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10 great places to go mountain biking in New Mexico

Mountain bike down the trail at Angel Fire Bike Park. | Photo by Steve Larese

Mountain bikers flock to New Mexico for good reason: Our state offers incredible topographical diversity, from desert slickrock to alpine meadows. As more and more New Mexicans add bikes to their outdoor adventures, local groups and government entities are developing new trails or improving existing ones. Here are just a few mountain bike trail systems throughout our state.

1. Angel Fire Bike Park

One of the largest bike parks in the Rocky Mountains, Angel Fire Bike Park features more than 60 miles of trails. | Photo by Steve Larese

One of the largest bike parks in the Rocky Mountains, Angel Fire Bike Park features more than 60 miles of trails. | Photo by Steve Larese

More than 60 miles of bike trails cater to riders of all levels, from beginners seeking mellow downhills to experts looking for big air. Take the chair lift to the 10,677-foot summit and pick from 80 runs dropping more than 2,000 feet. Aside from being the largest bike resort in the Southwest, Angel Fire offers mountain bikers rooms, restaurants, a bike shop, and bars right at the base of the trails. Riders can enjoy a day of riding that’s as easy or hard as they’d like and then meet up later for après bike activities. Angel Fire also makes a good base for exploring other trails throughout the Sangre de Cristos, such as the advanced 22-mile South Boundary Trail that travels from Angel Fire to Taos.

Info: (800) 633-7463; angelfireresort.com/bike-park.

2. Sandia Foothills Open Space in Albuquerque

Enjoy year-round mountain biking trails at Sandia Foothills Open Space. | Photo by Steve Larese

Enjoy year-round mountain biking trails at Sandia Foothills Open Space. | Photo by Steve Larese

Along the 17 miles of Sandia Mountain foothills on Albuquerque’s east side, the Albuquerque Foothills Open Space contains 2,650 acres of single track with a mix of climbs, downhills, and technical sections suitable for all skill levels. Bicycling magazine named Albuquerque one of its “Top 50 Bike-Friendly Cities” largely due to this trail system.

Info: Parking areas abound at trailheads along the Foothills Open Space. Consider the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway base ($5 cash fee), the Elena Gallegos Picnic Area at the end of Simms Park Road ($1 cash fee; $2 on weekends), Spain Road, Montgomery Road (Glenwood Hills Drive), Candelaria Road, Menaul Boulevard, Indian School Road, and Copper Avenue. tinyurl.com/sfopenspace.

3. Bosque Trail in Corrales

The Bosque Trail near Corrales is a moderate trail that travels along a river. | Photo by Steve Larese

The Bosque Trail near Corrales is a moderate trail that travels along a river. | Photo by Steve Larese

This relatively flat, smooth 6-mile single track travels along the Río Grande from the north end of Corrales to Alameda Boulevard. It’s perfect for beginners and kids, offering plenty of tree roots and log obstacles. Experienced riders will enjoy this fast, windy trail, too. Be extra careful going around turns where trees and bushes block your visibility.

Info: To access the trail’s north end from Corrales Road, take the ditch road across from Paseo Cesar Chavez and drive to the parking lot at the river. To reach the south end, use the Alameda Open Space parking lot. Then, ride under the Alameda Bridge and take the old Alameda Bridge to the trailhead.

4. Alien Run Trail in Aztec

Named for a rumored UFO crash site in the area, the Alien Run Trail offers a fun variety of tracks that appeal to all skill levels. | Photo by Steve Larese

Named for a rumored UFO crash site in the area, the Alien Run Trail offers a fun variety of tracks that appeal to all skill levels. | Photo by Steve Larese

This firm and clean trail offers a zippy 16-mile double loop that includes some of New Mexico’s best slickrock riding and a brush with the state’s legendary past. The course is mostly level with an overall 600-foot elevation change as it travels along the mesa top, skirting the edge of Hart Canyon. In large sections of slickrock, bikers must look for cairns and painted arrows to stay on the trail. A plaque explains the history of a purported UFO crash, near a large alien head formed out of rocks.

Info: From the intersection of US 550 and Aztec Boulevard, travel north 4 miles; then, turn onto CR 2770 (Hart Canyon Road). Travel east for 2.8 miles and follow the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) signs to Alien Run; the parking area on the right is a half-mile farther. Map is available at tinyurl.com/alienruntrail.

5. High Desert Trail System in Gallup

Get up close to unique New Mexico landscape at the High Desert Trail System in Gallup. | Photo by Steve Larese

Get up close to unique New Mexico landscape at the High Desert Trail System in Gallup. | Photo by Steve Larese

A gem of New Mexico mountain bike trails, this system offers 23 miles of single track spanning three mesas with high piñon and juniper terrain. Rock-ledge drops and climbs and slickrock sections, in addition to clean cross-country trails, make this diverse system a destination trip for mountain bikers across the region. Good signage and fun metal art add New Mexico whimsy.

Info: From Interstate 40, head north on US 491 for 1.8 miles, turn left onto South Chino Road for 0.2 miles, and then turn left onto Coal Carbon Road. mtbproject.com/directory/8009315/gallup.

