Monumental Loop, Southern New Mexico

  • Distance

    316 Mi.

    (509 KM)
  • Days

    7

  • % Unpaved

    94%

  • % Singletrack

    23%

  • Difficulty (1-10)

    9

  • % Rideable (time)

    92%

  • Total Ascent

    14,190'

    (4,325 M)
  • High Point

    5,816'

    (1,773 M)

Contributed By

Matt Mason

Guest Contributor

Family man Matt Mason mountain bikes and bikepacks whenever he has a spare moment; this summer, he rode the Colorado Trail. By day, he looks after his two children, riding them around town in a Larry v Harry Bullitt cargo bike.

The Organ Mountains are a geological highlight of Southern New Mexico. Visible throughout the route, they form the backbone of the newly created Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument. Weaving together a network of rarely ridden singletrack, backcountry dirt roads, and sandy washes into an expansive Figure 8, the Monumental Loop maximises time spent exploring the monument and the surrounding Chihuahuan Desert... yet still providing ample opportunities for those all important burrito resupplies!
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Aside from in its sheer size – a whole 500,000 acres in area – the Organ National Parks and Desert Peaks National Monuments is unusual in its format. Unlike other National Monuments, it encompasses four distinct areas – the Organ Mountains themselves, along with Doña Anas, Las Uvas, and the Potrillos, aka Cone Country.

The goal of the route is to explore and connect the entire area. As such, the Monumental Loop aims to share an appreciation of this diverse desert landscape and its compelling serenity, whilst also uncovering some of its intriguing historical textures. For instance, it passes by the death place of legendary frontier lawman Pat Garrett, as well as the site of numerous Apollo training missions, a rockscape where woolly mammoths once came to scratch their prehistoric itches, and a myriad of petroglyphs that remain steeped in mystery.

In terms of singletrack, the Monumental Loop includes one of the longest sections of uninterrupted desert trails in the area – the 29 mile, flowy Sierra Vista Trail – as well as numerous stretches of Las Cruces’ local trail network, and a small section of the Franklin Mountains’ rocky singletrack, just across the border in Texas. This being the desert, there’s also several extended washes to tackle; the longest of these is best ridden as a descent, hence the suggested direction of the route. In terms of suitable setups, 3in tires work best given such a broad range of terrain – though 2.4in will certainly get you round the route, as long as you don’t mind a little pushing.

  • Monumental Loop
  • Monumental Loop Bikepacking Route, New Mexico
  • Monumental Loop Bikepacking Route, New Mexico
  • Monumental Loop Bikepacking Route, New Mexico
  • Monumental Loop Bikepacking Route, New Mexico

The Monumental Loop lies within the Chihuahuan Desert, a subtle and serene place. A basic understanding of its flora and fauna will help in your appreciation of its qualities. Look out for the many species of New Mexico’s state flower, yucca, towering alongside ocotillo, both well above the multitude of cacti and grasses that carpet the desert floor. Even including the stout barrel cactus, which is capable of piercing a sidewall, cacti don’t live up to their fearsome reputation. Velvety multi-colored flowers and sweet fruits define the family as much as spines. While most vegetation is armed with spikes, spines, or thorns there are a few species, such as sacred datura, broom snakeweed, and creosote bush that use a chemical means of protection. Some of these chemicals contribute to the deserts characteristic smell, especially after rains.

As for fauna, it will take a sharp eye, or maybe even some night riding, to have a chance of glimpsing the desert’s animal residents. Raptors are an exception, commonly seen surveying for jackrabbits, kangaroo rats, and an expansive menu of reptiles. Coyotes announce their presence with erratic calling throughout the night but manage to disappear by sunrise. Careful inspection of sandy arroyos often reveals tracks of mule deer, javelina, bobcat, and fat bikes…

Difficulty

The Monumental Loop has been awarded a 9. It requires up to 6L in H20 carrying capacity and includes long stretches of open desert, where the vagaries of heat and wind will often impact planned daily distances. Although the majority of the riding is non-technical in nature, there are significant amounts of loose, chunky terrain that will challenge the most capable rider. Deep sand and steep rocky descents can be found throughout the route and are not restricted to single track. There are also several stiff hike-a-bikes (I wouldn’t say short, as this is a relative term!), as well as sandy washes that may or may require pushing, depending on the season and your bikepacking setup. Much of the route is rarely travelled with faint trails to navigate, so riders will need to keep a beady eye on their GPS units too.

Route Development: Development of the Monumental Loop has been spearheaded by Matt Mason, with collaboration from Jack Kirby, Dan Carter, and other Las Cruces bikepackers. Words and Images by Matt Mason, Cass Gilbert, and Eugene Smith.

Southern New Mexico Trail Alliance

Bikepacking is a great way to explore the Organ Mountains Desert National Monument. One can ride from the city of Las Cruces in any direction and have hundreds of miles of riding to explore. If you ride the Monumental Loop or are interested in other bikepacking options in the National Monument, contact the Southern New Mexico Trail Alliance.

See Trail Notes for how the ride can be broken up into four segments, with an accompanying description for each.

