The sun is out. The snow is deep. It is time to snowshoe! As the snow continues to accumulate, hiking can become more difficult. But if you have snowshoes, you can still get outside to enjoy the beauty of winter days in Taos. With the help of other snowshoers, here are descriptions of places to snowshoe.
Snowshoeing at Taos Ski Valley
David Barger, of Taos, was recently on the trails in Taos Ski Valley (TSV) and wrote this overview.
For avid year-round hikers who are looking for a unique backcountry experience, an overnighter in the yurt along Wheeler Peak Trail No. 90 may be for you. It’s located at the Bull of the Woods pasture, just beyond the Gold Hill Trail junction. My wife recently booked a mid-December, two-night stay through Southwest Nordic Center. You can get details about recommended gear and yurt amenities at southwestnordiccenter.com. Since this is a trip best suited for a small group, we invited another couple of friends who had some snowshoeing experience. The yurt can sleep up to 10 people, but a party of four to six is just right. It makes for an affordable trip when you share the rental fee with friends.
The journey begins from the TSV parking lot at the access to the Wheeler Peak No. 90 trailhead. The yurt is well provisioned, so my group packed basic essentials, such as warm clothing, sleeping bags and food. Each of us carried no more than 25 pounds of gear. It is only a 2-mile trek up to the yurt. However, the route is a steady ascent that requires some maneuvering over and around fallen trees that block the trail. This is not a winter experience I’d recommend for novice hikers. Since the route is short, there is plenty of time to get to the destination. Take it slow and enjoy the ski valley views along the way.
On the second day, we did a 2-mile round-trip snowshoe up to Bull of the Woods Mountain from the yurt. Once at the yurt, you can customize your own side trips. Consider snowshoeing some of the trails on Northside’s property – a nearby private recreation area. Access to Northside at TSV entails paying a fee in advance. Find out more at ridenorthside.com.
The descent back to the parking lot on the third day was a breeze and our adventure ended with a fine meal at the Bavarian.
Amole Canyon Trail
A series of cross-country ski and snowshoe trails have been laid out by the Carson National Forest (CNF) in Amole Canyon, which is south of Taos. The area is about 14 miles from town on State Road 518. As you crest U.S. Hill and continue down toward the turn to Peñasco, the area is on your left. Watch for a small sign that says “Amole Canyon day use area.” Turn into the pullout and park here.
From the gate, there is a half-mile trek up Forest Road 703. The grade is about 20 percent, according to the CNF website. There are trail maps available at the kiosk near the parking area. From the road, a series of trails head north and south. The trail map helps define the easiest routes with regard to distance and elevation gain. Watch for arrows and blue diamonds to keep you on the trails; some loops are well defined by previous snowshoers. Be on the lookout for the cross-country ski tracks and try to avoid stepping in them.
On a recent misty day, I set off to explore two of the medium-distance loops to the north of the road, designated as trails four and five on the map. A short snowshoe across the first open meadow brings you to a break in a fence. Continue northeast and head toward State Road 518, which is visible in the distance. Soon, the trail turns into the woods and climbs west. Although parts of the trail were packed down, it was helpful to have the snowshoes on the trails and particularly when stepping to the side into the soft, deep snow. The trail continues west through the trees and then turns south back toward Forest Road 703. The elevation at the parking area is about 8,200 feet and the trail loop I explored gained a bit more than 200 feet to 8,400 feet. From the gate, this loop was about 2.2 miles.
Amole is a good place to spend a winter afternoon. The open meadows and protected spots in the forest make good spots for lunch and a thermos of hot chocolate. For more information, call (575) 758-6200. Maps can be downloaded at fs.usda.gov/carson.
Enchanted Forest – near Red River – has extensive trails for both snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. As of press time, Enchanted Forest was reporting a 36-inch base and 13 inches of new snow with all the trails open. Co-owner Ellen Miller-Goins says, “Conditions are great! I always go on the dog trails with my dog, Yuki. For snowshoe trails, I like Yo Yo and Yo Yo Mas for the views and the bristlecone pine.”
Red River naturalist Barbara Dry offers guided snowshoe treks at Enchanted Forest. The two-hour guided nature tour is a good introduction to snowshoeing and a chance to learn about the trees, animals, birds, tracks and history of the area.
Enchanted Forest is located 3.5 miles east of Red River, just below the summit of Bobcat Pass on State Road 38. The area has 18 kilometers of snowshoe trails that meander through the forest, crisscrossing existing cross-country trails. A midway warming yurt is an excellent stop for a picnic lunch or a water/bathroom break. For more information, call (575) 754-2374 or visit enchantedforestxc.com.
Taos Snowshoe Adventures offers guided tours. Visit snowshoetaos.com or call (800) 758-5262.
Snowshoes can rented or purchased at Mudd-n-Flood on Bent Street; call (575) 751-9100. The Boot Doctor at Taos Ski Valley has snowshoes for rent and for sale; call (575) 776-2489. Cottam’s Ski Shop has snowshoes for rent at TSV and downtown Taos locations; call (575) 776-8719 or (575) 758-2822. Adventure Ski Shops has snowshoes for rent at both north and south locations on Paseo del Pueblo; call (575) 758-1167. Taos Mountain Outfitters on Taos Plaza has winter gear as well; call (575) 758-9292.
Before setting out on any trail, contact the Carson National Forest or local outfitters to find out about the most current trail conditions. For updates on avalanche danger, visit the Taos Avalanche Center at taosavalanchecenter.org.
Brown is the author of the “Taos Hiking Guide,” winner of the 2016 New Mexico-Arizona book award for sports and recreation. The guide is available at local retailers and at nighthawkpress.com. Reach Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.