Best Hikes In New Mexico – Expert Guide To The Top 8 Trails

Updated: March 17, 2023

New Mexico is also known as the Land of Enchantment, and it’s easy to see why! This beautiful State is home to 6 out of the 7 world life zones, making it one of the most diverse places on Earth.

From mountains and pure white sand dunes to tranquil alpine lakes and lush forest, you just can’t go wrong!

So here are the best hikes that New Mexico has to offer. 

Top Hiking Trails In New Mexico

1. Rio Grande Gorge

Rio Grande Gorge is located in the Wild Rivers Recreation Area. The trail is an easy 7 mile (11.2 km) loop that showcases the sheer splendor of the 50 mile long gorge. You’ll follow along the well-trodden switchbacks and descend through various distinctive floral zones. 


The trail also leads past the wild river that the area is named after and you’ll see it flowing over the basalt rocks of the gorge. Once you reach the bottom, you’ll be able to see the slight color variations in the rock faces. These color blends occurred when the canyon was formed during the Rio Grande Rift.

Walking alongside the scenic river takes you to the La Junta Campground. From here you can take a small trail to see where the Rio Grande and Red rivers meet.

While the trail leading down to the campground is fairly easy, the hike back up the gorge is quite a strenuous climb. So be prepared for sore legs the next day! 

2. Pino Trail

Located just outside of Albuquerque in the Cibola National Forest in the Sandia Mountains, is the Pino Trail. This classic hiking trail is a challenging 9 mile (14.5 km) journey up the Pino Canyon. The top of the trail sits at 2,828 feet and offers stunning views of the surrounding land and city below.


While the trail ascends quite gradually, the last section is quite difficult so be ready for a good workout. The Pino Trail is quite popular so the path is easy to follow and in pretty good condition. If you hike during the spring, you will be treated to some beautiful wildflowers dotting the land. 

3. Zuni-Acoma Trail

The Zuni-Acoma Trail is an ancient trail that connects the Zuni and Acoma pueblos (North American Indian settlements). This route has been around for over 1000 years and was once 75 miles (120 km) long. Now it is a 16 mile (25.7 km) round trip trail in El Malpais National Monument.


Photo by Beth Holt

This hike is quite difficult and takes about 6 hours one way as you'll be walking over rough terrain. The rugged trail leads you over lava flows and is not well-marked so it is very easy to get lost. The Zuni-Acoma Trail is perfect for hikers seeking a true outdoor adventure. 

4. Gila Loop Trail

The Gila Wilderness is a designated wilderness zone and is one of the largest pieces of land without any roads running through it. The 3.3 million acre wilderness has beautiful lush forest, hot springs and mountains - making it the perfect spot for hiking. 


The Gila Loop Trail is about 20 miles (32 km) long and leads you through the dense trees and past fascinating old cave dwellings. This is a trail you definitely don’t want to miss!

The Jordan Hot Springs are also located in the Gila Wilderness and can be found about 7 miles (11 km) into the trail. Soaking in the warm water makes the perfect end to a long day on your feet!

One thing to note about this trail is that you will be crossing a river multiple times so make sure you pack some water-appropriate shoes along with your hiking boots.

5. Continental Divide Trail

The Continental Divide Trail is found in the San Pedro Parks Wilderness. It spans all the way from the Canadian border to Mexico. The sections in New Mexico are particularly beautiful and offers hikers a chance to enjoy the diverse natural formations and stunning landscapes. 

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There are several route variations you can take here, but the most frequented one is an 8 mile (12.9 km) loop. One of the most well marked segments of the trail takes you through the beautiful San Pedro Parks Wilderness. Here you will find meadows of wildflowers, gentle hills and picturesque streams. 

6. Trampas Lakes Trail

If you enjoy mountain hikes, then this one's for you. The Trampas Lakes Trail is a 12 mile (19 km) round trip hike up the mountains in the Pecos Wilderness. Starting at the Trampas Campground, the trail consists of switchbacks up a canyon in the mountain. 

You will find meadows filled with wildflowers and signs directing to the various lakes along the way. The Trampas and Hidden Lakes are especially beautiful as they reflect the trees and tall peaks of the surrounding mountains.

If you particularly enjoy the alpine scenery, or want to spend some time fishing, you can camp around the lakes and spend a few days exploring the sheer natural beauty of the wilderness. 

7. Gavilan Trail

The Gavilan Trail is a short, yet strenuous, hike up to the ridge that connects the highest peaks in the area. Located on the mountains in the Columbine Hondo Wilderness, the trail starts at 2743 meters. 


Photo by David Herrera

This beautiful hike follows the Gavilan Creek through lush forests and meadows brimming with colorful wildflowers. Once you reach Gavilan Falls, the trail becomes very steep but don’t give up just yet as you will soon reach the top at about 3650 meters.

You can choose whether to summit Gold Hill or Lobo Peak when you reach the ridge. Both offer exquisite views of the forested mountains and snowy peaks in the distance. 

Due to the higher elevation, sudden thunderstorms can occur on the mountains so always remember to pack a rain jacket!

8. Bandelier National Monument

Whether you want isolated wilderness trails or a rich cultural experience, Bandelier National Monument is the place to go. The trails meander through canyons and mesas, showing off the natural splendor of the land. 


There are over 70 miles (112 km) of trails to explore in this area. Some of which are remote backcountry trails where you can enjoy hiking in solitude and immerse yourself in the wilderness, while others are frontcountry trails that showcase some of New Mexico’s interesting history.

Even if you want to just explore more rugged, isolated trails, we highly recommend making some time to explore the frontcountry sections as well. There are ladders and steps weaving along the rock formations that take you to see ancient ruins from about 11000 years ago, as well as petroglyphs and kivas (chambers used for Puebloan rites or meetings). 

Best Time To Hike In New Mexico

The best time to go hiking in New Mexico is during spring, autumn or summer. Winters are quite cold and don’t showcase the beauty of the land as much as the other seasons.

In spring and summer, you can see the stunning bursts of color of wildflowers dotting the landscape of many of the hikes. While in autumn, you are treated to the gorgeous oranges and reds of all the trees changing color. 

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About the author 

Adie Marais

Adie is a nature and wildlife lover living in Cape Town, South Africa. Growing up, she had many opportunities to explore the outdoors by hiking, going on safaris and venturing into the karoo with her family. This led to her love of animals, the environment and discovering new places to explore.

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