Friday, June 6, 2014

Apache Canyon Trail - Santa Fe, NM

dog and happy ponderosas above canyon
Saturday is National Trails Day. I'd thought I'd post a bunch of new trails, and as generally happens, I let the week get away from me. The first trail I thought I'd highlight is Apache Canyon.

Distance: ~6.3 miles loop
Max elev: 8,300ft
Net climbing: 1,100ft

A little known trail just north of town, but not well signed or mapped. To get there you drive up Old Santa Fe Trail several miles, through Canada de Los Alamos, stay on the road (now dirt) and you'll veer east and into the foothills eventually entering the NFS gate, now on FR 79. A few more miles of steep climbing and you'll find the not so well marked parking area and trailhead, look for parking blocks.

The trail starts and ends on unimproved forest roads. One charges off into the hills (east) for a mile-plus of pleasant windy roads, then you'll need to keep an eye out for some rock markers that will take you off trail and drop several hundred feet into the canyon. Lots of dramatic views, no people, a cool progression of tree and plant life as you descend, then later climb out of the canyon. Streams and wildlife on the canyon floor. The trailhead is at about 8,100', the canyon floor is at about 7,600' and there's a bit of climbing in between, so it's a tough loop but not as rough as running the steeps of Atalaya. When I was last there we casually ran it out in ~75min, although the climb out had us suffering.

Apache Canyon stream (courtesy of Mike Holdsworth)
A trail connector in the canyon bottom will take you up and east to Glorieta Baldy, which is maybe an additional 3-4mi one way. The ambitious might even stretch that route for a top-out on Thompson Peak. Most folks familiar with this trail will bike Glorieta Baldy from the south, then descend this section from the watchtower and make their way back to town once reaching the trailhead. There are also trail options to the north of the trailhead that tour back behind Atalaya and Sierra Pelada. Most are the adventure-type rather than picturesque-singletrack. Sadly I have no good photos of the trail or surrounding area, thwarted by high winds and snow when I was mapping this out in April. Perhaps this can add to the unknown mystique of this little gem.

Related Posts:
 - Glorieta Baldy
 - Eldorado Preserve Trails
 - Barbaria Trail Loop

View Apache Canyon Trail - Santa Fe, NM in a larger map


  1. That is an awesome trail! For MTB biking I always thought of it as the best descent in the state. A few of us cleared the trail from downfall back in 2005 or 2006...doubt if anything has been done since. You can start at Atalaya and do an out and back for a brutal effort - and once we even descended Glorietta to the Baptist Center and then came back. I may head down there now just to try your running loop!

    1. Hilarious - but of course you jumped on a route like that... Great vision to thread that together, even better that you'd share the beta and add a new goal out there on the horizon for us to aim for.

  2. Do you have GPS coordinates for the trail head? I would love to ride there, but am having trouble following your directions.

    1. Sorry, no coordinates. Forest 79 climbs north out of Canada de Los Alamos, drive 2-3mi until you reach the obvious camping/parking pullout. The map provided is fairly self-explanatory. There are more easter eggs and un-mapped trails out there for the adventurous. Happy hunting.

    2. The parking lot is here:
      35°37'47.5"N 105°51'32.6"W
      35.629868, -105.859044



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