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.

Read more Upper Water Canyon Trail to the Meadow

Week 4, Day 4: Trails

Craig Martin enjoys the view from the Blue Dot Trail. (Photo by Craig Martin)

In today’s Take It Outside post we are celebrating our wonderful local trails! New Mexico is home to incredible and diverse outdoor spaces and our state has many great trails you can use to explore them.

What are your favorite trails in New Mexico? Tell us about them today!

If you haven’t already, read PEEC’s recommendations on responsibly getting outside and using our trails during COVID-19.

Blog Post:

Craig Martin shares some of the behind-the-scenes planning and work that goes into building sustainable trails. Craig is a PEEC volunteer, former board member, and local author. He was Los Alamos County’s Open Space Specialist from 2003 – 2015. Read today’s blog post here.

Craig is also hosting a livestreamed talk for PEEC on Tuesday, April 21 on our forest’s vegetative recovery after the Cerro Grande Fire. Learn more and register for this virtual event here.


The Passport to the Pajarito Plateau is a great way to explore our local trails. (Photo by Heather Marancenbaum)

A good, strong, hiking stick is always a cherished treasure. Keep an eye out for big sticks when you go hiking! Please use deadfall for this project — don’t cut your hiking stick from a live tree unless you have permission to do so. Bring home your found hiking stick and personalize it with your story this spring. 

Use Sharpie or whittle to add pictures and decorations to represent your life. Then, save your stick for many hikes to come. You can also use paint, ribbon, or other materials to decorate your hiking stick! You can decorate it all at once or add to it gradually as you have more adventures to add.

For more ideas, read how one family personalized a “story stick” here.

Outdoor Challenge (Beginner):

Erosion, a process where things like water or wind break down and carry away pieces of the landscape, is a major challenge in trail maintenance. You can see erosion in action if you make a pile of sand and dirt, and then spray or pour water onto it. What happens? If you use a little water, what sizes of rocks move? If you use a lot of water, what rocks move? Can you add anything to your pile (plants, sticks, etc.) to help protect it from erosion?

Go on a walk and look for signs of erosion. You might see:

  • Channels where water has run
  • Rocks worn smooth 
  • Exposed roots where soil has been washed away
  • Holes worn into the rocks by wind
  • Fallen rocks

What other signs of erosion do you see? Let us know!

Outdoor Challenge (Advanced):

Volunteers work on Cabra Loop Trail during a trail workday. (Photo by Beth Cortright)

Read today’s blog post, and then look for some of the signs of active trail maintenance on your next hike. Can you find:

  • Cut treefall
  • Switchbacks
  • Trails descending gently, almost along contours
  • Grade dips: small trenches that carry water off the trail
  • Grade reversals: small uphill sections between downhill sections
  • Waterbars that conduct water off the trail
  • Wide, mountain bike-friendly turns
  • Steps down steep sections
  • Retaining walls holding the trail in place

There’s a lot of work that goes into trail design and maintenance! Thank a trail worker or volunteer the next time you run into one!

Other Resources:

  • Need some hiking inspiration? Check out Craig Martin’s blog post on his 20 favorite trails in and around Los Alamos.
  • Access maps and trailhead guides for the Los Alamos County Trail Network here.
  • Have you started your Passports to the Pajarito Plateau? If not, now is a great time to do so. This program helps you explore our local trails and earn some prizes along the way. If you don’t have a booklet, you can print these versions on PEEC’s website: Passport 1, Passport 2, and Passport 3. When we reopen the nature center, we’ll catch you up on prizes! No printer? No problem. Just use a piece of scrap paper or take pictures with the rubbings.
  • Unfortunately, the Los Alamos Trails App is still down. While we work on updating it, we recommend trying out AllTrails as a substitute. Not all of our local trails are on this app, but many are! PEEC also has an online trail guide linking to various resources.
  • If you were inspired by Craig’s post today and would like to dive deeper into sustainable trail design, check out this post from American Trails.

Share Your Experience:

Tell us how you like to enjoy nature! We’d love to see your photos, too. Please send them to or share them on Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #peectakeitoutside.

In tomorrow’s post, we’ll share some ideas for picnics!