This trail is considered by many to be the premier cross-country ride in New Mexico, and for good reason, it offers 22 miles of sweet downhill singletrack cruising thru deep and dark evergreen forest, aspen glades, meadows; providing great views and some technical challenges at the end to give you a dose of adrenaline to finish the ride. It doesnít get much better than this.
First off, unless you are riding with someone that knows the current route, I strongly advise that you go to a Taos bike shop (there are lots) and get a current map of the trail. The 1996 Trails Illustrated map is missing a lot of detail and does not show the current route, so donít waste your money.
You start the ride at the trailhead on the east side of Osha Mountain, near Angel Fire, at about 9,900 feet. From there it is about a mile and a half of sometimes rocky uphill grind till you crest out at 10,770 feet. The trail then goes downhill on an open, rocky road ride for about the first mile, and then you enter the real singletrack. Enjoy the sweet, winding, singletrack thru the forest, past Quintana Pass, where you will pick up doubletrack and continue till you get to Garcia Park (Forest Road 437). At this point things get tricky for a couple reasons: 1) you have a lot of intersections over a few miles to contend with till you get back on true singletrack, and 2) the trail has been rerouted so the directions you may get from friends or outdated trail maps/guides will conflict with the current route. Compound that with the funny-boys who think it is great sport to steal or destroy trail signs and you have the potential for a lot of wandering. Most of the trail is well marked, but donít count on it. IMPORTANT: When you get to 437 the old directions said to go right till you crossed a cattle guard; that is no more, YOU NEED TO GO LEFT, downhill to the south, and continue on the road for about a quarter mile where you should see a trail perpendicular to the road on the right, heading west across the meadow and into the trees. From there the route is too complicated to try to explain. Hopefully you will find the ì164î that someone has managed to carve or mark into signs, trees, etc., that guide you thru this section of the trail; look for green treated poles, too. You will be riding doubletrack sections, singletrack sections, bits of road, etc., till finally you get to the cutoff for Don Fernando; at that point you are back onto singletrack for the remainder of the trail and the route finding is relatively easy and low-risk. You then have many more miles of cruising thru the forest to the final downhill section. The last few miles present some technical challenges, like steep sections, which are sometimes rutted and/or covered with loose rock, or some interesting rock obstacles. Blast on thru if you have the skills, or get off and walk if you donít want to take the risk. In any case, if you are worn down when you get here it would be wise to take a break so that you are alert and ready to respond to the challenges ñ you donít want to end a great day with a serious injury.
If you can schedule it, I recommend doing this ride during the last couple weeks of September. You will be rewarded with cool temperatures, miles of golden aspens, and deserted trails.