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El Nogal Loop

By David Nelson - August 2nd, 2000

Although the mountains of New Mexico are but a few hundred miles south of Denver, they are different than the Rockies in Denver. The soil is dense and contains a lot of clay, which is fine for mountain biking in dry conditions, but slick and messy when there's moisture in the air; if the mud drys on your bike, you'll need a chisel to get it off.

The loop from El Nogal Picnic Ground begins on a short section of single track, then follows an old forest road in a snaking, sustained climb of almost seven miles. Great views are earned along the way of the Rio Grande Gorge to the east and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the north.

The route turns toward home on the single track of the South Boundary Trail. This descent is fast and challenging, falling 2,100 vertical feet in just under three miles, a 14% average grade.

Trip Planner

Route location: In Taos County, New Mexico southeast of the city of Taos.

Surface: Rocky single track trail and primitive 4WD roads.

Distance: 9.5 miles.

Ride time: Allow 2 1/2 -- 3 1/2 hours for the loop.

Difficulty: Moderate to difficult. The route follows old roads for the initial seven miles gaining 2,100 vertical feet before diving down steep, rocky and technically challenging single track.

Directions: From Denver, travel south on I-25 into New Mexico and turn west on U.S. 64 to Taos. The picnic ground is on the south side of U.S. 64 about 0.6 miles east of the center of town. Driving time: about 6 hours.


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