New Mexico Off-Road Runner

  • Distance

    505 Mi.

    (813 KM)
  • Days


  • % Unpaved


  • % Singletrack


  • Difficulty (1-10)


  • % Rideable (time)


  • Total Ascent


    (7,001 M)
  • High Point


    (2,754 M)
Running parallel to the Rio Grande, the New Mexico Off-Road Runner connects Santa Fe to Las Cruces via 500 miles of dirt, gravel, desert and paved roads. En route, it strikes a satisfying blend of historical intrigue and raw, natural beauty, both of which abound in the Land of Enchantment. Expect ponderosa forests and high desert, alligator junipers and prickly ocotillo, sun-bleached trucks and forlorn ghost towns.... set beneath the state's drama-filled skies and starry nights.

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The New Mexico Off-Road Runner leaves the adobe-studded state capital of Santa Fe via the city’s car-free Rail Trail. Initially headed east, it begins its 500-mile journey along a lattice of primitive dirt roads that wend their way through peaceful piñon and juniper-speckled Rowe Mesa, a taste of classic high desert riding.

Hopscotching from the Santa Fe to the Cibola National Forest, the Off-Road Runner then scouts a path through ranchland to Moriarty, a chance for a bountiful resupply before the long desert stint ahead. From here, terrain flits between quiet paved roads and forest tracks through the foothills of the quiet, secluded Manzano Mountains, passing a collection of small, traditional, and quintessentially dishevelled New Mexican settlements. Sun-faded pickups, Hispanic churches, roadside shrines, and abandoned adobe buildings are part of the state’s backcountry charm.

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Hurdling Abo Pass, a long and meditative paved stint across Central New Mexico’s open desert points riders towards the west side of the Rio Grande, setting them up for a circumnavigational, dirt road tour of Pico Ladrón, which at 9209 (2800m) feet stands tall above the surrounding cholla-covered desert.

Those interested in local history should note that this small range of rugged peaks, the Sierra Ladrones, was once home to both Anglo and Hispanic cattle rustlers and Apache raiding parties. Hence the translation of its name: the Mountain of Thieves. By way of further historical intrigue, the Off-Road Runner passes by the once mineral rich mining settlement of Riley; look out for one especially interesting gravestone, marking an individual’s untimely demise during a nearby mailcoach robbery in the late 19th Century.

Beyond the historic, once thriving railhead town of Magdalena – visit the well-kept library, housed in a restored railway depot – anyone with a curiosity for deep space should detour to the Very Large Array, a radio astronomy observatory. There, a number of twenty-five metre high radio dishes rotate in perfect symmetry, standing dramatically against typically brooding skies, tirelessly probing the furthest reaches of our universe…

Changes in vegetation are clues to a return to higher elevations, as cholla cacti give way to piñon and junipers once more. From the windswept, beautifully bleak plains of San Agustin, the Off-Road Runner leaves the desert floor to climb high amongst the mighty ponderosas that line Bear Trap Canyon, reaching the highest point of the route at 9,000ft; if conditions are clear, a detour to Withington Lookout is highly recommended for fine views across the San Mateo Mountains, the VLA, and surrounding desert (note that this can be an out and back, or riders can drop into rough and rocky Hudson Canyon and rejoin the route south of Dusty). After passing by natural springs and plentiful prime camping real estate, a forest road continues on towards the small settlement of Dusty. Further frontier history is in rich supply here too, if folklore is to be believed, for it’s in the neighbouring wilderness that the Apache Kid, the legendary renegade army scout, was said to have been hunted down and killed in 1894.

Dipping briefly into the Gila National Forest’s Black Range, the ponderosa motif continues en route to Chloride Canyon, home to series of spectacular, eroded rock formations, perfectly preserved petroglyphs, and toe-drenching stream crossings. As can be seen on the map, striking out to this most westerly point on the route makes for something of a detour. It’s one that adds the better part of a day to the ride and a stint on challenging, rocky terrain, as well as a small singletrack connector on the Continental Divide Trail – but it’s wholeheartedly recommended. If not, pop into Chloride to see well-preserved remnants of this former 19th-century mining settlement.

