Valle Vidal Back Country Report from Bill Manns

"As we neared the trailhead we came across 6-8 eagles feeding on a dead cow, a real western sight."

Riding in the mountains of northern New Mexico this time of the year starts become a little dicey. It’s all weather driven. Yesterday we decided to ride about as far north as you can ride in NM and traveled into one of my favorite places, the remote Valle Vidal (Valley of Life) about 75 miles north of Taos. It was 22 degrees when we fed the horses at 5am. It was cold with only moonlight.

We started the day with huevos rancheros covered in red chili, fried potatoes and lots of coffee – it sure hit the spot. As we neared the trailhead we came across 6-8 eagles feeding on a dead cow, a real western sight.

When we saddled up it was clear-- we’d pickled a wonderful day for this adventure no wind and in the high 40s. I rode the entire day in a vest and was hot by late morning when it was in the mid-50s. The Valle Vidal is a lush mountain basin located in the Carson National Forest. The Valle Vidal is noted for its pristine scenery and tons of wildlife. Elevations range from 7,700 to 12,500’.  We rode in the 9,000-10,200’ range. Hunting season was on so the elk (largest herd in NM) had retreated into the dense woods and higher elevations. We never saw any signs of hunters; I think most were east of us, closer to the campgrounds.

It was an outstanding day to be horseback. We only get in here about once a year so ever ride is special. We rode along the vast, 11 mile long, 1 ½ mile wide valley to the ruins of the old hunting lodge, built in the 20s-30s when we had lunch at the corral. The surrounding mountains were capped in snow. In a few weeks the Valle Vidal will be closed by winter snow.

Everyone was delighted with the day, Cody was full of energy and Trey especially loved riding along the several creeks we followed.  It was a grand day to be on horseback with friends -- my idea of heaven.

Follow Bill Manns on Facebook at