  • Highlights

    camera

  • Must Know

    alert

  • Camping

    home

  • Food/H2O

    drop

  • Trail Notes

    signpost

  • Resources

    link

  • 70 miles of beautiful, open desert singletrack!
  • Varied geology including 6 distinct mountain ranges, lava flows, cinder cones, and slot canyons.
  • Petroglyphs at Lucero Wash, Tonuco Mountains, Broad Canyon, Providence Cone.
  • Space…  the Organ Mountains and Desert Peaks covers a massive 500,000 acres.
  • Solitude… and star-filled desert skies.
  • Green chile!
  • October-April; expect to wear T-shirt and shorts in the daytime, but pack a 30-degree sleeping bag to stay cosy at night. Spring can be extremely windy at times.
  • The route uses sections of public roads and trails that cross private land and working ranches. Please be sure to close gates whenever you open them.
  • Scorpion, snakes and other critters aren’t a major issue in the winter, though they do exist. A fully enclosed tent isn’t required but may be good for peace of mind.
  • Do not attempt this route in summer! Temps hit well over a 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Water is scarce; the longest section of the route goes 110 miles without reliable access to water. A capacity of 6 liters is recommended.
  • Tubeless tires and repair kits are critical.  Sharp rocks and vegetation are common. Take care when riding through Cone Country!
  • Outdoor Adventures has all the desert-specific spares you’ll need.
  • Given the stretches of deep sand found in each of the four sections, 3.0in tires are ideal. Anything less will increase the time spent pushing through washes. The longest arroyo is 2 miles; most others are considerably shorter.
  • Terrain is extremely mixed; expectt well-behaved gravel roads, faint desert singletrack, some sandy arroyos, and extremely chunky doubletrack. Although the majority of the route is rideable, expect to push/carry your bike at times, depending on your mountain biking skills, riding confidence, and tire choice.
  • Logistics: check the Trail Notes section for logistics between El Paso/ABQ and Las Cruces.
  • Users should be aware that land ownership and permitted uses vary along the Monumental Loop. Please be aware of this while you are riding the loop and follow any necessary rules and regulations. To access land managed by the State of New Mexico, see their Recreational Access website for details. Or contact the Southern New Mexico Trail Alliance with any questions.
  • Primitive camping is available throughout the route; sandy, dry, flat campsites are abundant. #leavenotrace.
  • Although critters are rarely an issue over winter, pitch your tent or tarp away from vegetation where possible.
  • Keep campsites out of washes for warmth and to avoid the risk of flash floods.
  • Camping at or near cattle tanks, corrals, etc… is discouraged. Despite being on public land, it is best practice to regard any ranching structure as private property.
  • Full-service food stops are found in Las Cruces, Hatch, and Vinton.
  • Hatch is the green chile capital of the world! Be sure to check out Sparky’s diner. A line forms Thursday-Sunday for its famous green chile cheeseburgers, outside of which Sparky’s is closed.
  • Filterable water is found in cattle tanks. Each tank is unique; careful inspection and creative thinking may be required to access water.
  • Cattle tanks noted on map frequently have water but can’t be guaranteed.
  • Carry 4-6L of H20. If riding 50 miles per day, water can be replenished every 24 hours. The only exception is in the Potrillos/Cone Country section. Once leaving Vinton, the next guaranteed water source is 110 miles away.
  • Never pass up a water source.
  • Round off your Monumental experience with a visit to Habeneros Fresh Mex in Las Cruces.  Try the delicious taco combination plate or chile relleno!

Segment 1 A Mountain-Hatch 69.5 miles

  • Connecting flowing singletrack with washes, rutted roads, and smooth river banks, this segment offers a diversity of riding.  Tonuco Mountains offers wide views of the Rio Grande valley and fine camping.

Segment 2 Hatch-LC 66.5 miles

  • Rolling through the Las Uvas and Robledo Mountains on rocky two-track, this segment provides some of the most enjoyable and relaxing riding. Following a 7 mile descent of the poorly maintained SST trail, the Monumental Loop crosses Prehistoric Trackways National Monument.  Paleozoic Era fossils of a variety of plants and animals have been found in the area.

Segment 3 LC-Vinton  50 miles

  • 30 miles of mostly downhill singletrack wind past the Organ Mountains, before joining the rockier trails in the Franklin Mountains.

Segment 4 Vinton-LC 120 miles

  • Without doubt, this segment traverses the most remote and driest lands on the route.  With the knowledge gained on the 3 previous legs, one should still find the open expanse of Cone Country to be an enjoyable place to ride.

Note that if you have less time to play with, riding segments 1 and 2 also makes for a very satisfying, 136 mile loop, with a great blend of singletrack, backcountry gravel, desert dirt, arroyos… and a tasty resupply!

Arriving from El Paso?

The Park and Ride Gold Route service operated by NM DoT runs a commuter bus every weekday between downtown El Paso and Las Cruces. It’s $3 and you can throw bikes underneath. It will drop you off at the University, which is right on the route. Make sure you have the exact change and check the small print for holiday schedules.

The El Paso-La Limousine Express is a charter bus from El Paso to LA and ABQ that stops in Las Cruces. You can take your bike on this bus as well. It is $13 one way from El Paso to Las Cruces and runs every day. There’s no charge for a bike, but space is sometimes limited.

Public transit is available from the airport to downtown El Paso on the Sun Metro service. These buses provide bike racks. Plus bikes fit, just, with tires deflated.

There are also shuttle services from the El Paso airport to downtown and all the way to Las Cruces. More info on the El Paso airport website.

Coming from Albuquerque?

The El Paso-LA Limousine Express runs a service between ABQ and Las Cruces; $56 round trip, inc bikes. Check the schedule here.

 

Additional Resources

Terms of Use: As with each bikepacking route guide published on BIKEPACKING.com, should you choose to cycle this route, do so at your own risk. Prior to setting out check current local weather, conditions, and land/road closures. While riding, obey all public and private land use restrictions and rules, carry proper safety and navigational equipment, and of course, follow the #leavenotrace guidelines. The information found herein is simply a planning resource to be used as a point of inspiration in conjunction with your own due-diligence. In spite of the fact that this route, associated GPS track (GPX and maps), and all route guidelines were prepared under diligent research by the specified contributor and/or contributors, the accuracy of such and judgement of the author is not guaranteed. BIKEPACKING.com LLC, its partners, associates, and contributors are in no way liable for personal injury, damage to personal property, or any other such situation that might happen to individual riders cycling or following this route.

  • That vegetation is out of this world. X-files kind of stuff going on there!

  • Cass Gilbert

    Take me to your leader!

  • Dan Carter

    Shorter loops can be made by cutting over to the Rio Grande. There are gravel/dirt levy roads that parallel the river. These will take you back to Las Cruces, Hatch, El Paso, etc. Some of these are also part of the proposed Rio Grande Trail.

  • Mark Troup

    There’s a great little pistachio place on Dripping Springs Road, not far off your route. I stopped there a couple years ago when backpacking cross-country. The people there were soooo nice and hospitable and the chile pistachio brittle was out of this world. It would be a great little rest stop. Can’t recall the name, Eagle Ranch maybe? Some of your photos really take me back (I saw a gorgeous lyre snake at that ruined house in your shots!), thanks for the reminder!

  • Cass Gilbert

    xx

  • Cass Gilbert

    I wonder what the future holds for Rio Grande Trail? I keep hearing bits and bobs about it, but nothing definite.

  • Cass Gilbert

    Thanks for that insight, Mark. Chile Pistachio Brittle sounds incredible!
    Heart of the Desert, Eagle Ranch, 4100 Dripping Springs Road seems to be the place you’re referring to.

  • Mark Troup

    I really liked that part of NM quite a lot. Kinda jealous that you get to enjoy it on a regular basis.

  • Another awesome adventure (and, oddly enough, it’s not the Baja Divide).
    And, it seems doable from Austin.

  • Rich M

    nice job on the route guys!

  • Ryan Sigsbey

    Where is most of the singletrack located on the route? Just wondering if the southern loop or the northern loop would be better if time was a factor. Thanks!

  • Matt M.

    The longest stretch of unbroken singletrack is the Sierra Vista trail on the southern loop. Northern loop has numerous shorter segments of singletrack mixed throughout. If limited for time I’d do the northern loop.

  • Ryan Sigsbey

    Thanks a bunch! Do you think 2.4’s would be ok for that section? Don’t mind a little walking….

  • Matt M.

    You’ll be fine with 2.4 in. tires.

