The North Canyons region covers the areas immediately north of the town of Los Alamos. This consists primarily of Rendija Canyon and Guaje Canyon and all of the land in between them. Explore the interactive map below to see the region boundary (red), the major roads (green), trails (blue), and the recommended trailheads (hiker icons).
Rendija Rd. is a dirt road that runs down most of Rendija Canyon and is passable in a 2WD, low-clearance vehicle. At the confluence of Rendija and Guaje Canyons, Rendija Rd. runs into Guaje Canyon Rd. which is also 2WD-friendly except at its upstream end where it makes a hair-pin turn and starts ascending the north slope of the canyon. At this point, a high-clearance 4WD vehicle is necessary. However, this section of the road is not necessary for reaching any of the primary birding locations in this region.
There is a trailhead at the hairpin turn in Guaje Canyon Rd. which is the easiest way to access the heavily-forested bottom of Guaje Canyon. This well-forested trail continues upstream for approximately two miles until the trees disappear and the quality of birding decreases abruptly. This is just downstream of the north end of the Pajarito Trail.
The Pajarito Trailhead is on the north side of Rendija Rd. just west of the gun club (at the top of a small hill). This is the easiest spot to access the southern end of the Pajarito Trail and its southern extension leading up onto Barranca Mesa. It is also the best way to get to the eastern end of the Rendija Canyon Trail.
The Guaje Pines Cemetery Trailhead is the easiest way to get to the western end of the Rendija Canyon Trail (at the brief box canyon) and to the southern end of the Rendija Canyon North Fork Trail which runs up the canyon bottom to the north behind the cemetery.
There is an old Forest Service road that starts behind the cemetery and heads all the way up and over the mountains and down into Guaje Canyon about a mile upstream of the point where the Pajarito Trail crosses Guaje Canyon. This road is driveable all the way to Guaje Canyon but only in a serious 4WD, high-clearance vehicle. The Forest Service is no longer maintaining this road so its condition is expected to deteriorate as the years go by.
Note that there are additional trails within this region not shown on the map above, but for the most part they provide redundant habitat access and are more remote or difficult to get to.
The Best Birding
Most of the high ground in this region was burned in the 2000 Cerro Grande wildfire leaving behind a ghost forest which has now largely fallen down. The best birding, as a result, is in the canyon bottoms where the trees still stand. On the other hand, the canyon-bottom habitats are largely self-similar so if you want to increase your team’s species count for the day, consider spending at least some time on the higher trails. The priorities for coverage should be:
- Guaje Canyon Trail
- Rendija Canyon Trail
- Pull-offs along Rendija Rd.
- Rendija Canyon North Fork Trail
- Highlands either along the old Forest Service road or the Pajarito Trail