LOS ALAMOS, NM — In addition to being the healthiest county in the United States according to a study published in Bloomberg News, Los Alamos, New Mexico is also home to the most official hiking/biking trails compared to comparably sized cities and counties in the entire Southwest including Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, Texas, and Utah, based on available information.
Los Alamos has a population of just over 12,000 within its city limits. There are more than 18,000 residents living in Los Alamos County, which includes White Rock, NM. Despite its small population, there are as many as 71 official hiking trails with dozens more unnamed in Los Alamos County.
“Not many people realize that Los Alamos has some of the best trails in the country that are within and adjacent to residential areas. Not only are they idyllic, set against a fantastic backdrop of the city and mountains, but they vary from easy to challenging for a variety of hikers and bikers to enjoy.” said Los Alamos County Open Space Specialist, Craig Martin. “What makes hiking in Los Alamos different than any other part of the country is that hikers can see the remote archaeological sites of Bandelier and, during the same hike, catch a glimpse of area wildlife. The fact we have access to dozens of unique trails encourages our residents wanting to get outdoors, which ultimately plays a role in their overall health and well being.”
Martin is the author of Los Alamos Trails which is a guide to more than 200 miles of dirt roads and pathways and 90 routes in the Los Alamos area. Hikers and bikers can also locate hiking trails through a booklet which was adopted by the Los Alamos County Chamber of Commerce titled, 50 Hikes in the Los Alamos Area. The booklet was originally created 20 years ago by a group of people who wanted to create a hiking guide for their friends.
Trails range from easy to difficult, and vary in length from one mile to 10.7 miles each way. Some of the more popular hikes are along Bandelier National Monument’s 2-mile Tsankawi trail – considered a difficult trail which takes hikers along an abandoned mesa top village dating back to the 14th century. Hikers can climb steep ladders to the top of the cliff dwellings, see the petroglyphs and walk along the same route as the pueblo indians who settled there.
Many of the hikes listed in both Los Alamos Trails and 50 Hikes in the Los Alamos Area are easy to find and follow, however, some paths are in rugged areas. Both publications advise hikers to prepare appropriately by telling someone you’re going hiking; bringing plenty of water; and to be prepared for changes in weather especially in mountainous areas.
The Pajarito Environmental Education Center (PEEC) of Los Alamos is now offering a number of hiking activities throughout the summer, including their “Quite, Gentle Walks” on both July 10 and 17. The free walks range from one to two miles in length with slight elevation changes. Hikers will enjoy at least 20 minutes of talk-free, silent walking with their group. The group leaves the PEEC at 9:30 a.m. and returns at 11:30 a.m.
Learn the names of Los Alamos’ beautiful wildflowers during a “Wildflower Walk” with Chick Keller, curator of PEEC’s Jemez Mountain Herbarium. Free “Wildflower Walks” are on July 26, Aug. 23 and Sept. 30 beginning at 5:30 p.m. No registration is required. A plant list will be provided for participants to track local plants.
The Veronica flower, which blooms in late June and early July in water, will the center of focus on a special PEEC walk to a natural spring during, “Nature Wonders of Los Alamos: Veronica Springs.” During the 1.5 mile hike, hear hiking guide Dorothy Hoard share area history along with information about the unusual Veronica flower. The hike commences at the trailhead at the intersection of State Road 4 and Forest Rd. 181 at 9:30 a.m. on July 7. Registration is not required; the event is free. Call Katie Watson at 505-662-0460 for details.
Many other hiking events organized through the PEEC can be found online at pajaritoeec.org/programs/calendar.php. The PEEC website includes tips on trail safety, along with trail maps, and information.
Pajarito Ski Area is hosting their annual “Hike and Mountain Bike Pajarito Mountain” on July 28 and 29 from 9 a.m to 3 p.m. and Aug. 11 and 12. For more information, visit skipajarito.com.
Then on Sept. 22 and 23, take a stimulating morning run while benefitting local non profits during the Pajarito Trail Fest. Both 10K and 15 mile runs start at 8 a.m. along the beautiful Half Aspen trail and Guaje Canyon Trail of Pajarito Mountain. Race is limited to 100 participants only for each event. Fees are $35 for the 10K, and $40 for 15 miles or $40 for the duathlon. Kids can race for free as part of the “Kids Fun Run” as well. For registration information, visit fitfunfeminine.com/pajaritotrailfest/.
For more information on the numerous trails in Los Alamos, or to download maps, visit the Los Alamos County website at www.losalamosnm.us or the PEEC’s website at www.pajaritoeec.org/guides/trails.php.