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The improbably titled Truth or Consequences – renamed in a nationwide competition after a 1950s quiz show – forms a welcome resupply point and chance to soak in hot springs, as frequented by Geronimo, the infamous Apache leader who fought Mexican and American expansion into tribal lands. There’s even a museum dedicated to him nearby. An overnight in T or C is highly recommended, given the hot springs, brewery, and great food options. Then, the Off-Road Runner crosses the waters of the Rio Grande again. In doing so, it passes by Elephant Butte dam, opened in 1916 and named after its elephant-shaped island. Turning south, it’s time to follow a roughly chiselled powerline road, leading to the eastern fringes of the mellow Caballo Mountains range. Expect open desert terrain, chunky two-track, prickly ocotillo, and if you time your ride right, carpets of wildflowers come spring.

If you’ve yet to sample New Mexico’s classic condiment, then where better to do so than Hatch, the official Green Chile Capital of the World? Trust us, Sparky’s roadside dinner is unlikely to disappoint carnivorous bikepackers. Fill your belly in preparation for the last part of the ride.

Hatch also marks the meeting point of the Off-Road Runner and the Monumental Loop, a 305-mile route that connects all four sectors of the newly-designated Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. Tracing a modified version of its 60-mile northwestern segment, a series of levy roads, gravel roads and desert two track guides riders through the folds of the Robledos Mountains to their final destination, Las Cruces. But be sure to download the Monumental Loop before you leave, in case you want to add some more challenging singletrack to your ride; following the eastern portion of the loop takes in a testing hike a bike and some sweet trails (see RWGPS map and Trail Notes for details).

In keeping with Off-Road Runner’s historical theme, the journey comes to an end in Mesilla, Las Cruces’ photogenic old quarter. Grab some tacos/burrito/ice cream/all-of-the-above and kick back in the plaza that once boasted such illustrious figures as Pancho Villa, Billy the Kid, and Kit Carson amongst its eclectic visitors. Those who enjoy Wild West curios can finish the ride off with a visit to legendary lawman Pat Garrett’s gravestone, in the nearby Masonic Cemetary. Others can hop on the Mexican bus that runs north from whence they came.

And anyone ensnared by the beauty and intrigue of the American South West can keep going… see Trail Notes for ideas on continuing on singletrack south to El Paso, Texas, on the border with Mexico, or tackle the complete Monumental Loop while you’re here!

Route Development

Putting together the New Mexico Off-Road Runner has been a collaborative project. Enormous thanks to Georges Mally at Santa Fe Mountain Adventures, whose local knowledge and love of Northern New Mexico is unparalled, to Gary Blakley for his ongoing company and initial route planning on the Conquistadores ride (without which this whole route may not have happened), to Brian Mulder for his enthusiastic beta testing, and Matt Mason for providing the last piece of the jigsaw where the route traces that of the Monumental Loop. As with all new long distance routes, details are subject to change and refinement. If you have ideas on how to improve it, please get in touch. And check the RWGPS file for the latest updates.

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The route has been awarded a 6. For the most part, it’s a very straightforward ride in terms of the terrain. However, seasonal springtime winds can add significantly to its challenges, as can hot temperatures in the south of the state – depending on the month ridden. The riding itself is relatively fast going and non-technical. Dirt roads are generally in good shape, save for some sandy and corrugated stretches around Pico Ladron. But always remember this is New Mexico, so expect a mixed bag and keep an eye out for rainfall, which turns dirt roads into quagmires. Sections through Chloride Canyon and a short portion south of Truth or Consequences require a certain degree of mountain biking confidence. In places, front suspension and/or wide volume tires will certainly help but on the whole, a simple rigid bike is ideal. With early starts and breaks for photos/food/exploring historical intruigue, 55+ miles is a reasonable distance to cover per day for riders in good shape. Adjust accordingly if arriving with winter legs and remember, the days can be short depending on the time of year ridden.