6. White Mesa Trail System in San Ysidro

See wildflowers and spectacular rock formations along the White Mesa Trail System in San Ysidro. | Photo by Steve Larese

See wildflowers and spectacular rock formations along the White Mesa Trail System in San Ysidro. | Photo by Steve Larese

This rugged 8-mile loop draws riders from far and wide and for good reason. In many places, the packed single track has ridge spines with slopes dropping off dramatically on either side, especially along a section named Dragon’s Back. Beyond several technical boulder areas and climbs, the area’s gypsum geology exposure can make this trail difficult. It’s a premiere fall/winter/spring ride in cool temperatures and calm winds.

Info: From Interstate 25, take Exit 242 in Bernalillo, then head northwest on US 550 for 21.8 miles to reach Cabezon Road off southbound US 550. Stay on Cabezon Road for 4.5 miles until you reach the parking area.

7. Dale Ball Trails in Santa Fe

Located around 3 miles from downtown Santa Fe, the Dale Ball Trails provide the perfect urban escape for mountain bikers. | Photo by Steve Larese

Located around 3 miles from downtown Santa Fe, the Dale Ball Trails provide the perfect urban escape for mountain bikers. | Photo by Steve Larese

This 24-mile network of trails through rolling piñon and juniper foothills above Santa Fe can be customized for short to epic rides. Smooth single track is accompanied by good signage and map kiosks. With few technical sections or big climbs, this system is great for beginners and kids, but is long enough to please advanced riders. The trail can be fast; keep an eye out for hikers and horses.

Info: Dale Ball has two parking areas. The north section lot is at the intersection of Hyde Park Road and Sierra del Norte, and the south section lot is at Upper Canyon Road and Cerro Gordo (at the very end of Upper Canyon Road). The 6-mile Atalaya Trail (Trail #170) that climbs to the top of Atalaya Mountain starts near the parking lot of St. John’s College. sfct.org/dale-ball-trails/.

8. Grindstone Trail System in Ruidoso

The five trails at the Grindstone Trail System in Ruidoso range from intermediate to advanced. | Photo courtesy Village of Ruidoso

The five trails at the Grindstone Trail System in Ruidoso range from intermediate to advanced. | Photo courtesy Village of Ruidoso

Opened in 2014, this 18-mile loop trail designed by the International Mountain Biking Association offers single track through Lincoln National Forest with several turn-off points for shorter rides of varying difficulty, mostly intermediate. From a parking area at Grindstone Lake, the trail starts with a moderate climb to Grindstone Mesa, followed by miles of flow trail with intermediate switchbacks. Trail signs help with navigation. The climb to Grindstone Mesa can be painful, but the payoff is anything but: Views of Sierra Blanca and surrounding mountains are spectacular. This is a multiuse trail, so watch out for hikers and horseback riders.

Info: From Resort Drive, take Grindstone Lake Road for 0.3 miles to the parking area. discoverruidoso.com/grindstone-lake-trail.

9. Fort Bayard Trail System in Fort Bayard

A National Historic Landmark, the Fort Bayard Trail System was established in 1866 by the U.S. Army to protect miners and settlers. | Photo by Laurence Parent

A National Historic Landmark, the Fort Bayard Trail System was established in 1866 by the U.S. Army to protect miners and settlers. | Photo by Laurence Parent

This extensive network of trails beginning at Fort Bayard 6 miles east of Silver City winds through a southern section of the Gila National Forest. Access more than a dozen trails plus a cross-country course from the trailhead at the Fort Bayard Medical Center. The trails are relatively level, with mellow drops and climbs in and out of arroyos and washes. The fast trails cut through a juniper-studded rolling landscape with average elevation gains and losses of 200 feet. For area maps, as well as maps of many other favorite local spots, stop by Gila Hike and Bike in Silver City.

Info: From US 180 at Santa Clara, take Fort Bayard Road north for 0.6 miles to the Fort Bayard Medical Center, where the paved road ends and becomes dirt Old Highway 180 Trail. Park your car, and bike on the road until you reach Twin Sisters Creek Trail on the right (north) just beyond the arroyo. In 0.3 miles, the trailhead for Fenceline Trail will be on the right. This leads to the other trails, which intersect and allow for customized routes. 103 College Avenue. (575) 388-3222; gilahikeandbike.com. Visit tinyurl.com/fbtrailsystem for a map of the trail network.

10. Dona Ana Trail in Las Cruces

This 6.7-mile loop on desert-scrub BLM land quickly climbs, offering sweeping views of the Organ and surrounding mountains. Several other trails extend from the main single-track loop, so first-time riders should pay attention to their route. Signage here is minimal. Rolling foothills and banked turns make this a go-to trail for southern New Mexicans.

Info: From I-25, take Exit 9 and use northbound Del Rey Boulevard, Calle Las Lomas, and La Reina Road to reach Desert Wind Way. Turn right and continue on Desert Wind Way for 1.8 miles to the parking lot and trailhead on the north side of the road.

Albuquerque-based Steve Larese is an award-winning travel journalist. 

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