By Cody Hooks
The dream of a world-class trail that meanders through New Mexico along the Río Grande is a little closer to reality.
The state commission charged with creating the Río Grande Trail officially added about 34 miles of existing paths in Taos County to the map during its September 2018 meeting in Taos. Boosters hope one day this will be a 500-mile long trail through the state of New Mexico.
After the decision, the Río Grande Trail now has a sizable length of continuous trail.
Since most of the trail runs through the Río Grande del Norte National Monument near Questa, New Mexico, commissioners called this section the “del Norte” part of the trail, which is managed by the Bureau of Land Management.
The parts added to the Río Grande Trail include the about 23 miles of East Rim Trail in the wide-open, rugged and isolated areas around Ute Mountain. This portion starts at the Colorado state line and wraps around the western side of Ute Mountain. The “trail” is mostly a double-track road, which will stay open to vehicle use. The two other sections of trails include 3.6 miles of the Red River Fault Trail and the Pescado Trail, both located near the national monument visitors center outside of Cerro, New Mexico.
Commissioners also added 7 miles of trails that are managed by the State Land Office. In May 2018, the commission added 26.5 miles of existing paths in the monument, including Las Vistas de Questa Trail, River Trail and the Rinconada Loop Trail, to the Río Grande Trail.
John Bailey, manager of the Río Grande del Norte National Monument, said his office is in conversation with the Carson National Forest to rebuild a bridge across the Red River at the Wild Rivers Recreation Area, an essential link in the Río Grande Trail.
Also in September 2018, the Forest Service approved the “2018 Taos Ski Valley Trails Project.” The project was proposed by the ski valley corporation, which holds a special use permit in the forest.
The original scoping letter said Taos Ski Valley was proposing to build six new mountain bike trails totaling approximately 7.2 miles. But the final decision calls for building eight new mountain bike trails totaling about 15 miles.
The decision also approves re-routing the first three-quarters of a mile of the Williams Lake Trail, which is about 2 miles long and is by far one of the most popular hiking destinations in the state. The re-routing of the Williams Lake Trail takes a segment that currently follows a service road and moves the trail into the trees inside the Forest Service boundary. This is a heavily used hiking trail and the new route provides a better experience for those who wish to get off the beaten path.