Moderate Hikes

The moderate hikes here in Valles Caldera are a fantastic way to spend a few hours to around half a day exploring your preserve. Since most of these hikes start beyond the entrance station, a vehicle permit is required. We strongly recommend arriving earlier in the day in order to secure a permit. Challenges on these hikes may include route finding, water crossings, inclement weather, and more. Also, please remember that if you take your vehicle past the entrance station, please check the hours of operations, as you need to be back at least fifteen minutes prior to the main gate closing time. Please remember, no pets are permitted beyond the entrance station, not even in vehicles at this time. 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.

 
View from an overlook along Cerro Abrigo Trail. A long valley framed by steep forested hills under a clear blue sky.
Cerro Abrigo Loop

Photo: NPS/Coco Rae

Cerros del Abrigo Loop

Length: 7.2 miles (11.6 km) round trip loop
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 8720-9559 feet
Trailhead: Locked cable gate marked VC0203 on the west side of the road, about 7 miles from the Valle Grande Entrance Station; 35° 54’ 55.34” N, 106° 29’ 37.81” W
Parking: Small dirt pull-out adjacent to the trailhead along the road. Vehicle permit required.
Route: The trail gently ascends a lava dome and then contours around it, offering unparalleled views of much of the eastern half of the caldera. The loop may be hiked in either direction, although counterclockwise achieves most of the elevation gain early in the hike. Excellent opportunities for elk and other wildlife sightings.
 
A shallow and grassy valley is dotted with boulders. Hills frame the horizon under a clear blue sky.
The remote Rito de Los Indios Trail

Photo: NPS/Coco Rae

Rito de Los Indios Trail

Length: 7.8 miles (12.6 km) out and back round trip
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 8568-9494 feet
Trailhead: Locked cable gate marked VC13 on the north side of the road, about 2.6 miles east of the T-junction; 35° 57’ 51.45” N, 106° 29’ 28.17” W
Parking: Small dirt pull-out adjacent to the trailhead along the road. Vehicle permit required.
Route: The trail climbs gently up to the northern boundary of the preserve as it follows burbling Rito de los Indios, passing an old cabin from the ranching era and terminating just beyond a beautiful, hidden valley.
 
A mix of pine and yellow leafed aspen trees grow just beyond a grassy slope. Beyond, an extensive valley is defined by mountains in the distance.
A view from South Mountain in the fall

Photo: NPS/Coco Rae

South Mountain Trail

Length: 8.2 miles (13.2 km) out and back round trip
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 8737-9795 feet
Trailhead: Locked cable gate marked VC02 in front of the Valle Grande Contact Station; 35° 51’ 51.93” N, 106° 31’ 6.22” W
Parking: Dirt parking area behind the Valle Grande Contact Station. Vehicle permit required.
Route: The trail heads up a narrow valley before climbing, sometimes steeply, up the north side of South Mountain, passing through shady groves of trees before reaching a lovely meadow at the top. Some of the best views of Valle Grande can be had from the summit.
 
A forest of trees grows along a boulder filled hillside.
The landscape within Banco Bonito is vastly different than the valles

Photo: NPS/Coco Rae

Banco Bonito Loop

Length: 9.2 miles (14.8 km) round trip loop; 9.5 miles (15.3 km) Alternative Route with two-car shuttle one-way route
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 7774-8871 feet
Trailhead: Locked cable gate marked VC07 at the southeast corner of the Banco Bonito pullout, near mile marker 30 on the east side of NM 4; 35° 50’ 20.27” N, 106° 36’ 56.79” W
Parking: Small dirt pull-out adjacent to the locked iron gate at Banco Bonito pullout. If using a two-car shuttle for the Alternative Route, leave a second car at the small dirt pull-out adjacent to the locked iron gate at Redondo Meadow, 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). Permit not required. Campers with special use permits may be camping beyond the locked gate at Banco Bonito, however this area is for all public use. Please enjoy your hike!
Route: The trail can be done either as a loop or a one-way route, and is best hiked counterclockwise. It passes through some of the youngest lava flows on the preserve, skirts idyllic El Cajete Meadow, and enjoys shady ponderosa groves along much of the route. If hiking the loop, GPS is required for the last quarter of the loop.
 
A large grassy meadow under a blue cloudy sky. The remnants of a long forgotten dirt road disappear to the left. Forested hills line the horizon.
Oral history accounts recall horse races in El Cajete

Photo: NPS/Coco Rae

El Cajete Loop

Length: 9.4 miles (15.1 km) round trip loop
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 8462-9163 feet
Trailhead: Locked cable gate marked VC02 in front of the Valle Grande Contact Station; 35° 51’ 51.93” N, 106° 31’ 6.22” W
Parking: Dirt parking area behind the Valle Grande Contact Station. Vehicle permit required.
Route: The trail heads up a narrow valley and passes over two ridges before arriving at El Cajete Meadow, one of the prettiest in the preserve. Several washouts along the trail may be challenging, and should not be attempted if water is flowing. The trail around the meadow is best hiked clockwise.
 
a creek runs through a wide grassy valley, mountains in the distance under a cloudy blue sky.
Valle Toledo

Photo: NPS/Seth Gayner

Valle Toledo Loop

Length: 9.5 miles (15.3 km) round trip loop
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 8553-8976 feet
Trailhead: Locked cable gate marked VC13 on the north side of the road, about 2.6 miles east of the T-junction; 35° 57’ 51.45” N, 106° 29’ 28.17” W
Parking: Small dirt pull-out adjacent to the trailhead along the road. Vehicle permit required.
Route: Best hiked clockwise, the trail skirts the base of the northeastern rim of the caldera as it loops around Valle Toledo and then traverses it while following San Antonio Creek, famous for its excellent fly fishing.
 
There are many more hiking routes to choose from if you are looking for something a little less adventurous, or if you are looking for something more challenging. Please visit the Easy Hikes or Difficult Hikes pages for more details.

Last updated: April 23, 2020

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

PO Box 359
Jemez Springs, NM 87025

Phone:

(575) 829-4100 x3

Contact Us

Tools