  • Ryan Sigsbey

    I see the trail notes now! Good details there. Thanks!

  • This is a great article. Excellent photos too!

  • Jamie Shaffer

    A friend and I rode a section of this trail a couple weeks ago. We left and ended from the doorstep of my house. The ride proved to be a great way to get a taste of the loop in one weekend. Be Sure to bring some warm socks, it gets cold out there at night.

  • Matt M.

    Be sure to bring the right phone number if you forgot your socks! This is a full service route, Wild Turkey and warm socks at the touch of a button.

    Maybe another section soon?

  • Jamie Shaffer

    Haha yes the trail side service is great, fresh socks and party supplies.

    Another section for sure but it may have to be in March due to school.

  • Douglas C. Hoffman

    Is it possible to get a gpx file of the route – a friend and I are planning to ride this in April

  • Douglas C. Hoffman

    Never mind – found it. Dumb newb. :-)

  • Matt M.

    We’ve been getting a decent amount of rain this winter so there should be lots of flowers this spring! Are you all planning to ride the entire route?

  • Douglas C. Hoffman

    Hi Matt – Thanks for the post. Yes, we would like to ride the whole thing sometime in mid to late April. Driving out from San Diego. My partner in crime has done some big bikepacking routes – this will be my first time out. Any additional advice you can give us would be welcome. We will be in bikes with 3 inch tires and be self supporting and camping. :-)

    PS: Thanks for mapping this out!

  • Matt M.

    I think we covered most of the needed info above but if you have specific questions I’d be happy to answer them. 3.0 tires are a great start. The obvious challenge is water but with some attention and planning you shouldn’t have any trouble. I may be riding the route in March and could give a better idea of exactly which cattle tanks contain water.

    Feel free to email me personally with questions at: mason101us@yahoo.com I’ve spent a lot of time on the route and love chatting about it.

  • joshhh

    hi everyone!

    I’m planning on doing this whole route with a friend who lives in Albuquerque (I’ll be flying in there from Ohio), and we need to get ourselves, bikes, and gear to the route and back to Albuquerque. I have a license and insurance, but we don’t have access to a car for the trip.

    It seems like the cheapest option is to rent a sedan (and hopefully fit our bikes and gear in) to drive to Las Cruces, and then rent a car to get back, at about $200 round trip including fees. Greyhound is an option but their fees for bringing a bike seem to be $30 per person, each way.

    Does anyone have any tips on a more affordable recommendation to get ourselves to and fro?

    Thanks! and thanks to Matt for the route info!

  • Cass Gilbert

    I’ve used the El Paso Limousine Express bus line a bunch of times between El Paso/ABQ/Santa Fe and Denver. Great service and free bikes. $56 round trip per person.

  • joshhh

    @cassgilbert:disqus holy cows! that is exactly the kind of answer I was hoping to get here. I cannot thank you enough! :)

    Do bikes need to be boxed?

  • Cass Gilbert

    And I forgot to tell you the best bit… they don’t need to be boxed!

    You might need to pop the wheels off. But in my experience of using this service a bunch of times, we’ve always made it work. Never harms to ring ahead and check, of course.

  • joshhh

    I’ll double check with them, but this bit of news is the cherry on top for sure.

    Thanks so much, Cass!

  • Dan Carter

    Information to get from El Paso to Las Cruces: the “Park and Ride” service operated by NM DoT runs a commuter bus every weekday from downtown El Paso to Las Cruces. It’s $3 and you can throw bikes underneath. It will drop you off at the University which is right on the route.

    The El Paso Limousine is a charter bus from El Paso to LA that stops in Las Cruces. You can take your bike on this bus as well. It is $13 one way and runs every day.

    One can catch public transit from the airport to downtown El Paso on the Sun Metro service. These buses provide bike racks.

    There are also these shuttle services from the El Paso airport to downtown and all the way to Las Cruces. Check out the shuttles page on the El Paso airport website.

  • Cass Gilbert

    Thanks Dan, this is great info. I’ll add it into the post.

    On a personal note, I’ve had great experience with both these bus services. No issues with the bikes at all. Note the small print for the Park and Ride Service in terms of holiday schedules. I got caught out last time!

  • Doug Nielsen

    Ok, I’ve passed many a cattle tank in my days… never drank from one though. I take it I’m the odd man out?

  • Seth Shepherd

    When are you planning on going? My buddy and I are heading down to do a section from ABQ next week as a test run for the Baja Divide. We’re only hitting it up for an overnighter but I’d be totally down to give you guys a lift one way at least.

  • Matt M.

    Which section do you plan on riding? Weather is supposed to be great next week.

  • Sergio

    I think I saw you two weeks ago in the Dona Ana mountains!

  • joshhh

    sorry I missed this! We’ll be there next week!

  • Nathan Lane

    Thanks for the great info on this route. I plan to do the loop in the start of March and think it’ll be easiest to just leave a bike box in El Paso, ride bike paths until reaching the Loop intersecting in Vinton and head clockwise from there. No need to take a bus/shuttle, and I can be riding within just a few hours whenever I fly into El Paso! That might not work for everyone, but it’s seems to me like the simplest logistics if flying in to do this ride.

  • Christopher Candia

    i have a simple road bike with somewhat beefy tires on them would that be alright for any part of this route? i took my bike on the Katy Trail in Missouri and it was hard dirt nothing too soft and my bike did fine. I know it isn’t the same terrain so that is why I ask. Thank you all for any and all info.

  • Matt M.

    Very little of the route would be rideable, or enjoyable, on even the beefiest road bike. The Southwest section (Segment 4) would be the most suitable. There are many miles of county roads in that area that would make shorter loops easy to plan.

    It is also possible to ride from El Paso, TX to Hatch, NM following a gravel levee along the Rio Grande River. This would be similar to riding the Katy Trail, think flat and scenic. You’d still have views of all the mountains on the Monumental Loop and short side trips would allow for undisturbed desert camping. Sounds good!

  • Matt M.

    That sounds like a great idea to me. You’ll get a nice downhill singletrack finish that way too!

    If riding from El Paso airport it might be possible to connect to singletrack at Chuck Heinrick park and from there go over Mundy’s Gap and north along the Franklin Mountains to Vinton. Check out the El Paso Puzzler Loop, you could include the east side of that on the way back to the airport. Just a thought, a steep and rocky thought.

    Enjoy!

  • Becky Newman

    Rode the northern loop of this route last week, and would like to share a few things for those of you considering this route:

    * The difficulty rating is hard to decipher, as the route includes some tough hike-a-biking, technical singletrack, some 2-3 mile stretches of sandy arroyos where you’ll no doubt be pushing if you’re not on a fat bike, but also many really chill stretches of gravel/packed dirt. The rating of “6” should be interpreted as “moderate mountain biking,” but if you are looking for a simple dirt tour this will no doubt be more difficult than you’d expected, and can’t really be compared to other difficulty ratings on BP (plenty of routes on this site are rated as more difficult but do not include any technical riding).

