BLM hosts free hikes in monument

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Despite the afternoon monsoon storms of late, August is a great time to explore trails near Taos. The Bureau of Land Management is offering a variety of guided hikes around the Río Grande del Norte National Monument.

"Every Kid in the Park" is one of the newest events. On the third Saturday of each month through November, Kimmy Henkel, a park ranger, will lead a free event geared toward children and their families. On Saturday (Aug. 19), at 9 a.m., Henkel will give a "Tracks and Scat" tour of the riparian area near the Arroyo Hondo Campground in the lower Río Grande Gorge off State Road 570. She'll be handing out swag and making plaster casts of tracks along the riverbed. Fourth-graders who attend will get a free federal lands pass that the whole family can use.

Ranger Teddy Lucero and U.S. Forest Service acting District Ranger Eric Garner, also on Aug. 19, 8:30 a.m., will lead a guided hike up the 10,908-foot San Antonio Mountain. The trek will take about seven hours total. Meet the rangers at the Tres Piedras Ranger Station, which is on U.S. 64 a mile west of U.S. 285. The destination after a strenuous hike off the trail will be a historic cabin near the top, a perfect spot for a lunch. Topics will include geology, history and why the area is great habitat for big game. Bring food, water, sunscreen, a hat and good hiking boots.

At 9 a.m. Sunday (Aug. 20), join Randy Roch, a park ranger, for a two-hour round-trip hike on the Slide Trail at Taos Valley Overlook. Meet at Cascabel, the trailhead located at the end of County Road 110, past the University of New Mexico-Taos Klauer Campus. The trail is the now-closed-to-traffic portion of State Road 570, which was blocked by a major rock slide in the mid-1990s. The trail is a fairly easy way to descend into the Río Pueblo de Taos Gorge.

On Saturday (Aug. 26), beginning at 9 a.m., meet up with Tim Long, also a park ranger, and local archaeologist Mark Henderson. The trailhead for Big Arsenic will serve as the meetup site for a 4-mile moderately difficult round-trip hike while learning a bit about the cultural history of the Río Grande Gorge. Bring a lunch.

Also on Aug. 26 at 9 a.m., take an easy 3-mile round-trip hike along La Vista Verde Trail in Orilla Verde, led by Henkel.

The Río Grande del Norte National Monument is one of the newest monuments in New Mexico. Late summer is a perfect time to enjoy it. Remember to bring a good raincoat during this monsoon season, as storm clouds can move into the area quickly with a sudden downpour.

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