The Ned Houk Trail is a system of dirt roads. Runners and hikers have many options with how they want to explore. Whether they want to do an out and back, or a loop, there are lots of options. Running an 8:00 minute/mile pace will generally cover a seven mile loop in one hour if the winds are light. There are also options for nine and 12 mile loops.
Destination Distance From Downtown
3 of 5 diamonds
The trail is mainly a two lane dirt road with some rocks, holes, and water erosion. Unfortunately, markings are minimal and various parts of the trail are swallowed by vegetation and tumbleweeds. Heavy winds are common, sometimes exceeding 40 mph.
Time To Complete
The trail system offers numerous options for runners to tailor a distance to their needs and schedule. You can either to do a loop or run an out and back. Choose your own journey.
Trail running at Ned Houk is great all year long. Watch out for rattlesnakes in the warmer months, especially if you have dogs.
Newcomers to eastern New Mexico are often struck by the barren and flat landscape of the Llano Estacado plain. Approximately six miles north of Clovis sits Ned Houk Memorial Park, which features picnic areas, ponds, a disc golf course, a playground, and other places for people to enjoy the outdoors. At 4000 feet above sea level, the park also has a trail network of non-technical dirt roads which is perfect for experienced runners. Located in an artesian water draw, runners will traverse dirt paths which wind and roll through shifting hills. The desert climate almost guarantees winds and sun, but the area is extremely tranquil with other people seldom encountered, although the trails are open to horseback riders, mountain bikers, and the occasional ATV.
What Makes It Great
In a high altitude region that doesn't stand out for popular trails, Ned Houk Park is a unique place to discover trail adventures in the desert high plains. The varying terrain is a welcome contrast to the flat landscape which predominates the greater area.
From the trailhead at the south side of the park, runners can choose from multiple routes. Oftentimes, my running partners and I will trace the perimeter of the park which makes a 12 mile loop back to the trailhead. Because of poor markings on the trails, it can be easy to get disoriented on the trails so I recommend following an out and back route for runners who are new to the park. The best time to run is either in the early morning or at dusk when the park's desert landscape is framed by brilliant sunrises and sunsets. The park's tranquility is enhanced by piney scents of sage bushes, spiky agave plants, and juniper shrubs. Wildlife such as jackrabbits, falcons, owls, prairie dogs, and deer abound throughout. In the warmer months, rattlesnakes are also present so be alert.
Who is Going to Love It
Ned Houk is a find for any trail runner. The trails are not technical, and they provide a good mix of hills and flat sections. This will appeal to beginning runners who are discovering their trail groove. Advanced runners can take advantage of the easy sections to push themselves, but other trail features will provide some additional challenges. For example, parts of the trails are overridden with vegetation and tumbleweeds which will force runners to slow down and possibly high step. Although rain fall is not excessive, rain does make the trails muddy. Finally, winds are almost a guarantee, sometimes as strong as 40 miles per hour, and they're normally strongest during midday.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
The park's entrance is located to the east of Highway 209 North going into Clovis. To get to the trailhead, turn into the park and immediately turn right. Follow the paved road for one and a half miles (during this stretch, it is common to see buffalo off to the right). The road will wind south and east again with a park that appears on the left side. Continue following the paved road until it becomes dirt. You can either opt to drive over the rolling bumps up to the trailhead, or you can park off to the left by a series of dumpsters and jog up to the trailhead. Dogs are allowed and there are no fees required.