MELLOW LOOP HIKES cruise gentle slopes and meander through botanical gardens at state parks, while other hikes pack a bit of a punch for more ambitious or adventurous visitors. Those willing to put in more trail miles often find themselves rewarded with massive views and grand possibilities. Find a list of options at nmmag.us/stateparktrails.
The 5.5-mile Río Chama Trail links Heron Lake and El Vado Lake state parks, in northern New Mexico. The route crosses the Río Chama by suspension bridge before following the river canyon through ponderosa pine, piñon, and juniper forests. The trail rolls up and down for about 1,500 feet of total elevation gain—and that mileage is one way, so set up a car shuttle or plan for an 11-mile round trip.
Still in development, the Río Grande Trail—a 500-mile route for hiking, biking, and horseback riding—will someday run through six state parks along the Río Grande: Mesilla Valley Bosque, Leasburg Dam, Percha Dam, Caballo Lake, Elephant Butte Lake, and the Río Grande Nature Center. Get a taste of what’s to come at Mesilla Valley Bosque, where 2.3 miles of trails meander through the bosque and parallel the Río Grande.
Dog Canyon National Recreation Trail starts at the Oliver Lee Memorial State Park visitor center, then climbs more than 3,000 feet into the Sacramento Mountains in 5.5 miles, rising from Chihuahuan Desert to ponderosa pine forest with vistas over the Tularosa Basin and White Sands National Park.