A Fabulous Mountain Biking and Hiking Trail at the Edge of Las Cruces:

We spent this past Saturday on our mountain bikes, searching for the rainbow on the Sierra Vista Trail. It was a warm, sunny Las Cruces day. We were in shorts and light t-shirts with Camelbaks, apples, snacks, and extra water bottles to help us stay hydrated and energized for a full day’s ride.

The Bureau of Land Management describes the Sierra Vista Trail as a 29-mile nonmotorized recreation trail along the western flank of the Organ Mountains and the eastern side of the Franklin Mountains.¹ It’s accessible at trailheads near Dripping Springs Natural Area, Soledad Canyon, to the east of I-10 at the Mesquite exit, Vado exit, and NM 404 at Anthony Gap.

I hadn’t read up on the trail but heard it was fun and challenging. We were looking for a gnarly single-track ride, so we decided to drive south to the Vado trailhead and ride north. Here, the trail starts out pretty easily.

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Sierra Vista Trail at Vado Trailhead. Mountains are hidden off to the right.

After a short way, the trail turns to the east. All of a sudden, I found myself riding through a breathtaking meadow straight toward the mountains.

 

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Riding through a fabulous grass field. In the spring it’s vibrant green.

The trail stays pretty flat for a while longer. After crossing the field, we turned north (left) and took a service road along the power lines, which are faintly visible in the photo above. The road hugs the power line all the way up to A-Mountain just on the edge of Las Cruces.

 

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The service road along the power lines on the Sierra Vista Trail. That’s A-Mountain ahead in the distance.

It also cuts through the largest field of ocotillos I’ve ever seen. Here are some I saw this past spring. They went on for miles, as far as the eye could see.

 

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These bony looking plants with red flowers are ocotillos. The limbs bloom from top to bottom with tiny leaves  whenever it rains.

 

We stayed on this road, which was in pretty great shape but also hilly in spots, for about an hour. We crossed three or four roads and eventually took one to the right, heading for the foothills, where we’d cross the Sierra Vista trail.

 

The road was narrow, rocky and steadily threaded its way uphill. Slow going. We rode quite a ways and had nearly given up searching for the trail when we bumped into markers at the edge of the dirt road.

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Sierra Vista trail marker. My riding partner is that red speck way off in the distance.

Once we found the trail we turned south and attacked some hugely fun, highly technical single track. Don’t let the photos fool you. We hit some seriously challenging, hilly single track and spent half of the remaining hour and a half climbing.

The sun was high. The temperature was climbing and we were pushing our bodies hard. I got a little too cocky on my new bike and took on some terrain that I should have walked instead of ridden. At one point, I was screaming across a sandy wash when the trail got the better of me. I hit the brakes to avoid a sudden wall of rock. My bike reared like a bucking bronco and I flew off the bike, landing in a sad, hot heap in the wash. Sore but not broken, I got up and kept on peddling.

We had about a half hour to go before we were back at the trailhead. I made myself stop and walk some loose rocky stretches to avoid further wipeouts. By the time the ride was over, we’d been on our bikes for four and a half hours. Our supply of two Camelbaks and two water bottles was barely sufficient. (Don’t underestimate how much you need if you’re headed out for a day on this trail.)

We were too hot to be hungry, weary but unbeaten. What a fabulous workout with fabulous views!

Learn More:

Sierra Vista Trail Website
Sierra Vista Trail Map – North Section

¹ http://www.blm.gov/nm/st/en/prog/recreation/las_cruces/sierra_vista_trail.print.html

Copyright © Paula Heikell. All rights reserved.

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