Above: The Brazos Cliffs are made of some of the oldest rock found in New Mexico. Photograph by Jim O’Donnell.
A moderate 6-mile out-and-back hike along Placer Creek leaves from a pullout just west of the Hopewell Lake Campground. While it’s officially part of the Continental Divide Trail, there is no obvious route. That said, it is almost impossible to get lost. Stick to the creek until you are just below Jawbone, a 10,593-foot rocky outcrop with a dramatic vista of the region, then cut across the meadows and head up.
Tony Marquez Trail
For the more adventurous, continue west from Hopewell Lake for about two miles to the trailhead. This moderate 5-mile out-and-back trail (a 16.2-mile loop is also possible) is perfect for hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking. The trail meanders through thick stands of aspen, old-growth pines, and some of the oldest rocks in North America. This is a non-motorized area with stunning views of the famous Brazos Cliffs, near the Colorado state line.
Cruces Basin Trail
The Cruces Basin Wilderness is a nearly 19,000-acre series of basins and mesas in the heart of the Tusas Mountains. This roadless area protects some of the most pristine and rugged lands in northern New Mexico. The Cruces Basin Trail is an easy 7.5-mile out-and-back flowing through what feel like nonstop stands of aspen. Yellow-season hiking on this trail will have you feeling like you’re swimming in a pot of gold.