Falls Trail

Trail Name: Falls Trail
Length: 3 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 300 feet
Difficulty: Easy
Suitable For: Hiking and running only

By Craig Martin

Map of Falls Trail.

The Falls Trail in Bandelier National Monument makes a delightful, scenic outing for families or any hiker. The trail has sun and shade, running water (most of the time), ferns and wildflowers, and ends with a view of a spectacular waterfall. Much of the trail is shady, covered by ponderosa pines. Before the post-Las Conchas fire floods in 2011, the trail continued beyond Upper Falls to Lower Falls and from there to the Rio Grande. But the floods wiped out the trail and collapsed the surrounding cliffs so that no route through has been re-established. The old trail beyond Upper Falls is closed and hazardous.

The trip is relatively easy but does involve a 300-foot climb back from the falls along gentle grades. Also, much of the trail is on a bench high above the canyon bottom. This is particularly true in the last quarter mile before the falls, where careful supervision of children is highly recommended.

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Knife Edge Trail

Trail Name: Knife Edge Trail
Length: 2.4 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 150 feet
Difficulty: Easy
Suitable For: Hiking only, good for families with children under supervision.
Knife Edge Trail map.

By Craig Martin

The Knife Edge is a narrow ridge of rock separating two branches of the Ancho Canyon drainage. The ridge narrows to become only a few yards wide, offering nice views in both directions. The trip is an easy walk on an old dirt road through piñon and juniper woodlands, and in spring you can find some early wildflowers growing along the way. It is a nice outing for families and a great early-season trip for anyone.

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Deer Trap Mesa Trail

Trail Name: Deer Trap Mesa Trail
Length: 3.2 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 200 feet
Difficulty: Easy, with one tricky section
Suitable For: Hiking only, good for families with children under supervision.

By Craig Martin

Map of Deer Trap Mesa Trail.

One of the finger mesas extending east from the Pajarito Plateau, Deer Trap Mesa offers the most consistently scenic hikes on the plateau. In addition, the terrain is rather flat, with a couple of exceptions. The main trail passes by the game pit for which the mesa was named, then follows a well-worn path across a narrow section of mesa with views on both sides. A loop trail, located on Los Alamos County Open Space, leads to several overlooks of the Pajarito Plateau and Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the east. The view is constantly changing, and immensely enthralling. The most challenging section of trail is in the first 100 yards, a short, narrow, steep descent on an Ancestral Pueblo stairway that seems tricky but is rather easy and not dangerous if carefully navigated. Almost the entire canyon edge trek follows segments of three-finger mesas and is just over 3 miles long. Some sections are muddy after rains, but because of a general lack of shade, the trail dries out quickly. This is an ideal spring, fall, or winter hike, but it does get quite warm at mid-day in summer.

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Neblina’s Trail

Trail Name: Neblina’s Trail
Length: 1.5 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 200 feet
Difficulty: Easy
Suitable For: Hiking, running, good for families. Mountain biking is permitted but the short canyon ending in a dead end makes it somewhat unappealing to riders.

By Craig Martin

Map of Neblina’s Trail.

A short, shady trip up the Neblina’s Trail offers a quiet getaway close to town. The trail traverses under tall pines and is a cool trip even on a summer afternoon. The area was relatively untouched by the Cerro Grande fire, although the stream channel is choked with debris from floods following that fire and the Las Conchas fire. Tall, orange cliffs flank the canyon, and the trip ends in a narrows where cliffbush thrives in a thick stand.

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Tsankawi Loop Trail

Trail Name: Tsankawi Loop Trail
Length: 1.5 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 300 feet
Difficulty: Moderate, mostly because of the ladders
Suitable For: Hiking only, good for families with children under close supervision

By Craig Martin

If you are looking for a scenic trail with plenty of cultural resources and scenic vistas to enjoy, then check out the Tsankawi Loop Trail in the detached section of Bandelier National Monument near the intersection of the Truck Route and New Mexico Highway 4 north of White Rock. Because the trail is at a relatively low elevation, snow and mud dry out quickly, making this a good late winter destination.

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Upper Water Canyon Trail to the Meadow

Trail Name: Upper Water Canyon
Length: 2 miles roundtrip, extendable to 5 miles
Elevation Gain: 200 feet
Difficulty: Easy
Suitable For: Family hikes, hiking, mountain biking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing on occasion
Map of Upper Water Canyon Trail.

By Craig Martin

The Upper Water Canyon Trail in the Santa Fe National Forest makes a great hike any time of year. The trail is easy to follow, has little elevation gain, and offers some local history, wildlife viewing, flowing water, summer and fall wildflowers, and mid-summer raspberry picking — if you can get to them before the bears gobble them all up. The trail passes through a forest recovering from the Cerro Grande and Las Conchas wildfires, enters two old-growth mixed conifer stands, and leads to an old dam constructed by the Atomic Energy Commission to supply water to the then Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory. The two-mile roundtrip to the dam and back is easy walking for anyone.

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