Three Fall Hikes Near Taos

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Taos is located in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in north-central New Mexico.  The artsy town is home to a world-class ski resort and features many outdoor activity options.  As a hiking enthusiast, I checked out three trails while visiting this fall. 

South Boundary 164 Trail to First Peak

The South Boundary 164 Trail, just 2.8 miles east of Taos on Kit Carson Road, was the closest trail to Taos that I took.  This trailhead shares parking with the Devisadero Trailhead.  The 5.6-mile hike to Devisadero Peak is extremely popular.

As a result, with my late start on a weekend, I went with the moderately trafficked 3.3-mile hike up South Boundary 164 Trail.  At first, I wasn’t too enthusiastic over the smooth trail through the green forest as I was hoping to see some fall colors.

Upon reaching the first peak viewpoint after a steady incline, however, my outlook changed.  It overlooks Taos Valley dotted in gold.  It was nice to get in a lovely quick hike before heading out of town.

overlooking taos on trail 164

El Salto del Agua Cañoncito Trail

Working my way north, I veered east through Arroyo Seco to El Salto del Agua Cañoncito Trail.  This trail is a hidden gem, likely due to the effort it takes to hike it.  Not the physical hiking effort, but getting the permission to follow this trail through a beautiful canyon.

It is located on the El Salto del Agua Land Grant, approximately 2,000 acres of wilderness, which was once part of the historic deed of Governor of New Spain Felix Martinez to Antonio Martinez in 1716-1717.  In order to enter the area, hikers must call 505-398-0090, sign a liability waiver, and pay $5 for a day pass or get an annual pass. 

It sounds harder than it really is.  The instructions are posted about ¼ mile into the trail at a gate.  They are also listed on the AllTrails app.  And it is easy to Venmo the fee.  The parking on the other hand is limited.  There is space for about two or three cars on the side of a well graded dirt road passable by any vehicle.

The hike itself is wonderful, especially in the fall as the trail passes beneath countless aspen as it crisscrosses the creek.  Situated in the small canyon, it is also rather shaded by the forest and canyon walls.  I unfortunately arrived shortly after a snowstorm, so I only hiked just shy of 5 miles before it got a little too icy and slick for my preference while alone in the woods.

It was a lovely jaunt, however, and I didn’t see another soul until I was almost to the trailhead.  Be sure to stroll through the tiny town of Arroyo Seco when you are finished.  And for a really good breakfast or lunch, stop in Sol Food Café.  I met my old Denver neighbors there for breakfast, and it was outstanding!

arroyo seco

Columbine Trail

Columbine Trail is a bit further from Taos.  It is located to 29 miles north of Taos and just east of Questa on the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway.  Given this National Forest Scenic Byway is the most popular drive in the area, you may as well head to a hike and then finish off the day by taking the 84 scenic drive which passes through the mountain ski towns of Red River and Angel Fire. 

I did the scenic drive 10 years ago in VANilla, and now I’m back in VANgo doing completely different things. Funny how your interests change in a decade. Anyway, there is plenty to do. This time I stopped to see Elizabethtown (a ghost town) and marveled in the fall colors which brighten Bob Cat Pass.  But I digress.


The Columbine Trailhead is located at a campground.  When I arrived in October, the gate to the campground was locked, but parking was available just off the highway. 

This trail features a few creek crossings and some nice falls colors.  There is a small waterfall in the meadow near the big tree.  I know that is a vague description, but it is how I found it due to the AllTrails review I read.

The only disappointment is the end!  The initial climb is gradual, but the last mile plus is steep in parts and the end stops beneath an aspen grove.  There is no reward like a view!  The trail simply intersects with another less traveled trail. 

The roundtrip to the trail intersection and back is 8.5 miles, so I didn’t feel inclined to extend the hike in hopes of something better.  Anyway, its not the destination, right?  It’s the journey.  And there are plenty of golden leaves to see in the fall!  ETB

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

2 thoughts on “Three Fall Hikes Near Taos

  1. Enjoyed coming along with you on this one! I have been to Taos many times gallery-hopping (I like the art scene), but haven’t explored the area around it. You have found some good places to explore.

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