Mount Taylor, an extinct stratovolcano west of Albuquerque, New Mexico, is a great option for an easy summit. Starting only 700 feet below the top, the trail quickly climbs out of the pass between Mount Taylor and the La Mosca Lookout. The beginning of the climb is very exposed and contains a few jagged rock gardens, so be sure to take it easy in the beginning.
Soon the climb transitions into a forest trail with a steep start followed by a few lazy switchbacks. Although the climb itself is easy, flatlanders like myself will struggle a little bit with the elevation. When riders arrive at the summit, they will be greeted by one of the greatest views the author has ever seen. Everything from the mesas of the mountain’s lower extensions to the blackness of the lava flows of El Malpais will be on display as the diverse landscape unfolds below.
Then the fun begins. Riders, navigating rock ledges and the remarkably loose pumice and basalt of the mountain, will fly down the volcano, their knobbies eating (or trying to eat) every bit of trail thrown at them. After a few long switchbacks, the trail’s bends disappear for a segment literally straight down the mountain.
Further down, aspen and pine trees loom above mere mortals as the soil changes from loose tread to tacky hero dirt and then again to dusty, pale brown hardpack. There, any roots and rocks will vanish and riders will be free to pump their way through the terrain’s natural flow.
After meeting an old logging road and taking a right to meet the trail again, a forest service road will appear. Take another right and watch for a CDT marker. Once riders are on the CDT, the trail will meet up with a canyon rim and gently descend 1,800 feet in 8 miles via swooping, bright red turns. The mesa top eventually reaching an end, the grand finale to this 5,000 foot descent will commence: a tight, rhythmic 1,500 foot drop with the occasionally unpredictable rock garden to test riders’ technical chops.