Pajarito Trail Fest runner. Photo by Jim Stein
The aspens are aflame on Pajarito Mountain this month. On October 15, trail runners converge on one of the most breathtaking courses to join the Pajarito Trail Fest, a popular nonprofit race.
Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the Trail Fest is hosted by Pajarito Mountain Ski Area, on the outskirts of Los Alamos in the Jemez Mountains. A 10k- and 15-mile race begin 9 a.m. on Saturday.
Runners take off from mountain’s base (9,200 feet), climbing 1200 vertical feet in a clockwise loop through golden aspens and pine trees on single track at the mountain—one of the West’s best secrets, which attracts trail runners, hikers, mountain bikers, equestrians and skiers.
Runners will then summit and traverse the mountain’s highest ridge, glimpsing spectacular views of the Valles Caldera National Preserve, the Rio Grande Valley, and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The 10K course loop ends back at the base lodge, and the 15-mile racers continue further through the meadows of Canada Bonita with an out and back to the Guaje Canyon overlook.
The Trail Fest also includes a two fun runs for children: a Little Kid Stampede (ages 1-4) that is a 100-yard dash and a Big Kid Stampede up the ski hill. The children’s races begin at 11:15 a.m.
“I am happy that Pajarito Trail Fest has become a popular fall activity for local runners. We hope to expand the event next year into county-wide celebration of outdoors and promotion of active lifestyle for all user groups,” Petra Pirc, Pajarito Trail Fest Race Director said. “I believe our trails, Pajarito Mountain, the scenery and easy access to open space and National Forest land are some of the county’s greatest assets.”
Proceeds from the volunteer-staffed Trail Fest benefit local non-profit organizations, and this year the funds will be donated to organizations that actively provide and promote outdoor sports activities for children, such as the Los Alamos Public Schools’ ski program, which provides skiing /snowboarding program to 5th graders, and Southwest Nordic Ski Club youth program, plus the Pajarito Environmental Education Center children’s programs.
“We need to expose more kids to the outdoors and provide them with fun possibilities that our environment offers,” Pirc said. “The goal would be to make activities accessible to children whose families would otherwise not be able to afford it.”
This year’s event sponsors are: Art Montoya, DDS; Pet Pangaea; CB FOX; Fusion Multisport; CrossFit Los Alamos; Pajarito Mountain Ski Area; Neptune and Company; Rebound Physical Therapy; Atomic City Roadrunners; Pig + Fig Cafe, Sol Web Solutions, Black Diamond Equipment; and Espresso Assist.
Pajarito Mountain. Photo by Jim Stein