Sunday, July 8, 2018

Where to Hike when New Mexico Forests are Closed?

The forests have been closed for the last 5 1/2 weeks due to extreme fire danger, though the Santa Fe National Forest plans to re-open tomorrow (July 9). The Carson National Forest and most of the Cibola National Forest districts have been closed as well. Where to hike and where to camp when all is shut down? Many hours were spent thinking through this problem and I reason it's a good tool for the next go around to share what I've found.

One of the premier underrated hiking trails in town is Canyon Road after sundown. No people, few cars, incredible back-lit windows framing rooms awash in color and artistry. Stop for a drink at the bar of your choosing before the return trip. Solitude, beauty, introspection - checks all the boxes. A more practical underrated trail for morning-folk is along the Santa Fe River from Delgado to Palace Ave. This route parallels Canyon a block to the north, is a true trail, and follows the river which often has at least some trace of water and murmuring current (present status: dry). At its mid-point the trail fords a rickety bridge-crossing to the new promenade along Alameda and a footpath will bring you back down along riverside. Stop at the Teahouse on Palace for coffee and pastry (available to go) then slow-walk back via trail or the morning gallery aesthetic on Canyon. We live in a nice town, it's a joy to take in this gem of a loop. Less creative alternatives are Arroyo Hondo and La Cieneguilla.

Where to camp? Those besides myself that were sifting available options surely realized this required deeper thinking, namely as to what land is managed by which public agency. Most state parks remained open through the closure, Hyde Park and Fenton Lake excepted. Cerrillos Hills and La Cieneguilla state parks are day-use only. Villanueva state park along the Pecos was on my tick list but availability was limited on weekends. All of the Caja del Rio was closed (National Forest). Chama river, closed (National Forest).

Mrs. Dirt, strolling riverside on the footpath
Bandelier backcountry and wilderness area were closed, though camping remained open at the Juniper and Ponderosa campgrounds. Much of the value of Ponderosa was limited in that the nearby Upper Crossing Trail was closed. BLM is federal land but managed by each state which meant that BLM remained open. Local BLM access includes Diablo Canyon where the camping at the few developed spots was open. Access to the nearby Rio Grande however was closed (National Forest). The Rio Grande Gorge and Rio Grande del Norte National Monument were the most extensive outdoor areas open during the closure (BLM). Wider afield, the wilderness areas west of Albuquerque remained open as did the Sabinoso wilderness east of Vegas. Pecos, San Pedro Parks, and Sandia wilderness areas were all shuttered for the reason that all three are within the boundaries of either the Santa Fe or Cibola National Forests.

My last note here really ought to reinforce the underlying point of all this: Don't use fire in the forests. Don't scavenge for wood, don't pack in logs, don't burn things when surrounded by thousands of acres of latent fuel. Campfires in the backcountry are unnecessary and harbor the potential for catastrophic damage to the forests and watersheds. Be a good steward, change your habits if you haven't already.

Related Posts:
 - The Borrego Fire: Nambe Creek - TR 160
 - Scouting New Mexico Running Trails by Plane
 - Santa Fe Forest Closed for Fire Season (c. 2013)
 - The Santa Fe River Trail

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