New Mexico has plenty of wide-open spaces to leave the pavement behind and venture out for some off-roading. From sand, gravel, and mud to riverbeds and rocks, there seems to be terrain available for every wheel-rolling outdoor pursuit.
Revving that engine for some off-roading around the historic and picturesque city of Santa Fe should be on the agenda for anyone heading to the northern half of the Land of Enchantment. Here’s a look at five great off-roading options.
Five Best Places for Off-Roading
1 – Caja Del Río
Looking for a quicker trip? Head out west of Santa Fe toward White Rock for a moderately-challenging off-roading experience that rises 800 feet in elevation. Take in the beautiful sights and sounds of the Caja Del Río Plateau as well as lower elevations and drier sections of the Santa Fe National Forest.
You’ll be motoring just under 20 miles on this loop, with piñon and juniper trees mixed with sage and grasses along the way. Visitors to the area also enjoy birding, biking, and hiking. The trail is open all year and is definitely worth checking out.
Need a new truck to haul your ATV? Check out these great choices.
2 – Peggy Mesa to Redtop
This is a longer route, so you may want to pack a lunch. The 50.6-mile trail starts at NM 485 right off NM 4 near Jemez Pueblo, about 75 miles west of Santa Fe. Turn onto Forest Road 652 for a moderately challenging experience.
Drivers will quickly notice a rocky and rutted trail that later flattens out a bit at FR 534. Keep those wheels following FR 534 to FR 20, and you can also head up Redtop Peak for some breathtaking views of the surrounding red and rugged landscape. Head down FR 20 and toward NM 126 where drivers can go north and west to Cuba or east to La Cueva and Jemez Springs.
3 – Cedro Peak
Those short on time but looking for some outdoor thrills may want to keep this option on their radar. The 7.8-mile trail is located near Tijeras, just a bit over an hour’s drive southwest of Santa Fe. This route is considered moderately challenging and starts at Chamiso Canyon Road off NM 337, where you can also grab a trail map at a ranger station to aid in staying on course.
Bask in the beautiful Cibola National Forest while rolling along and tackling some fun obstacles on the way to scaling 1,000 feet of elevation. The peaceful surroundings make it worth the trip and stopping at one of the many campsites might be worth adding to the itinerary as well.
4 – Elk Mountain
Fans of major elevation gains are in luck with Elk Mountain. This trail is situated near Tererro in the Santa Fe National Forest, about an hour east of Santa Fe. Enjoy some solitude while exploring the 28.3-mile out-and-back trail that offers a total elevation shift of almost 4,600 feet. Despite that, this option is still considered an easy route for the most part.
The trip is a feast for the eyes with brilliant views of the surrounding forest and mountains. The highlight is reaching the peak of Elk Mountain at almost 11,700 feet. Sit back and relax a bit, connecting with nature and the stunning surroundings.
Ready to roll on some of these great trails? Visit Capitol Ford for that next ride.
5 – Chino Mesa to Rio Grande
With this off-roading trip, snap some photos of gorgeous views of the Rio Grande as it flows south the length of the state and on to the Gulf of Mexico. This route is located about an hour northwest of Santa Fe and offers 2.5 miles of challenging rocky terrain.
Budget a couple of hours to complete the route, which can also make for a great jumping-off point for even more exploration in the area. Four-wheel drive is recommended while hitting the trail among canyons and mountainous terrain — quite a grand adventure.
This story sponsored by CAPITOL FORD