
 
A grassy meadow dotted with pine trees. A thick forest in the background leads to a row of mountains which grow higher to the left under a clear blue sky.
Views along the Northwest Rim Trail

Photo: NPS/Coco Rae

Northwest Rim Trail

Length: 18.6 miles (29.9 km) out and back round trip; 21.2 miles (34.1 km) with Extension out and back round trip
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation: 8343-10,189 feet
Trailhead: Locked cable gate marked VC10 on the north side of the road, about 5.5 miles west of the T-junction; 35° 57’ 56.34” N, 106° 37’ 7.53” W
Parking: Small dirt pull-out adjacent to the trailhead along the road. If vehicle access to the trailhead is closed due to road conditions and the Extension is required, park at the small dirt pull-out adjacent to the locked cable gate marked VC08 on the south side of the road, about 4.2 miles west of the T-junction (35° 58’ 8.6” N, 106° 35’ 54.12” W), and hike along the Extension to the trailhead. Vehicle permit required.
Route: While this is the longest trail, it is not steep, and has much to offer: pretty, extensive aspen groves, hidden high meadows, excellent opportunities for elk sightings, and rarely-seen views of Redondo Mountain. This is a great trail for trail runners and mountain bikers.
 
There are many more hiking routes to choose from if you are looking for something a bit less strenuous. Please visit the main hiking page for more information.

Last updated: April 23, 2020

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Mailing Address:

PO Box 359
Jemez Springs, NM 87025

Phone:

(575) 829-4100 x3

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