    * Don’t think twice about buying the warm, fresh corn tortillas from the Village Market in Hatch (stored in a steamy cooler)—you will eat all 30 of them and they will be the best thing you’ve ever had.
    * Some stretches through the Tonuco & Dona Ana mountains are beautiful but unrideable, especially if you’re on a rigid bike loaded with camping gear. I think it would be easy enough to modify your route and cut around these sections, though.
    * WIND can be super gnarly in the afternoons. We had several days where the 30mph headwinds brought us to a slow crawl and set us far behind where we’d expected to be. Since resupply points can be far apart on this route, be conservative in planning your mileage each day, and generous in your food and water rations. There were days when we completed half the mileage we’d expected to.

  • Matt M.

    Thanks Becky for the feedback. I agree that is not abundantly clear from the post that this route contains some rough singletrack. In fact essentially all of the trails are either rocky or sandy. A few of the roads are worse.

    Without a doubt the Monumental Loop offers a wide variety of challenges for backpackers to overcome. Often the rockiest sections were included because they provide access to some unique geologic, archeological, or cultural features. Avid mountain bikers, who are prepared for them, may find these sections to be among their favorites. It is also entirely possible (likely?) that I’m crazy.

    For more info about trail conditions and possible re-routes to avoid the toughest sections don’t hesitate to contact me or the Southern New Mexico Trail Alliance. We’d be happy to help you create a route that meets your riding style and goals.

    And…I’d second the vote for fresh tortillas. Slap a couple green chiles and some cotija cheese on there and wash all that down with a cheap Mexican beer. Lunch, dinner, and even breakfast is served!

    Finally–I met a feller riding the route last week who had a wonderful trunk bag from a maker unfamiliar to me. So if you all are looking to add some style, while still maintaining function, to your backpacking kit check out: http://www.makeshiftercanvasworks.com

  • Becky Newman

    So true, the least rideable stretches were also the most beautiful!

  • joshhh

    This was my first time dealing with them, but the ones I encountered on this route were downright welcoming!

  • Bong Crosby

    I get the recommended direction for the south loop is clockwise, but what’s the recommended direction for the north loop? I can’t make it out using the trail notes.

  • Matt M.

    White Sands is a great option. Dripping Springs Recreation Area has several short hikes to historical sites in the Organ Mountains, that would be great too. Prehistoric Trackways National Monument, on the route, would be a worthy side trip.

    There is a nice Farmer’s Market on Saturdays. Takes place downtown which would also allow you to easily visit the Museum of Nature and Science that has several desert critters on display.

    Aside from that I’d say eat as much wonderful New Mexican food as you can.

    You riding the AZT as part of the race? 750?

    How much of Monumental Loop are planning to do? Should be great prep for the AZT.

  • Bong Crosby

    Thanks for the info. I’ll definitely check out those stops.

    The plan is to ride as much of the AZT 750 as I can. I’m definitely not racing, but taking a leisurely stroll through Arizona probably taking 20 to 30 days for the entire trip. From what I’ve been reading, there’s a lot of snow in the high country of the AZT route, so a complete traverse may not be available until later in the Spring…maybe May?

    Yes, I plan on riding the whole Monumental Loop.

  • Matt M.

    You are doing it right, heck of a Spring you’ve got planned! 20 to 30 days would be my target for the AZT as well.

    Also do you know Nat King Bowl?

  • Matt M.

    @joshuagoran:disqus Thanks for taking the to provide the full report. Trip reports of this quality provide valuable information for future users.

    Sounds like the Monumental Loop is living up to its name a way I didn’t fully expect. I was out riding a section of the route today in Segment 1 today and I guess I agree, there aren’t a lot of easy miles in there. Segment is the most difficult and with strong winds becomes quite unpleasant.

    The obvious answer to difficult conditions is to lower one’s expected daily mileages. However that leads to longer (time) stretches without water/food resupply ending in heavier bikes further slowing the pace. 6/10?

    As a way of explanation, not justification, I’ll share a bit of backstory on how I arrived at the rating and 98% rideable figure. After a bunch of exploratory day rides and short overnighters the Northern Loop was ridden in January 2016. On that trip we had a feller with 29×2.2 tires and he did walk a bit but 6 of us were able to camp at Tonuco (55mi) on night one. Day 2 we rode to Hatch, ate at Sparky’s, and continued on to Coyote Canyon (90mi). The third day we continued to LC. A month later 3 of us rode Segment 3 in 1.5 days, using the Rio Grande levee to return to LC. Segment 4 was also ridden in 1.5 days and is entirely on rideable county roads. Segment 2 was used as long day ride which brought out 19 riders! (17 made it in about 8 hours) In the Spring of 2016 a buddy and I rode the entire Northern Loop, again with a stop at Sparky’s, in 19 hours. As of today no one has ridden the entire loop in a continuous effort (@laelwilcox FKT?) but I hope to do so soon.

    So, lucky me I guess, perhaps I vastly underestimated my own biking skills. But I just used those experiences on the route, as well as my experience on the Gila Ramble and Colorado Trail when setting the difficulty rating.

    Now that others have ridden and posted reports it would be advisable to heed their advice. Hopefully people will continue to post reports and share their experiences. My goal is for anyone to be able to come and enjoy Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument (mouthful!) is a way that suits them. Big thanks to the Pioneers!

    Again, since I’m a stay-at-home Dad who’s seen his backcountry time trimmed down recently I’m always excited to spend a few minutes helping some one else get some adventure. None of my favorite trips would have been possible without the kindest of strangers! Just let me know how I can help.

  • Matt M.

    http://ridewithgps.com/routes/19396767

    Here is an alternate version of Segment 1. This version excludes many miles of rocky/sandy single track, those miles are replaced with dirt and paved road sections, and adds easier access to water/food along with a couple of recreation areas. Because I still wanted to provide ample access to wild camping and scenic desert landscapes there will be a couple sections of sand. With 3.0 tires they are rideable, if not I’d say enjoy the walk, scan the canyon walls for petroglyphs, and watch for African Oryx.

  • Matt M.

    http://ridewithgps.com/routes/19396767

    Here is an alternate version of Segment 1. This version excludes many miles of rocky/sandy single track, those miles are replaced with dirt and paved road sections, and it adds easier access to water/food along with a couple of recreation areas. Because I still wanted to provide ample access to wild camping and scenic desert landscapes there will be a couple sections of sand. With 3.0 tires they are rideable, if not I’d say enjoy the walk, scan the canyon walls for petroglyphs, and watch for African Oryx.

  • Matt M.

    @joshhh Thanks for taking the to provide the full report. Trip reports of this quality provide valuable information for future users.

