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Taos, NM
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Taos Rio Grande Gorge

As the cold weather turns milder and the snow melts into our rivers and streams, you may not be ready for the outdoor fun to end after a winter of skiing, riding, and snowshoeing in the glorious mountains around Taos. It’s so tempting to quickly swap out your winter gear for hiking boots in the spring, but there are real risks when spring hiking in Taos, and hikers should be aware before hitting the trail.

Your first step is to do some research before hitting your desired trail. National Forest Service offices, land managers, and the Chamber of Commerce can be a great source of information about unpredictable trail conditions in the spring.

Seven elements that can present real risks when spring hiking in Taos.

1. Temperatures

Temperatures can drop drastically as hikers travel upwards in elevation, making it hard to stay safe and comfortable during the entirety of the hike. Multiple layers that are less bulky are best for springtime hikes. A base layer, midlayer, fleece jacket or sweatshirt, and an outer wind and water barrier should do the trick. Lighter layers work best so you can adjust to the temperature as it changes.

2. Sun Protection

Sunburn is a real risk when spring hiking in Taos! The sun poses the same dangers in spring as in summer, but spring hikers often forget to bring protection against it. Always pack sunscreen in your hiking bag!

3. Water & Flash Flooding

Due to snowmelt, creeks and rivers flow higher and faster in the spring than any other time of the year and can be real risks when spring hiking in Taos. Do your research to check whether there are creeks or rivers on your desired trail and decide whether or not it is safe to hike at that current time.

4. Slippery Slopes

Snow- and ice-covered trails pose dangers of falls. When going hiking in the springtime, thinking about traction should be foremost in your mind. Although this is definitely a concern at higher elevations, those hiking at lower elevations and on north-facing slopes could still run into icy, snowy, or muddy surfaces well into late spring.

Traction devices such as microspikes are useful, lightweight, and can easily be slipped over trail runners or boots. Throw those traction devices into your backpack and grab some trekking poles to keep you safe and upright on your hike.

6. Avalanches 

Slipping on snow and ice is only one of the real risks when spring hiking in Taos—there are also risks of avalanches in the mountains. Even if snow is not visible from where you are, avalanches can be triggered above where you’re hiking, so always check avalanche risk with mountain authorities before heading out for a hike in the higher elevations.

7. Injury

If you haven’t been out skiing and riding all winter, another real risk when spring hiking in Taos is injury due to winter inactivity. The first hike of the season can be exciting, but don’t be overly confident when choosing a trail to hike. It’s best to dial back expectations and take a shorter and slower hike at first to let the body adapt to the new hiking season. As the season progresses, slowly increasing distance and trail difficulty will have you running those trails by summer!

Meanwhile, here are two moderately easy springtime trails to get you started, both easily accessed from Taos on US Highway 64, approximately three miles east of town. Parking is along the highway at the El Nogal Picnic Area. So, dust off the hiking boots, fill those water bottles, and get outdoors!

Easy to access local hikes in Taos

Devisadero

The word “devisadero” means a lookout point, and this peak was once used by the Taos Pueblo to stand guard against the Apaches who would come down Taos Canyon to raid the Pueblo. There are several vista overlook points along this trail: to the west are beautiful views of the town of Taos, the Rio Grande, and San Antonio Mountain; and to the north, you can see Taos Pueblo and the Wheeler Peak Wilderness area. In summer, there is quite an array of beautiful wildflowers here. 

The Devisadero Loop Trail passes through two very different forest types. On the south facing slope, the trail travels through piñon, juniper, and some gambel oak. As the trail drops over to the north side of the mountain, the environment is much darker and cooler with tall Douglas firs and white firs replacing the smaller drought-resistant piñon/juniper forest.

Approximately ¼ mile from the trailhead, you will encounter a fork in the trail.  The right-hand fork goes directly up to the Devisadero Peak. The left-hand fork has switchbacks that will take you up to the ridgeline. Once on the ridgeline, you can follow the trail eastward to the Devisadero Peak.

South Boundary Trail

There are multiple loops and point-to-point options that incorporate the South Boundary Trail. The actual Trail #164 begins at the El Nogal Picnic Area and ends on Forest Road 76 near Angel Fire.

The South Boundary Trail is an incredible tour of the Sangre de Cristo Range that takes you across ridges, into valleys, and over several peaks through gorgeous conifer forests and incredible stands of aspen. The trail is at its very best in the fall when aspens along the route turn every shade of yellow, gold, and fiery orange, but the spring brings its own beauty and lots of birdsong. Besides being a wonderfully scenic tour of New Mexico’s Rocky Mountains, this is also one of the state’s best mountain-bike rides.

Find out more about local hikes in Taos.