Ready to get outside and explore? Whether you’re a veteran hiker or an absolute beginner, New Mexico’s stunning trails have something to offer everyone. From alpine meadows to desert canyons, this southwestern state provides a wealth of different terrains and trails to explore—all without having to leave the United States. With our guide, you’ll discover the best places to go hiking in New Mexico and create unforgettable memories.
For those new to the activity, planning a hike in New Mexico can be daunting. Should you stay close by? Climb a mountain? Go on a multi-day trek? Where should you go if you only have one day off work? There are so many factors to consider!
But don’t let that stress you out. This guide will tell you everything you need to know about hiking in New Mexico—no matter your experience level or preference for the terrain. I’ll take you through what gear and supplies you need, which trails are accessible for different skill levels, and even where to find some of the best meadows for camping. Keep reading for an insider’s guide on knowing where to go hiking in New Mexico!
Overview of the Must-Visit Hikes in New Mexico
New Mexico is home to some of the most spectacular hiking trails around, with plenty of stunning sights and amazing attractions to explore. There’s something for everyone here, whether you’re a beginner who wants an easy jog along a flat path, or a more experienced hiker looking for an overnight adventure.
Here are some of the top hikes you won’t want to miss while in New Mexico:
- In Taos, take a trek up Wheeler Peak, the highest mountain in the state. It’s only eight miles roundtrip and offers beautiful views from the summit.
- For those looking for a challenge, head to the Continental Divide Trail and hike through Dominguez Canyon Wilderness Area in Chama. This sixteen-mile-long loop requires special passes from the U.S. Forest Service and will take around two days to complete.
- For dessert wildlife admirers, check out Dripping Springs Trail in Las Cruces. You’ll be rewarded with views of wildflower-lined paths and rock formations along this five-mile hike.
- In Santa Fe, try out Atalaya Mountain Trail for beautiful views of the city below. The six-mile loop has a moderate elevation gain of 1,500 ft., making it perfect for hikers of all levels.
No matter where you go hiking in New Mexico, you’re sure to have a memorable experience—so get ready to lace up your boots and explore!
What to Expect: Weather, Elevation & Terrain
Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just starting out, New Mexico offers something for everyone. Before you set out on your hiking journey, it’s important to know what to expect with regard to weather, elevation, and terrain.
The mountainous terrain in the state can range from high-desert plateaus and alpine clusters to lowland meadows, canyons and rivers. The elevation of both the hike itself and the surrounding area will affect the temperature and air quality, so be prepared for drastic changes—especially if you’re tackling one of New Mexico’s many 14ers (peaks over 14,000 feet). It’s also important to note that conditions can change rapidly during any hike. Be sure to check the forecast before heading out!
No matter what type of terrain or elevation you plan to tackle, make sure you wear proper shoes and dress in layers so that you can stay comfortable throughout your journey. It’s always best to be prepared—especially when planning a multi-day expedition. With that in mind, happy hiking!
Choosing the Right Gear for Hiking in New Mexico
When you embark on a hike in New Mexico, you’ll want to make sure that you’ve got the right gear for the job. It doesn’t matter if you’re going for a quick day hike or a longer backpacking trip – having the proper equipment is essential. Here are some tips for making sure you’re prepared for your next New Mexico adventure:
The weather in New Mexico can change quickly and temperatures can vary wildly, so wearing layers is key. Lightweight, breathable fabrics are ideal as they will keep you cool during the day and warm at night. A few layers of clothing will protect you from wind, sun and sudden drops in temperature.
You’ll want to settle on shoes that give your feet enough support and protection. Good hiking boots are usually best, but it really comes down to what kind of terrain you plan on tackling on your adventures. For light hiking trips, a good pair of trail running shoes is usually enough.
Backpack & Other Essentials
Having a quality backpack is essential – pick one that fits snugly and distributes the weight evenly across your back and shoulders. Fill it with all your basics including sunscreen, insect repellent, water bottles/hydration packs, snacks, headlamp/flashlight, or anything else that might come in handy!