    Sounds like the Monumental Loop is living up to its name a way I didn’t fully expect. I was out riding a section of the route today in Segment 1 today and I guess I agree, there aren’t a lot of easy miles in there. Segment1 is the most difficult and with strong winds becomes quite unpleasant.

    The obvious answer to difficult conditions is to lower one’s expected daily mileages. However that leads to longer (time) stretches without water/food resupply ending in heavier bikes further slowing the pace. 6/10?

    As a way of explanation, not justification, I’ll share a bit of backstory on how I arrived at the rating and 98% rideable figure. After a bunch of exploratory day rides and short overnighters the Northern Loop was ridden in January 2016. On that trip we had a feller with 29×2.2 tires and he did walk a bit but 6 of us were able to camp at Tonuco (55mi) on night one. Day 2 we rode to Hatch, ate at Sparky’s, and continued on to Coyote Canyon (90mi). The third day we continued to LC. A month later 3 of us rode Segment 3 in 1.5 days, using the Rio Grande levee to return to LC. Segment 4 was also ridden in 1.5 days and is entirely on rideable county roads. Segment 2 was used as long day ride which brought out 19 riders! (17 made it in about 8 hours) In the Spring of 2016 a buddy and I rode the entire Northern Loop, again with a stop at Sparky’s, in 19 hours. FULL DISCLOSURE: the posted route is slightly harder than the route(s) used for those rides. As of today no one has ridden the entire loop in a continuous effort (@laelwilcox FKT?) but I hope to do so soon.

    Just for reference I ride a Surly ECR with a 3.25 tire on the front and 3.0 on the rear. My kit is as light as possible and I rarely carry a shelter of any kind. 29+ wheels/tires are the preferred choice of locals. A few riders ride 4.0 tires as well. Most ride rigid bikes. Since we are so near the border we have our share of bad Hombres! #walljokes

    So, lucky me I guess, perhaps I vastly underestimated my own biking skills. But I just used those experiences on the route, as well as my experience on the Gila Ramble and Colorado Trail when setting the difficulty rating. My trips often involve less relaxing and earlier start times than most would enjoy. I try to squeeze the most out of my limited outdoor time since my day job is staying home with my 2 small girls.

    Now that others have ridden and posted reports it would be wise to heed their advice. Hopefully people will continue to post reports and share their experiences. I haven’t seen BP.com used that way but it makes sense. My goal is for anyone to be able to come and enjoy Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument (mouthful!) in a way that suits them. Biggest of thanks to the Pioneers! You all got blasted by the wind! The new border wall should be huge enough to block the wind! #morewalljokes

    Again, since I’m a stay-at-home Dad who’s seen his backcountry time trimmed down recently I’m always excited to spend a few minutes helping some one else get some adventure. None of my favorite trips would have been possible without the kindness of strangers! Just let me know how I can help.

  • Matt M.

    @joshhh Thanks for taking the to provide the full report. Trip reports of this quality provide valuable information for future users.

    Sounds like the Monumental Loop is living up to its name a way I didn’t fully expect. I was out riding a section of the route today in Segment 1 today and I guess I agree, there aren’t a lot of easy miles in there. Segment1 is the most difficult and with strong winds becomes quite unpleasant.

    The obvious answer to difficult conditions is to lower one’s expected daily mileages. However that leads to longer (time) stretches without water/food resupply ending in heavier bikes further slowing the pace. 6/10?

    As a way of explanation, not justification, I’ll share a bit of backstory on how I arrived at the rating and 98% rideable figure. After a bunch of exploratory day rides and short overnighters the Northern Loop was ridden in January 2016. On that trip we had a feller with 29×2.2 tires and he did walk a bit but 6 of us were able to camp at Tonuco (55mi) on night one. Day 2 we rode to Hatch, ate at Sparky’s, and continued on to Coyote Canyon (90mi). The third day we continued to LC. A month later 3 of us rode Segment 3 in 1.5 days, using the Rio Grande levee to return to LC. Segment 4 was also ridden in 1.5 days and is entirely on rideable county roads. Segment 2 was used as long day ride which brought out 19 riders! (17 made it in about 8 hours) In the Spring of 2016 a buddy and I rode the entire Northern Loop, again with a stop at Sparky’s, in 19 hours. FULL DISCLOSURE: the posted route is slightly harder than the route(s) used for those rides. As of today no one has ridden the entire loop in a continuous effort (@laelwilcox FKT?) but I hope to do so soon.

    Just for reference I ride a Surly ECR with a 3.25 tire on the front and 3.0 on the rear. My kit is as light as possible and I rarely carry a shelter of any kind. 29+ wheels/tires are the preferred choice of locals. A few riders ride 4.0 tires as well. Most ride rigid bikes. Since we are so near the border we have our share of bad Hombres! #walljokes

    So, lucky me I guess, perhaps I vastly underestimated my own biking skills. But I just used those experiences on the route, as well as my experience on the Gila Ramble and Colorado Trail when setting the difficulty rating. My trips often involve less relaxing and earlier start times than most would enjoy. I try to squeeze the most out of my limited outdoor time since my day job is staying home with my 2 small girls.

    Now that others have ridden and posted reports it would be wise to heed their advice. Hopefully people will continue to post reports and share their experiences. My goal is for anyone to be able to come and enjoy Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument (mouthful!) in a way that suits them. Biggest of thanks to the Pioneers! You all got blasted by the wind! The new border wall should be huge enough to block the wind! #morewalljokes

    Again, since I’m a stay-at-home Dad who’s seen his backcountry time trimmed down recently I’m always excited to spend a few minutes helping some one else get some adventure. None of my favorite trips would have been possible without the kindness of strangers! Just let me know how I can help.

  • Ryan Sigsbey

    I did the Northern Loop back at the end of January and that section of the route was amazing! So cool out there in the desert! The scenery is out of this world! The food options in Hatch are delicious and the solitude is just what I was looking for! It’s a great route that feels very remote yet you’re never really that far from civilization (at least the northern loop is). It’s tough but worth every minute, lots of singletrack! http://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/eeff51ce597baef28b2cbf875e0d430a68e2171b1b0d76abd076ec9ff6b34ab0.jpg I did fine with 2.4 tires but hear the southern loop can be a bit more sandy. Next year I’ll be back to do the whole thing! I’ve got some great photos of the route here: http://www.ryansigsbeyphotography.com/Monumental-Loop-New-Mexico-Bikepacking/

  • Ryan Sigsbey

    I did the Northern Loop at the end of January. What an amazing route through some really beautiful desert! I can’t wait to get back to do the whole thing. The route is certainly challenging being the amount of singletrack and the roughness of the roads. It’s just not a cruiser gravel road route is all. For some reason I was thinking it was going to be a little more cruiser on gravel roads. After I got over the initial shock, I got into a groove and had a lot of fun riding and pushing through some of the technical sections. Just had to re-calculate my goals for the trip and also ended up sleeping up on Tonuco Mountain after realizing I wasn’t going to make it to Hatch!

