In this rendition of Day Trippin’, we journeyed to the mountains of northern New Mexico to spend the summer equinox doing what we love most, riding bikes with our friends. The day started at Angel Fire Bike Park for some party laps, followed by an adventure through the South Boundary Trail to finish off in the eclectic town of Taos, New Mexico.
South Boundary Trail Stats:
Length: 22 miles / 35 kilometers
Elevation Gain: 1,600 feet / 488 meters
Approximate Time to Complete: 3 hours
Trailforks Information: https://www.trailforks.com/route/south-boundary-trail-shuttle-from-fr76-to-el-nogal/
Shuttling Information: https://shuttletaos.com/south-boundary-trail-shuttle/
We started our morning at Angel Fire Bike Park with Sam Hamilton, Raf Guevara, and Molly Crickman. We took the first chair up to 10,600 ft to La Cienega peak to drop into one of Angel Fire’s flagship trails, Devinci’s Code. After an incredibly rainy early summer, the dusty, loose switchbacks were a welcome change as we charged down the mountain to drop into Lemonade, their newest blue flow trail where the sky's the limit when it comes to speed. Tall berms and perfect table tops fed us further down the mountain and back to the parking lot to let our big day begin.
Putting our hydration packs on and double-checking our snacks and equipment, there was a slight sense of tension as we embarked on our 35-mile trip through the mountains separating Taos from Angel Fire. Sam opted to make the trip on his 170mm park bike, I was wondering how he would fare on the impending climb. Between our packs, we made sure to carry the appropriate tools for a big backcountry day:
1 shot of tire slime
1 multi-tool with a chain breaker
1 spare quick link
2 tire levers
2 CO2 canisters
A few zip ties
600 calories worth of food that I planned to refill at mile 20
2 liters of water
The first 4 miles of the ride were south bound on the one road that goes through the small resort town of Angel Fire. The shoulder was large, and every vehicle was accommodating to us on the road; we even got a few waves from road riders!
Leaving Angel Fire, we started our fire road climb up FR 76. This was a very well-kept road with a really pleasant climbing grade. As we stopped under a shade tree for some snacks, we were passed by two cars full of enthusiastic mountain bikers ready to ride South Boundary. While shuttling is the more popular option than what we chose to do, spending a morning at the park was a fun way to start the day.
11 miles in, and we made it to the start of the South Boundary Trail! New Mexico’s only IMBA Epic, Sam and Raf saw it appropriate to do a warm-up dance before tackling the technical loose singletrack climb to take us to the peak of Mount Osha at around 10,600 feet.
After summiting Mount Osha, we breathed a sigh of relief as the remainder of this epic ride was mostly downhill! I made sure to keep my eyes up through the ‘Heaven on Earth’ section of South Boundary, about a 3-mile section of absolutely prime flowy singletrack. Whooping and hollering echoed through the tall pine trees as we raced each other to Garcia Park, where Molly was waiting for us with lunch.
After lunch and about 20 miles into our ride, Molly joined us to finish out the last 18 miles of our trip. From Garcia Park, a peaceful meadow tucked up in the mountains that allows primitive camping, we had a mild 800-foot climb before we consistently made our way back down to Taos.
From Garcia Park to Taos is where South Boundary gets its reputation. The diversity of trail and views make it impossible not to smile around every flowy corner. The trail is maintained by the various volunteers in both Taos and Angel Fire, and the care shows. Rarely in this journey was I faced with blind corners, overgrown underbrush, or even a fallen tree.
After what seems like a pleasant stroll through the woods, mile marker 5 comes at you fast and hard with steep, loose, and chunky enduro riding. Raf stopped us before we dropped into the last few miles to make sure we had shocks unlocked and forearms shaken out. Molly and I dropped in together after Raf and Sam’s dust settled and raced each other to the El Nogal Trailhead. Be ready to pull for techy drops that sneak up on you and sharp, unforgiving switchbacks.
Hot brakes and dusty shins carried us to the El Nogal trailhead, the ending of the South Boundary Trail that feeds you into Taos. Molly and I rode to Rift Cycles, their bike shop that is co-owned with Raf where they did a once-over on my thoroughly ridden bike. I stopped at the shop that morning to pick up a spare quicklink and a shot of tire sealant. I'm happy to report we had no mechanicals on this epic Journey!
Even though we stuck to some of the more challenging trails that Northern New Mexico has to offer, there are routes for all skills. Taos is home to the Rift Valley trail system, a great place for mountain bikes and even the skilled gravel riders in your crew. Next time you find yourself in New Mexico, give Rift Cycles a visit and they will be sure to recommend the best trails and equipment needed for the area. The area is blossoming with enthusiastic riders; you might even have a chance to link up with one of the many group rides scheduled on the weeknights! We hope to see you soon; happy trails.