  • Highlights


  • Must Know


  • Camping


  • Food/H2O


  • Trail Notes


  • Resources


  • Experiencing New Mexico’s magical light and its starry nights.
  • Discovering the subtle textures of the state via its Native American, Colonial, South West frontier and modern day history. The route is peppered with historical markers.
  • The variety of terrain and temperatures; from the cool and crisp high desert, to ponderosa forests, to the baking hot Chihuahuan desert.
  • Exploring Santa Fe, renowned for its adobe architecture, its fine cuisine,  the density of its art galleries… and its superb local trails. Don’t miss a visit to the incredible Meow Wolf, an interactive art installation/haunted house rolled into one!
  • Visiting the once thriving railhead town of Magdalena,  complete with 19th Century historic buildings and restored railyard depot, details of which can be found here.
  • Soaking in the springs at characterful Truth or Consequences (see RWGPS map for details)… just as the Apache leader Geronimo once did.
  • Dallying in one of the breweries along the route; Santa Fe, Moriarty, Truth or Consequences, and Las Cruces.
  • New Mexico’s weathered charm… sun patina abounds!
  • Points of Interests: Be sure your gpx file has all the POIs for the route; if it doesn’t, these can be easily viewed via the Ride With GPS app. You can download the route without the maps, which serves as a useful backup. See this link for more details.
  • When: Depending on the particular year – namely, when winter storms role in and their severity – this route can be ridden from late fall (early/mid October) to spring (mid/late April), though remember the days will sometimes be short, so you’ll need to get riding early. Typically, mid-winter isn’t recommended unless it’s a mild, clear one. The first snows hit soon after Thanksgiving but don’t tend to stick. Even on the shoulder seasons, be prepared for sub-freezing temps during cold snaps in the high desert and check for snowfall between Santa Fe and Bear Trap Canyon – ask around in Magdalena if in doubt and see Trail Notes for a possible reroute if required. The Chloride loop is another area to be wary of after recent snowfall – ride directly from Dusty to Winston if need to be. Late fall (great colours) and early spring (flowering cacti) promise the best window for the route, as long as you don’t mind some springtime blustery winds. By the end of April, the Chichuhuan desert risks becoming sizzling hot.
  •  Winter hours: Note that even if the winter in New Mexico is less harsh than you’re used to… the daylight hours can be just as short.  In November, December and January, sunrise is close to 6 AM and sunset close to 5 PM. Bring a book for those long nights in the tent!
  • Winds:  Generally speaking, prevailing winds come out of the South West, making a northerly direction preferable. These can be considerably more intense during the spring, where gusts of 50mph are not uncommon. This said, we rode south in late March and had favourable winds for the majority of the time… so you never can tell…
  • Direction: The route can be ridden north to south or south to north. The former includes a net loss of altitude. Theoretically, the latter has more favourable prevailing winds (see above) but the long climb through Chloride Canyon will be more challenging as will Hudson Canyon, if you choose the detour that takes you directly to Withington Lookout.
  • Rain alert: After rainfall, many desert roads become completely unrideable. For the most part, they dry quickly after a few hours baking in the sun.
  • Critters: Scorpion, snakes and other critters aren’t a major issue on the more southerly stretches of the route, but they do exist. A fully enclosed tent isn’t required but may be good for peace of mind.
  • Best bike: All in all, a standard 29er (29×2.2 or so) is likely your best weapon of choice, though a bike with 2.6+ tires also makes a great choice for backcountry New Mexico, given the variety of conditions. Suspension is not a necessity but will no doubt be beneficial to some. Although much of this route is made up of good quality dirt, gravel, and paved roads, there is enough rough/sandy/corrugated terrain to make it challenging in several places for a gravel or skinny tired ‘adventure’ bike. But if that’s the bike you’re on, fit the largest volume tires you can, consider skipping the lovely Chloride loop (riding directly to Winston), and be prepared for a few lumpy sections through Rowe Mesa, some sand/corrugation around Pico Ladron, and a rock stretch immediately after Truth or Consequences too.
  • Tires: Tubeless tires and repair kits are recommended, due to the profusion of goatheads that speckle the roadside. Take care when pulling to the side of a road or trail as this is where they lurk.
  • Private land: 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.
