Updated: Sep 30, 2021
A journey through Northeast and Northern New Mexico's hidden bikepacking potential.
What is "The Forgotten Valleys Bikepacking Route"?
This is a 300+ mile long bikepacking route spanning remote Northeast and Northern New Mexico utilizing large tracts of public land deeply ingrained with history. The route currently starts in Cimarron and then traverses the Sangre de Cristos and further valleys to the West. Cimarron is named after the Spanish word meaning "wild" and "unbroken", which sets the overall feel of this adventure.
This route was conceived as a passion project while I was living in Cerro, New Mexico. This tiny high desert community located in the San Luis Valley has stunning dirt roads but nothing linked together in a cohesive way. I spent several years roaming these backroads in discovery of the beauty that lay in the Northern New Mexico countryside. Within all of the small villages and towns North of Taos exists an underutilized charm that the cycling/adventure community can utilized.
The name for this journey comes from the quiet and far away communities that exist along the way. Nearly every community along the route has experienced a decline since their heyday. This isn't necessarily a recent occurrence, but historically these towns used to be very prominent. For example, Cimarron used to be a hub for a vast mining and ranching industry. Garcia Colorado once had over 4000 people living there in the mid 1800's. Now it has 1/10th the population. These communities are being forgotten in time and are now a mere remnant of their former past. Aside from the stunning landscapes, these relics of the past are some of the routes most compelling attractions.
The route is broken into five sections:
Trinidad - Cimarron (Coming Soon)
Traverse the Sangre de Cristos from Cimarron - Costilla
Cut across the San Luis Valley from Costilla to Antonito
Cross several valleys and mountains from Antonito to Polvadera Mesa
The final stretch through the Valle Caldera into Los Alamos
Once at Los Alamos, you can take the public bus to Santa Fe or take a precarious road ride into Santa Fe.
Each section has it's own unique history and distinct flavor while riding through them. This will be broken down in greater detail in a later post.
The intended purpose of this route
The main goal while creating this route was to utilize amazing public land and connect that land with forlorn communities. The communities that this route crosses have long histories and represent a living connection to the past. By linking these places on a single tour it makes possible to ensure these communities don't fade away into history and decay.
The current state of the route
The route is about 3/4 complete and fully rideable. There are reliable resupply points and camping spots corresponding to riding days. All camping spots are on public land and legal for camping.
What needs to be done?
The goal is to begin the tour in Trinidad Colorado and then traverse volcanic landscapes into Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge. This will add over 100 miles and will cross lots of underutilized yet unique land. Some of the places it will hopefully cross are Trinchera Pass, the Folsom Site, Capulin Volcano, the Santa Fe Trail, Turkey Mountain and Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge.
Scouting needs to be done to ensure that the remaining route is completely open to cycling. What tends to happen is that, on a map, a road says it is public and possible to traverse. Upon arriving to said road, there is a locked gate with or without private property signs. This means it is necessary to physically cross every road to verify it is open to travel. This is a tricky task to accomplish while living hours away.
Once this route is in full completion I intend to create a pamphlet detailing the route and distribute them amongst bike shops in New Mexico. The goal is to transform this route into one of the essential bikepacking trips in the state. I feel the diversity of landscapes this route crosses offers an experience unlike any other bikepacking route currently in New Mexico. This route also links well with the Off Road Runner and could create a New Mexico Divide Route separate from the GDMBR.
Another later addition is to potentially create a connector route that starts in Santa Fe, travels to Las Vegas, then connects to the Forgotten Valleys Route around Cimarron. This will come post-completion of this route.
Maps and resources
These GPX files are still a rough draft, however everything is completely rideable. Make sure you still have a secondary map cached just for safety.
If you have any questions, feel free to message me. I am happy to help!