Mountain bikers have fantastic outlets very close to Santa Fe, while those who prefer the open road will love the challenges in the winding highways through the mountains north of the city. Rob & Charlie’s (1632 St. Michaels Dr., 505/471-9119, 9:30am-6pm Mon.-Sat., noon-5pm Sun. in summer) is a reliable shop. For bike rental, see Mellow Velo (132 E. Marcy St., 505/995-8356, 9am-6pm Mon.-Fri., 9am-5pm Sat., 9am-3pm Sun., from $20/day), just off the plaza.
The most popular mountain trail is Winsor Trail (no. 254), covering a great range of scenery and terrain.The Dale Ball Trails are 22 miles of single-track routes for both hikers and mountain bikers, winding through stands of piñon and juniper in the foothills. Two trailheads give access to the North, Central, and South Sections of the trail. From the northern trailhead, on Sierra del Norte (immediately off Highway 475 after mile marker 3), the North Section trails vary a bit in elevation, but the Central Section (south from the parking area) is more fun because it’s a longer chunk of trails. The southern trailhead, on Cerro Gordo just north of its intersection with Canyon Road, gives access to the Central Section and the South Section, which is for advanced riders only. Note that the trail that starts at the southern trailhead lot, part of the Santa Fe Canyon Preserve, is for foot traffic only—ride your bike one-tenth of a mile down Cerro Gordo to the start of the Dale Ball system.
A local classic, the Santa Fe Rail Trail is a paved path starting in Railyard Park, then turns to dirt outside the city limits. Revamped and smoothed out a bit in 2012, the trail is a pleasant, relatively easy route along the railroad tracks to Lamy. The trail is about 12.5 miles one-way; except for a grade near I-25, it’s fairly level.
In the rolling hills west of the city, La Tierra Trails are for biking, hiking, and horseback riding—though it’s the two-wheel crew who makes the most use of them, especially after work, when the day is cooler (there’s not much shade out here). There are three trailheads, all interconnected by various loops. Look for the turn west (not at a light) off Highway 599, the bypass road around the city.
The most popular mountain trail is Winsor Trail (no. 254), covering a great range of scenery and terrain. It’s a long, slow slog up, rewarded by a downhill joyride on the return. There are few deadly steep ascents, so it’s tiring but not impossible, and you’ll rarely have to hike-a-bike. The main trail begins near Tesuque: Take Washington Avenue north out of the center of Santa Fe, continuing as it becomes Bishops Lodge Road (Highway 590). After not quite four miles, turn right onto County Road 72-A, also signed as Big Tesuque Canyon. There are two small pullout areas for parallel parking, and the trail starts about one-tenth of a mile up the road from the second parking area—the first half mile is through private land. It’s not cheating too badly to shorten the uphill leg by starting at Chamisa Trail, six miles up Highway 475 (Hyde Park Road), which connects with Winsor after 2.5 miles—but you’ll need to arrange a pickup at the bottom.
Make sure you’re acclimated to the altitude before you set out on any lengthy trip—the best tour, along the high road to Taos, will take you through some of the area’s highest elevations. Starting in Chimayó shaves some not-so-scenic miles off the ride and gives you a reasonable 45-mile jaunt to Taos. The annual Santa Fe Century takes place every May, running a 104-mile loop south down the Turquoise Trail and back north via the old farm towns in the Galisteo Basin, southeast of Santa Fe.
Excerpted from the Fourth Edition of Moon Santa Fe, Taos, & Albuquerque.