    I’ve posted a bunch of photos of my trip and the route at this link: http://www.ryansigsbeyphotography.com/Monumental-Loop-New-Mexico-Bikepacking/

    Feel free to check it out and I would definitely recommend this route to anyone looking for some great desert solitude!

  • Ted Sewell

    Great pics and thanks for the share. We’re heading out for this one in a couple of weeks and I am psyched!

  • Matt M.

    Thanks Ryan, you got a bunch of great photos. Stoked you rode the SST trail. Almost can’t see the trail in a lot of those pics! Looks a lot like a bunch of rocks and sand.

    Since you mentioned re-calcuating your goals I’ll add that it is likely the stats on the ride will change a bit. Look for the difficulty level to go up and the rideability percentage to come down. Turns out the #badhombres here, mainly me, in Las Cruces underestimated the difficulty or our local conditions.

    Flowers are starting to bloom and it was 75 degrees here today! Come and get it.

  • Ryan Sigsbey

    The SST was sweet! I did have a good long pause at the top knowing the gravel was an option but it was a lot of fun! I camped down in a gully really close to where the trail starts at the top. It was a cold night so I had to find a spot out of the wind, otherwise I would have froze! The next day I really only had to make it back to town so I had the time and figured I better do the SST! Definitely worth it. There was certainly a lot of on and off the bike but some good fun stretches…even put it in the bushes one time! (Thankfully nothing too pointy!)

  • Ryan Sigsbey

    Thanks Ted! Hope I could provide some inspiration! It’s a tough rough but its so beautiful….totally worth the effort!

  • samgreene

    I used to live in Mesilla. Check out the Bosa doughnuts on Ave. de Mesilla – only a few blocks from downtown Mesilla. The brisket Burrito is amazing and they pack well.

  • elpasodave

    I attempted section 4 on a perfect weekend. Things didn’t go as I hoped they would. http://fastmtnbiker33w.wordpress.com/2017/10/09/never-take-a-bikepacking-trip-lightly/

  • mat long

    any paper maps available?

  • Cass Gilbert

    From my experience of riding most of the route… a GPS is a definite requirement. There’s extended sections of super squirely singletrack that’s very easy to discombobulated on! I expect the main gravel sections are shown on the NM Gazetteer.

  • Rachel Grace

    Anyone trying to do this in February!? I think I need a buddy

  • Erin

    My partner and I will be venturing off on the Monumental Loop next week, very excited! We are driving down from Colorado and are wondering what the best option for long-term parking is for our vehicle in Las Cruces? Any suggestions/things to avoid?

  • Erin

    Hello! My partner and I will be doing the Monumental Loop next week, very excited! We are driving from Colorado and I was wondering if anyone had any suggestions on where to park your car if planning on doing the entire loop route?

  • Dan Carter

    I just finished riding the Epic Loop in Big Bend State Park, http://www.bikepacking.com/routes/bikepacking-big-bend-side-nowhere/, and I would say the Monumental Loop is on par with the difficulty of the Epic Loop. They have very similar terrain, environmental hazards, and rideability. The Monumental Loop is longer but has more bail out and resupply options and good cell coverage throughout. So, it’s less committing than the Epic Loop. However, the Monumental Loop is not marked liked the Epic Loop (maybe one day), so a GPS and navigation skills are necessary.

    There has been some discussion about the rating on the Monumental Loop so I thought I’d give a comparison for those that have ridden one of these routes or maybe looking for other riding in the Chihuahuan Desert. Has anyone else ridden both and what do you think?

  • Matt M.

    The start and finish are in a large dirt parking lot at New Mexico State University. That is a reasonable place to leave your vehicle.
    Let me know if you have any other questions. (mason101us@yahoo.com) Or stop by Outdoor Adventures and they’ll have helpful info as well. Good luck and have fun.

  • Matt M.

    I’ve not ridden the Epic Loop but have received enough of a beating from the previous lower ratings and am set with this route being a 9/10. Nearly every rider has described deep sand, tough punchy climbs, loose rocks, and no easy miles. While I might disagree because I’ve ridden in this area a lot, the people have spoken. That said I’m happy to help reroute certain sections and create custom routes for folks looking for a less challenging ride.

  • Matt M.

    Were you hoping to complete the entire route? There are always local riders going out on the route. Locals are also often willing to provide accommodations and assistance while in Las Cruces! Call Outdoor Adventures, the local bike shop, or email me mason101us@yahoo.com for more info.

  • Matt M.

    Cass is correct GPS is a requirement. The GPS track has been verified and is currently accurate. Long term plans include paper maps and a guide book for the route but that is a work in progress with very little progress! Ideally in the future the route will be marked with carsonite signs but again…that is not the case today.

  • Dan Carter

    An individual contacted the Southern New Mexico Trail Alliance about riding the route in Feb., early March. I can get you in touch with them if you are interested. Message me and I can get you in touch.

  • Dan Carter

    I also recommend a GPS. The Gaia GPS app works really well. You can upload the gpx track and save background maps for use offline. I’ve attached an image with the USGS 7.5 minute quads if you prefer paper maps. The BLM surface ownership maps can be useful as well. The ones that cover the loop are Las Cruces, Columbus, El Paso, Deming, and Hatch. http://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/edeeded84b9aa59c5e260886a519213be8832901605851becdab1ec63a5485d5.jpg

  • mat long

    Of course I use Gps; I imo any backcountry travel is unwise and irresponsible w/o backup maps thanks for sending

  • Jalen Bazile

    Thanks @disqus_1ZBWPW8BUE:disqus !!

  • Rachel Grace

    Hey Dan! My email is rgracevn@gmail.com, I would love to get in touch! Thanks!

  • Rachel Grace

    emailing you now!

  • Matt M.

    You can now check out the latest news for the route on Instagram @monumental_loop

  • S. W. Backcountry
  • marcel b.

    Hi Rachel, have sent an email today after Dan contacted me. I’m planning to start from around Feb 20. You’ve got my email address. Bye, Marcel

  • mat long

    Any tips on where to park to begin the route? Also does anyone know if permits are needed and if so for what sections? Planing on doing 3 days the last week of January…I reached out to the Trail Alliance with questions but have not gotten any response….thanks

  • I parked in the big parking lot where the route starts and finishes and didn’t have any problems.

  • amy.akillik

    My friend Kathi and I rode the Monumental Loop over the winter holidays. We were looking for hard riding with fully loaded bikes in the sunshine. We are training for riding on snow in Alaska this spring, and figured the sand in the desert would be a good simulator and a lot more pleasant for sleeping out under the stars than the far north at the height of winter’s darkness and cold. I rode a 27.5+ hard tail with 3″ tires and Kathi was riding a 29er full suspension mountain bike with 2.4″ tires. Both set-ups worked equally well for us (see photos below for our bikes).

