Rock-ride recipe: sun bathed cliffs and scrub at New Mexico's Pajarito Plato
Q: Where's a good spot to go mountain biking near Albuquerque, New Mexico? Any suggestions for other types of outings in the area would also be appreciated.
A: That's a bit like asking where to find snow in the North Pole. Albuquerque sits in the middle of a gigantic natural playgroundfinding biking and hiking trails is often just a matter of stepping outside. The best areas to explore on two wheels include Petroglyphs National Monument (just west of the city), Corrales Bosque Preserve (to the north), and Cibola National Forest (to the east). I'd recommend starting with the Faulty Trail loop, a challenging 11-miler on the backside of Sandia Mountain. From the Cole Springs Campground, the trail runs through alpine forest on a combination of packed singletrack and fire roads. Call the Sandia Ranger District for info: 505-281-3304.
Farther north (but well within day trip distance), you'll find what many mountain bikers consider to be New Mexico's finest: the Winsor Trail in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains above Santa Fe. This mostly-singletrack network cuts through aspen groves, opens onto broad meadows, dips into canyons, and offers just enough technical challenge that you'll need to keep one eye off the scenery and on the terrain. From Santa Fe, the easiest access point is near Bishop's Lodge. For maps and info, contact the offices of the Santa Fe National Forest http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/sfe/; 505-438-7840).
Other nearby recreation suggestions: Hike to hot springs in Bandelier National Monument (www.nps.gov/band); raft or kayak the Rio Grande (find outfitters off the highway, halfway between Santa Fe and Taos); and fish Bluewater Lake (State Park offices: 505-876-2391) in the Zuni Mountains. Whatever adventure you choose, finish it off with a massive green chili burrito from University of New Mexico favorite, Frontier restaurant (505-266-0550).