Tips on Staying Safe While Hiking in New Mexico
Safety should always be a priority when exploring the great outdoors. Here are some tips to help ensure you stay safe while hiking in New Mexico:
- Tell someone where you are going: It’s always a good idea to make sure someone knows where you are headed, the route you plan on taking, and when you plan on returning.
- Dress appropriately: Wear appropriate clothing and layers no matter the weather. Make sure your water bottle is full, and have snacks and sunscreen in your backpack, as well as a first-aid kit.
- Be aware of your surroundings: Be aware of your environment at all times, watch out for any potential hazards such as loose rocks or other unstable terrains, wear appropriate footwear, and use hiking sticks or poles for balance where needed.
- Stick to the trails: Make sure to stay on marked trails whenever possible to avoid getting lost or injured. If you plan on exploring off-path, make sure to bring an accurate map and a compass with you so that you can navigate safely back to the trailhead if needed.
- Have emergency contact information: Have emergency contact information handy in case of an emergency—including local law enforcement and rescue numbers—just in case something happens while out on the trail.
- Know your limits: Don’t push yourself too hard and know your limits on what type of terrain or altitude level that is comfortable for you—this may vary from hike to hike or even from day to day!
- Don’t forget bear spray: Bear spray can be an invaluable tool for protection if needed—just make sure to read about how it should be used before heading out into bear territory!
Connect With Nature: Plants & Animals You May Encounter
Exploring the outdoors is one of the best ways to connect with nature! New Mexico is home to a number of diverse species of plants and animals, so if you’re looking for an adventure, it’s a great place to start.
When you’re out hiking in New Mexico, there are a few plants and animals you may encounter. Here are some of the most common critters around:
From hawks and falcons to woodpeckers and cardinals, the skies of New Mexico are full of beautiful birds. Keep your eyes peeled for them soaring above – or try birdwatching with binoculars or a telescope!
The desert landscape holds plenty of surprises. From perennial wildflowers like Indian paintbrush and dandelions to tough shrubs like sage and juniper, there’s something new around every corner. This can be an amazing opportunity to observe and learn about nature up close.
Reptiles & Amphibians
If you find yourself in a particularly wet area, watch out for frogs, salamanders, lizards, snakes, and turtles all making their home here in New Mexico! Keep your distance if you come across any of these – especially the rattlesnakes – but observe from afar and appreciate their beauty.
Reflection & Wrap-Up: A Memorable New Mexico Trek
Wrapping up your New Mexico hiking trip? Make it a memorable one with a few of the best trails. If you’re into outdoor adventure, you’ll love a good hike (or two) in The Land of Enchantment. Here are some of our favorite trails, sure to give you an unforgettable experience:
The Pecos Wilderness Trails
The Pecos Wilderness Trails offers picturesque landscapes and plenty of wildlife sightings. It’s home to the highest peak in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, plus several scenic lakes—making it perfect for fishing, hunting and backpacking. Don’t forget your camera—you won’t want to miss out on these incredible views!
Caballo Lake State Park
Caballo Lake State Park has plenty of shoreline to explore and enjoy. With the lake just right there, you’ll be able to make stops for swimming, boating or fishing when you need a break from your trek. And bring your binoculars—birdwatchers love Caballo Lake State Park!
Wheeler Peak/Taos Ski Valley Loop Trail
This loop trail is great for experienced hikers who want a real challenge in the mountains. It combines two iconic trails (Wheeler Peak Trail and Taos Ski Valley Loop Trail) for one long adventure that takes you through some rugged terrain and stunning scenery. Plus, when you reach the top of Wheeler Peak (elevation 13,161 feet!), you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of New Mexico’s high desert landscape.
After exploring some of these trails, we guarantee your New Mexico hiking trip will be an experience you’ll never forget!
Hiking in New Mexico | Conclusion
To sum up, hiking in New Mexico offers just about everything an outdoor enthusiast could want. Whether you’re looking for a short day hike or a more challenging trek, New Mexico’s diverse landscape and trails have something for everyone. Make sure to bring the necessary supplies, be aware of the weather conditions, and respect the environment by leaving no trace. With all of these tips in mind, you’re sure to have an incredible outdoor experience in the Land of Enchantment.