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Filed under: Nature & Wildlife, Outdoor Recreation & Hiking, Tent Campgrounds

Hiking to the Big River

April 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 


On a recent vacation to New Mexico, in the mood for a bit of a hike, Terry and I headed out to the Wild Rivers Recreation area north of Taos. With rain and even snow predicted for the remainder of our trip, we were especially thrilled to be able to get out hiking on this beautiful day when the March temperature hovered around the 70 degree mark. Simply known as the “Wild and Scenic” area to the locals, this area is wonderful collection of trails, most heading down to the Rio Grande, with beautiful vistas on the way. There are also 26 campsites in the various areas of Wild Rivers, available for a nominal fee, as well as a number of back country sites available in the Rio Grande Gorge, but no RV hookups. We plan to stop back with our tent when we have more time. Still, we are left with a beautiful day,  a beautiful trail and the endless sunshine that is New Mexico!

At the trailhead

At the trailhead

Under a bit of time pressure as we were to meet friends at 4 pm that afternoon, we were dismayed to learn that it had taken us approximately 90 minutes to reach the area from where we started, south of Taos. Nonetheless, it was a beautiful drive of rolling terrain and varied topography and we enjoyed the journey almost as much as the hike.

Upon arrival, we peruse the choice of trails: should we hike the Guadalupe Mountain Trail, which at 2.1 miles is rated the most difficult of the group? Perhaps another day, given our time pressure. That leaves us the choice of eight other trails. We immediately note that several are too long for our allotted time, so we choose between the Big and Little Arsenic Springs Trails. While both are about a mile in length, the “Little” is a bit steeper so would provide a bit more of a workout. However, we leave that for another day when we have more time. Additionally, the “Big” has a self-guided interpretative trail as well as petroglyphs nearby.

The Rio Grand Gorge

The Rio Grande Gorge

The hike down to the springs is a piece of cake. We are nearly skipping down the trail, aware of the need to “make tracks” in order to have time to rest a bit on the way back up.  We nearly run past the interpretive signs featuring different aspects of the geology and vegetation of the area. The most difficult part about hiking down to the Rio Grande, however, is that the most challenging part of the hike comes at the end, when most of our energy is depleted.

When we reach the .7mile point, we realize that we are a mere two hours from our meeting time so make the decision for forgo the actual spring and head back up. We push to return as quickly as possible to the top, precious minutes ticking away. However the altitude (Taos is about 7500 feet above sea level and we had just arrived the night before from Wisconsin) and the lack of water get the best of us. While we know better, thinking this will be a short hike in cooler spring weather, we have not brought water with us.

The Rio GrandeThe hike up does prove challenging. We start off at a good pace, but quickly tire and begin resting periodically. Soon, we rest at every switchback. We are spurred on by the water fountain we had seen at the trailhead when starting off. It provides motivation to keep going.

We arrive at the top nearly an hour after the beginning of our hike and have hiked about 1.4 miles. As we are not looking for directions or landmarks on our way back, the drive goes a bit more quickly than the way out. We arrive back in Taos at 3:59 pm, just in time for our meeting, rested and delighted that we were able to escape our busy week for a bit of time outside enjoying the natural environment and making plans to return to the “wild and scenic” river. Check out Woodalls to read more about New Mexico camping and things to do in New Mexico.

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