    The route and the mountain biking community in Las Cruces are incredibly special. We were lucky to connect with locals Pablo and Matt M. before we set out. I was particularly grateful to also meet Magic Tool Jack who helped out with an odd size allen wrench to get my BarYak cranked down on my handlebars. They gave some helpful advice, a place to park our car, let us borrow a water filter, and wished us well as we departed the morning of Christmas Eve.

    We rode the northern loop counter-clockwise, and then the southern loop clockwise. The terrain was challenging, but a very welcome challenge and so beautiful. The Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument and surrounding area is truly a magical landscape. We initially had to calibrate to keeping an eye on our GPS as the navigating can be difficult at times since the route crosses varied terrain – a bit of pavement, well maintained gravel roads, rough double track, cow trails, primitive single track, and some of the best flowy technical trail ever on the Sierra Vista Trail. After our first day, we learned the trail could go just about anywhere and we didn’t ever get more than a 1/4 mile off the track before turning back to get back on the route. We found ourselves asking, “WWMD.” As in, “What would Matt M. Do,” the creator of the route. We learned if there was a steep push up a boulder-filled arroyo, or a mountain to ride around rather than travel a more direct and graded gravel road, that is most likely where Matt M. put the route.

    The figure eight aspect of the loop is particularly nice since we were able to come through Las Cruces mid-way through the trip to re-supply food and refuel our electrolytes via salty margaritas at the Double Eagle. There were definitely some sections that were difficult on the route, but they were almost always just a half- to one-mile or so of suck followed by good trail. For example, there was a section on the southern loop that followed a canal where a machete would have come in handy to knock back the thorny brush. There were also sandy washes throughout, but overall we were able to ride these sections and sometimes getting off to push is a welcome change to stretch the legs. There is lots of chunky trail, and while it was easy for Kathi who is a mountain bike guide in southern Utah, it took me awhile to be more comfortable floating over the volcanic rock. We did the full figure eight and did not take the cut-off on the southern loop. We may have hit conditions just right as the riding was great and it was dream-like being in a virtual wilderness so close to the Mexico border.

    We did have one snafu where Kathi’s handlebar bag got caught on a branch riding single track in the Franklin Mountains in Texas. Her bike went one way, and her body went the other. She took a hard fall on her knee, not to mention the scratches on her arms from protecting her face from the thorny shrub she landed on. I got to use my WFR skills, which included Kathi telling me, “I know who the fucking president is,” when I attempted to assess if she had hit her head on the fall. We ended up making a side trip to El Paso to urgent care. Kathi got her knee wound cleaned, a prescription for antibiotics if needed, and we continued on our way. We learned later she should have had stitches, and unfortunately the wound is still healing a few weeks later. It was pretty unbelievable she kept riding. It is almost as if the knee didn’t register it was injured until after we got off our bikes and finished the trip.

    All in all, we were on the route about 9 days with getting off route our first day and the unplanned trip into El Paso. We averaged 35 miles/day at a pleasant pace and rarely rode after dark. We did get some cold temperatures at night and our water had chunks of ice in the morning, but it quickly thawed as the sun came up and the desert warmth returned. I cannot convey just how sweet it is to wake to the sunshine at 7 am every morning for someone who has just left Alaska at solstice where the sun does not rise until after 10 am. With our planned and unplanned detours, our mileage was ~375 miles for the entire trip.

    We road back into Las Cruces from the southern loop just after the new year and met up with Pablo and Matt M. for another round of margaritas at the Double Eagle. We learned we were the 4th and 5th people to complete the loop since it was posted on bikepacking.com. We had no idea, although Pablo assured us he did share few of those that attempted the full route had completed it. Both Kathi & I recommended dropping the rating down a notch to at least 8/10. We have both ridden the Colorado Trail and consider it the hardest bikepacking route out there, and the Monumental Loop was much easier in comparison. It is really relative, of course. If you were trying to ride the loop in, say under 3 days, it would be a lot more challenging to complete that sort of daily mileage through the varied terrain.

    After our trip, there are four things that I recommend as essential for the Monumental Loop. A GPS with the track uploaded and zoomed in, tubeless tires, capacity for carrying at least 6 L of water, and an easy to use water filter. I don’t think this route would have even been possible without tubeless tires, which very well may be obvious in the desert with all of the well-defended plants. Be sure to fill up your tires with Stan’s before you set out and carry a repair kit for punctures. I had one puncture that thankfully was easily repairable and has held for the remainder of the trip and beyond. The water filter is important too, along with ample room to carry water. We brought a steri-pen with us. One look at a cattle tank, and we knew there would be no way we’d drink the water without filtering it first. We also wore Camelbacks with 3 L of drinking water on our backs.

    A big part of what made the trip so special were the many kind people we met during our travels. There were several friends and family who asked when we told them we were biking in southern New Mexico, “Is it safe in the border area?” For us, it was — and a reminder that most people are kind-hearted. On our first day out, Kathi found a rock in the trail handpainted with the saying, “See the good.” That was our mantra throughout our bike tour. From the local mountain bike community in Las Cruces embracing us, to the family that filled our water bottles on Christmas day and sent us off with cookies, and the kind gentleman that we met at a burrito shop in Vinton, Texas who gave us a and our bikes a ride to El Paso in his van, nearly everyone we met was friendly and generous.

    We have to give a special shout out to the two gentleman we serendipitously met on New Year’s eve that made our day sharing their cheap whiskey and a couple of burritos. We had not seen anyone for hours and came upon them a stone’s throw from the Mexico border. We rode up to their truck and asked, “Are we in Texas or back in New Mexico?” The look on their faces told us immediately they thought we were a mirage. Two scratched up gringo ladies with big smiles on their faces riding their bicycles were not what they expected to encounter that particular day.

    A pretty fantastic start to 2018!

    http://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/2a57d77f56fbb2b803245b5a1fd6654c0a4623df568234e975d986ba15da0fb4.jpg http://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/03176c98d9582198da0fec4508b3df076a7e9b0bf4f31fd1ddc8aa4375da5984.jpg http://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/6341d8f94f57294010c3d0aef15b9c9a042e242040408d76a0039f0456799c1b.jpg http://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/67df40f7b314069e0fb95c19a49032a910de03e1888503404ad4d0158fdfd8fc.jpg

  • Matt M.

    Yep, as Ryan suggests the best parking is at the route start. It is a very large free parking are for New Mexico State Univ.
    No permits are needed. Let me know if you need anything else.

  • mat long

    Thanks!

  • Joseph Foster

    Would you be willing to post this original, slightly easier route?

  • Matt M.

