10 of the Best Hiking Trails in New Mexico

White Sands National Monument is just one of many incredible places to hike in the Land of Enchantment
White Sands National Monument is just one of many incredible places to hike in the Land of Enchantment Miguel Vieira
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There's a reason New Mexico is known as the Land of Enchantment. Featuring six of the world's seven life zones and offering up elevations that range between 2,800 and 13,161 feet, it's a state that's home to an incredible mix of geographical diversity. From impossibly white sand dunes to Gatorade-blue alpine lakes, there's much to see in New Mexico, and arguably the most ideal way to do so is by taking to its trails. Whether you're seeking hot springs, sand dunes, or a high-desert hike, this state is home to some of the best trails in the United States. Some are longer than others—and some might be better suited for overnight excursions—but here's a healthy sampling of some of New Mexico's finest trails.

1. Pino Trail

A walk along the Pino Trail
A walk along the Pino Trail Eugene Kim

Distance: 9 miles
Rating: Difficult
Location: Albuquerque, NM

For a classic high-desert hike, hop on the Pino Trail, right on the edge of Albuquerque city limits. Situated in the Sandia Mountains within the Cibola National Forest, the hike starts out with some typically dry stretches before weaving up the southern side of Pino Canyon for about 4.5-miles until reaching the crest for a total elevation gain of 2,828 feet. It's mostly a gradual climb that takes hikers into some shady tree-covered sections, but the last mile is a bit of a grind. Also, remember to pack plenty to drink as there are no natural water sources on this hike.

2. The Gila Loop Trail

Gila National Forest
Gila National Forest Brandon Oberhardt, Flickr

Distance: 20 miles
Rating: Moderate
Location: Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, Silver City, NM

Gila National Forest is one of the largest areas without roads in the country. The 3.3 million acres is home to lush forests, mountains, and the U.S.'s first wilderness area. This 20-mile loop takes you through the remains of cave dwellings, swarms of Aspen trees, and a volcanic mesa. Very athletic hikers can tackle this in one day, but you won't regret taking two full days to complete this trip so that you can really enjoy your surroundings.

3. Zuni-Acoma Trail

Hiking through the ancient landscapes of El Malpais National Monument
Hiking through the ancient landscapes of El Malpais National Monument John Fowler

Distance: 16 miles
Rating: Difficult
Location: Cubero, NM

This 16-mile out-and-back trail follows an ancient route in El Malpais National Monument—which is a jumbled landscape full of stunted trees, black lava fields, and arched caves—connecting the Zuni and Acoma pueblos. You'll travel over lava bridges, which were formed long ago but are still in full use today. Although flat, this hike is rather long, and can be completed in one or two days.

4. Pine Tree Trail

Golden hour in the Organ Mountains
Golden hour in the Organ Mountains Bureau of Land Management

Distance: 4.2 miles
Rating: Moderate
Location: Las Cruces, NM

The Pine Tree Trail, near Las Cruces, is a short hike, but it offers up some seriously impressive panoramic views of the Organ Mountain Range. It's an especially beautiful fall hike when the leaves are changing to yellows, oranges, and reds. If you feel like spending the night, there's a small camping area at the summit of this 1,000-foot ascent, where you'll wake up to a spectacular view.

5. McCauley Hot Springs

Jemez Falls along the
Jemez Falls along the Ryan Wick

Distance: 6 miles
Rating: Easy
Location: Jemez Springs, NM

For a fairly short trek, featuring waterfalls and hot springs, the McCauley Hot Springs Trail should not be missed. There are a series of hot spring pools in the area, all of which are about 92 degrees Fahrenheit, which are perfect soaking conditions. If you begin at East Fork, you can travel past Jemez Falls to the springs for a warm soak in the natural waters before backtracking to return to your car.

6. Trampas Lakes Trail

Upper Trampas Lake
Upper Trampas Lake Jerry Friedman, Flickr

Distance: 12 miles
Rating: Difficult
Location: Acequia de Abajo de el Valle, Taos County, NM

For an alpine hike, complete with snowy peaks, high-elevation lakes, and the occasional mountain goat, head to Trampas Lakes. When you reach the sign for Tramaps Lake, continue about one mile to the right and you'll find Hidden Lake. This steep incline may not be long, but it is fairly strenuous, and be sure to keep an eye on the weather, which can change quickly. Don't forget your fishing rod!

7. Bandelier National Monument

Scaling the ladders at Bandelier National Monument
Scaling the ladders at Bandelier National Monument Graeme Churchard

Distance: Up to 70 miles
Rating: Moderate
Location: Bandelier National Monument, Santo Domingo Pueblo, NM 

Bandelier National Monument is home to over 70 miles of trails, which weave through roughly 30,000 acres of canyon and mesa country in north-central New Mexico and showcase ancient ruins dating back to the Ancestral Puebloan days about 11,000 years ago. The backcountry is where you'll find many of the longer, more rugged and isolated hiking trails, but don't forget to explore and climb the ladders in the frontcountry, as this is where you'll find much of the ancient ruins, petroglyphs, and kivas.

8. Winsor Trail

Winsor Trail, New Mexico.
Winsor Trail, New Mexico. TRAILSOURCE.COM

Distance: 10 miles
Rating: Moderate
Location: Winsor Trail, Santa Fe, NM

This 10.1-mile point-to-point hike can be completed in one day, but its difficulty and beautiful views make it much better suited for a two-day backpacking trip. (And if you don't have a shuttle system set up, you're looking at a roughly 22-mile round trip.) The trail inclines nearly 3,500 feet, and the increase in elevation means that snow often remains at the top of the trail until well into the summer, so you'll want to pack accordingly. Enjoy the scenic Lake Katherine and forest views.

9. Alkali Flat Trail

White Sands National Monument
White Sands National Monument Neeson Hsu, Flickr

Distance: 4.6 miles
Rating: Easy
Location: White Sands National Monument, NM

The Alkali Flat Trail is a well-marked route that takes you through the dunes and into the backcountry of the White Sands National Monument. Set with trail posts, the path stretches across what was once a lake during the Ice Age, and is now sprawling white sand dunes made of gypsum. The trail isn't long, but it's worth spending a night at the monument because sunrise is the prime time on this trail.

10. Wheeler Peak

Hiking along the tallest mountain in New Mexico
Hiking along the tallest mountain in New Mexico Samat Jain

Distance: 19 miles
Rating: Difficult
Location: Wheeler Peak Wilderness, Taos Ski Valley, NM

Take at least two days to complete this 19-mile loop trail. Although it's not long, the terrain is difficult, and the elevation incline is steep at over 3,000 feet. Climb two 13,000-foot peaks, and enjoy expansive views of aspen and pine trees throughout the Wheeler Peak Wilderness. Be sure to stop at Horseshoe Lake, a picturesque body of water at high elevation, and appreciate the drastic changes in terrain along this trail.

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