Hiker. Courtesy photo
Los Alamos County is encouraging visitors to “take a hike” during national “Take a Hike Day” Nov. 17.
Take a Hike Day, which encourages Americans to get outdoors and move. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, less than half of all adults get enough physical activity to improve their health.
Los Alamos is not only considered the “healthiest County in the country,” (Bloomberg News) but it has more official hiking trails in the Southwest compared to most same-sized cities and counties.
Los Alamos has 58 miles of trails and more than 100 miles in the surrounding National Forest. In the winter months, cross country skiing, hiking, and snowshoeing are popular outdoor activities. Trails in and around Los Alamos range from easy to difficult, and vary in length.
“When you consider the many benefits of hiking such as lowering your cholesterol, losing weight, and reducing stress, hiking is a great way to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors while doing something good for yourself,” said Los Alamos County Open Space Specialist, Craig Martin. “The great thing about living in a place where the elevation ranges from 5,000 to 10,000 feet is that there is always a place to explore the outdoors, even in winter. What makes hiking in Los Alamos different is the year-round accessibility to really cool trails that will take you to archaeological sites or weird rock formations or spectacular vistas that stretch 60 miles in all directions.”
Martin was among several people who participated in the grand opening of the new Satch Cowan Trail Oct. 22 – named after well known Los Alamos resident, Helen “Satch” Cowan.
The Satch Cowan Trail was designed from existing, worn paths along with new segments developed to create a loop trail. The trail offers access to stunning vistas near cliffs and has steep drops. Visit losalamosnm.us or call 505-662-8159 for details or a map of the trail.
The Pajarito Nordic Ski Trail network, adjacent to Pajarito Mountain, boasts six miles of groomed cross country tracks. The trail is the only Nordic ski trail in New Mexico, which is regularly groomed and is free and open to the public.
Snowshoeing is allowed on designated portions of the trails. Three miles of the trail are maintained by Southwest Nordic Ski Club, a 501(c)(3) organization comprised of volunteers. Visit http://swnordicski.org for details.
Cross country skiing is also available in the Santa Fe National Forest, adjacent to the Pajarito Mountain Ski Area; while the trails in White Rock Canyon that lead to the Rio Grande are prime for hiking and mountain biking.
The lower elevation trails are snow-free most of the year, and mountain biking is ideal in the canyons between the finger mesas of the Pajarito Plateau.
Los Alamos’ Pajarito Environmental Education Center (PEEC) offers many guided hiking tours in fall and winter, including an upcoming hike at 1 p.m. Nov. 12.
The free walk ranges from one to two miles in length and reserves 20 minutes of time for “silent walking” (no talking allowed.) The group leaves PEEC at 9:30 a.m. and returns at 11:30 a.m.
See interesting rock formations in Ancho Canyon during the “Ancho Rapids to Red Dot Hike” from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 1, led by experienced hiker Paul Arendt. Hike along Ancho Canyon and White Rock Canyon with a chance to observe waterfowl near the Rio Grande.
Total hike is approximately seven miles, and is moderate in difficulty. Bring water and lunch. This event is hosted by PEEC.
Also through PEEC, Los Alamos Mountaineer Michael Altheer will lead a winter snowshoe hike from 9:15 a.m. to 3 p.m. Jan. 13. The 5-mile excursion follows the meandering East Fork of the Jemez River with some climbing and descent into the woodland. Meet at PEEC at 9:15 a.m. The event is free but space is limited.
The Valles Caldera National Preserve (Preserve), located just 18 miles from Los Alamos, also offers hiking, snowshoeing and other winter activities with a chance of viewing wildlife such as elk, coyotes and magpies.
The Preserve offers a “Valle Grande Hike” easy to moderate 2-mile hike along the Valle Grande Trail and Coyote Call Trail. The hike is open for hiking, cross country skiing or snowshoeing, and is free of charge. Pets are not allowed. Trail is open year round during daylight hours. For more information visit vallescaldera.gov.
Bandelier National Monument, located just 12 miles south of Los Alamos, offers a range of short and long trail hikes ranging from easy to difficult.
The short 1.2 mile loop trail offers a fascinating look at excavated archaeological sites on the floor of Frijoles Canyon. The popular Tsankawi section is ideal for hikers who love history, as the 1.5 mile walk offers a chance to see petroglyphs, cavates, and the Ancestral Pueblo village of Tsankawi.
Cross country skiing and snowshoeing are also permitted along the Upper Frijoles Trail. Trails are only open during daylight hours. Pets are not allowed. Call the visitor center for trail details at 505-672-3861×517.
For more information on Los Alamos hiking trails, visit www.fyila.com.