    I posted a link somewhere in these comments to an easier version of Segment 1. The other segments do not have less demanding alternatives, yet. Shoot me an email and I can help find a route that meets your needs. I’ve developed several routes in the Monument of varying difficulty. mason101us@yahoo.com

  • Matt M.

    Thanks Amy! Made Pablo’s day to read your report. Good luck on the Iditarod this spring, we’ll be watching!

  • Joseph Foster

    Thank you!

  • Dylan Kentch

    I just finished riding the Monumental Loop last week (it’s February 2018 right now). I rode from Santa Fe to Las Cruces on the NMORR, and the day after I arrived went back out to the ML. I rode the northern loop in 3 days and the southern loop in 3 days. It rained on the northern section and I skipped the final miles in Prehistoric Pathways NM and came in on the interstate frontage road and 70 after my wheels were too clogged with mud to spin. I had a rainy day break in Cruces and then went south, went the entire track there except the HAB over Mt Tonuco.

    Here are some thoughts and stories that maybe will be helpful to future bikers.

    Mile 15 is where you cross the highway and there is a McDonalds there. Get some ice cream and more water there. So you could ride around A Mountain with only a water bottle, then top up here for the rest of the day. Only bring snacks for a day ride, get dinner in Radium Springs, and I bet this and the Observatory Mt trails would be way easier to ride. I am not a good mountain biker and I dabbed and walked a lot throughout the immediate miles from Cruces. When I first got back I told Pablo that the north section was “hard” but now I don’t think this is true. Rather it’s just chunky mountain biking and if you’re good at riding on big rocks and sand, then you’ll be totally fine. It only seems hard because it’s the most technical riding of the entire ML and it’s also the first riding you do on the ML. Camped at Leasburg State Park and got water there and food at Family Dollar. If I would have had any lights I’d have ridden to Hatch the first day, but I didn’t so I didn’t. Getting to Hatch with a Tonuco detour isn’t hard; it’s just road riding and short push. The second night I camped in Scenic Valley, in that section of trail that the ML and NMORR overlap. I could see my own tire tracks from 3 days prior in this section and just hammered and stopped looking at the GPS so much. My eTrex 20 was perfect. Cyclemeter and RWGPS maps on my iPhone as back up, and paper pages from the NM Gazeteer to get big picture views of the area. I steal this from fellow Alaskan Amy, but WWMMD? Matt Mason would ride a faint track, reach a perfectly good dirt road, cross it perpendicularly, and get back on another twisty social cattle trail. At least when I followed my own tracks I didn’t have to think about MM’s psyche. It drizzled in the night and this turned to rain later in the day, so eventually I got on the pavement and got to Cruces that way. The Love’s travel stop has booths and you can hang here if it’s pouring rain and you don’t have a raincoat like I didn’t. If riding the NMORR and ML in succession becomes a popular thing, I’d recommend doing it the way I did (NMORR, north loop, south loop); even though there’s a little overlap of roads, it is reassuring for once to know where you’re going. But, if you only have a few days in the area, I disagree with the trail notes above and urge you to ride only the southern loop. It’s more remote, starker, wilder and more stunningly awesomer.

    The south loop is awesome! Downhill on the Sierra Vista all day felt like cheating! It’s really neat that this big ride lets a non-local see a piece of the local trails and day rides; I really appreciated that. I camped in Texas right at the edge of the Franklin Mtns State Park. That gate was locked and had to lift my bike over it. Resupply at Westway Foods is easy because it’s literally on the route. After leaving the Vinton area, I saw three vehicles that day and none the third day until 5 miles from Mesilla. Kilburne Hole is super cool, definitely a good place to have a picnic and a break. It reminded me of the meteor crater at Wolf Creek (Australia) but more jagged. I didn’t check out the Lanark Tank POI but did get good water at the tank that is opposite the Lanark site on the railroad tracks. You ride right past it. I camped around track MP 251 in a creek bed. Much of the riding later in this day was kind of sandy, but recent rains had compacted the soil and I was lucky and rode more than I would have if it had not rained. Good timing. I had smaller tires than many and was still surprised at the overall lack of pushing I did. MP 237 had a tank with cows.

    On the third day I rode to Las Cruces. Cows had walked on lots of the early morning miles and turned to trail to mashed potatoes/ soft chunder/ unridable. So I walked some here and saw a bobcat! MP 285 had troughs with water and cows. Near the X-7 Ranch there were several large puddles that I carried my bike over and around, probably carried my bike maybe a mile total over water and wheel-clogging wet mud. I took the turn off to Providence Cone and the mammoth stones and totally, unquestioningly recommend that you ride out this way. The water stop just before this diversion was great. It was hard to find the road that splits north to the cone, but the GPX track is so cool for this route because it follows where you want to ride exactly. Whoever made this GPX did an awesome job! If you’re lost, just zoom in and go until you meet the track. I did this and got onto the cone road after losing it at the falling apart windmill and tanks. I walked in some sand after this, but once I passed the railroad tracks and that short section of busted up pavement, I flew into Cruces. Having huge tailwinds didn’t hurt. I was in the 11t cog for the rest of the day and then got drunk and ate a bison burger with cheese.

    Much thanks and respect are due to Pablo Lopez and Matt Mason for making this little jaunt possible!!!

    $31 on the El Paso Limo to ABQ, then $9 on http://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/211247d70b82c24bf88653fae5d4c776d6fc879fc7532f2c7c68d5741c09dc41.jpg the train to Santa Fe.

    There’s a picture of my bike above, and here’s a few words about it: 29 x 2.1 in front, 2.2 in rear. Rigid, V-brakes, tubes with Stans. I had one pinch flat and no punctures, but my tires are riddled with thorns and whenever I change out my tires, those tubes will be done. If this weren’t also my pavement touring bike, I’d’ve made it tubeless. But I’m about to put 700x32s on it and didn’t want the hassle of short-term tubeless conversion. 1×10, 34t in front, 11-42t cassette with Sram X7 derailleur. A couple gear inches lower would have been appreciated around A Mountain and Ob Mountain in the rocky sections. Tent, sleeping bag, stove and pot and fuel, tools, tubes, down jacket, space for 7.5 litres of water but never needed or carried that much. I don’t like rating things and assigning numbers, but I don’t think the ML is a 9. I really like what it says here about about difficulty, scroll down to below the movie: http://www.bikepacking.com/routes/... . (I was on that trip, and while it wasn’t a 10 when we were on it, it could easily be a 12 or 5 next summer. Same with the Monumental Loop.)

  • Matt M.

    Awesome Dylan! Thanks for taking the time to provide such a thorough report. I really appreciate it and I’m sure future riders will as well. Your tip about starting off with limited supplies is a great one. That is exactly how I do it but hadn’t written that in the original post.

    The Southern Loop sees fewer visitors but those that do make it have seemed to enjoy it. Cone Country is a fine place to be alone.