The Western Canyons region covers the land immediately west of the town of Los Alamos. It ranges from Upper Los Alamos Canyon in the south to the Mitchell Trail in the north and everything in between. Explore the interactive map below to see the region boundary (red), trails (blue), and the recommended trailheads (hiker icons).
All trailheads in this region can be accessed with 2WD vehicles.
The Mitchell Trailhead is on Arizona Ave. near its intersection with 45th St. The lower portion of the Mitchell Trail used to stick to the bottom of the canyon, but after the 2000 Cerro Grande wildfire severely burned this area they relocated the trail up on a low ridge to avoid flood damage to the trail. However, people continued to use the old route as well so now the two combine for a nice 2.5 mile loop. The Mitchell Trail continues past the end of this loop and heads steeply up the mountains to meet the Guaje Ridge Trail. While this upper portion of the trail is within the CBC region, it is all in burn scar habitat that is similar to what you can see elsewhere in the region with less effort.
There are a network of trails accessible from the Quemazon Trailhead that allow for loops anywhere from 1 to 13 miles. We recommend a combination of the Quemazon Nature Trail and the lower Quemazon Trail which comes out to about 1.6 miles and explores burn scar and bare rock habitats that differ from the canyon bottom habitats seen elsewhere in this region.
The Upper Los Alamos Canyon trail starts at the the hockey rink and proceeds west (upstream) past the hairpin in West Rd. At this point, the hike is on a county access road for the reservoir. Continue for 1.5 miles to reach the reservoir. After this, the trail continues upstream for another mile before becoming indistinct. This is one of the best birding spots in Los Alamos County, though the quality of birding becomes abruptly worse once above the reservoir.
By far the best birding spot in this region is Upper Los Alamos Canyon. Start here and spend as much time as you want; everything else will be less birdy, particularly if the stream is flowing along the canyon bottom–this is the only running water in the region. The Mitchell Trail should be your next stop. Finally, give the Quemazon loop a try.