  • Public Transportation: Santa Fe can be easily reached by public transport from Albuquerque via the Rail Runner, the bike-friendly commuter train. Amtrak runs between LA and Chicago. Stop off at Lamy and ride the rail trail into town. Bikes cost $20 for the roll on/roll off service, or $10 boxed/bagged. As for Las Cruces, 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. Make sure you have the exact change and check the small print for holiday schedules. The El Paso-La Limousine Express also runs a 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. El Paso can also be accessed by Amtrak.
  • Getting back: The El Paso Limousine Express has a morning service that runs from El Paso/Las Cruces to Albuquerque ($30) and takes unboxed bikes subject to space. It continues to Santa Fe and Denver for $65. To save cash, get off at ABQ and ride to the Railrunner station, connecting with one of the afternoon trains ($9). If doing so, the Mexican restaurant El Modelo, a local institution, makes a great spot for lunch en route (see map). Alternatively, if riding in a group, it’s probably cost and time effective to hire a vehicle in Las Cruces and drop it off in Santa Fe (approx $170 for a truck that will fit 4 bikes comfortably). Enterprise will even bring it to wherever you are in the city.
  • Hot springs: Need to sooth sore muscles? There are several places to soak in Truth or Consequences; the going rate is around $8 for half an hour. Most motels (eg Charles Motel and Pelican) have their own springs which you can use to your heart’s content if you stay the night.
  • Historical information: be sure to stop to read all the excellent info panels along the way to help gain a real sense of history that imbues the Land of Enchantment. They add a whole new level to the trip.
  • Breweries: Thirsty? These can be found in Santa Fe, Moriarty, Truth or Consequences, and Las Cruces. See the map for details.
  • Bike shops: There are several good bike shops in Santa Fe, including the bikepacking-friendly Broken Spoke (stockists of Oveja Negra and Revelate) and Mellow Velo, both of whom offer rental bikes. Santa Fe also has an REI. In Las Cruces, Outdoor Adventures is well versed in the ways of bikepackers too.
  • Trail networks: If possible, allow a day or two extra to ride some of Santa Fe’s truly excellent trail network, much of which is rideable from the plaza – Chamisa, Sidewinder, Galisteo Basin Preserve, La Tierra, and Dale Ball are local favourites that are often clear by spring. Las Cruces also has a number of excellent trails too.
  • The route connects several swatches of National Forest, making camping relatively straightforward if riding 50-60 mile days. Otherwise, stealth camping can be carried out on areas of unfenced land.
  • Most of the larger resupply points are also offer usual motel offerings.
  • Overnighting in Truth or Consequences is recommended to make the most of its hot springs.
  • Water is relatively easily available (see map) but carry 4-6 litres at all times, depending on the season, in case any springs or cattle tanks are dry. Bring a means to purify suspect water.
  • Expect well-stocked grocery stores in all towns except for Magdalena (see POIs on map), which only has a Dollar Store and a gas station. Cooked food is available at all resupply points. Santa Fe has a Whole Foods and a Trader Joe’s close to the route.
  • Recommended, bike-friendly places to eat in Santa Fe include the Tune Up Cafe and Counter Culture, both of which are just off route. El Chile Toreado, en route, has great street tacos. Ikonik is a good hangout for coffee addicts. And the 2nd Street Brewery (both in the Railyard and along the bike path) is the spot to go to sample Santa Fe’s craft beer selection.
  • Recommended places to eat in Las Cruces include Habaneros Fresh Mex and Milagro Coffee and Expresso. Bosque Brewing Co is another popular local haunt.

Recent snowfall?

If there’s been recent snowfall, consider detouring around Bear Trap Canyon, the highest point of the ride, as per the the Apaches and Conquistadores route.

Want more singletrack?

The route plugs into a variation of the Monumental Loop for the last segment from Hatch. We’ve routed it via the west side of the Rio Grand/I25, which is more in keeping with the nature of the ride – fast dirt roads. But if you prefer more desert singletrack, consider taking the eastern side of the Monumental Loop instead (via the Donas Anas). If you do this, you’ll definitely see the benefits of a Plus or front-suspension mountain bike. Follow the route and trails to Pat Garrett’s murder spot – from there, find your own way into town as the singletrack is only recommended in a northly direction.

Want more riding?

The Off-Road Runner can be extended all the way to downtown El Paso, via the Sierra Vista Trail (as used by the Monumental Loop) and the rocky, technical trail network that courses through the Franklin Mountains. See the Danger Bird 350 for more ideas and this untested extension.

Short on time?

Catch a train from Albuquerque to Belen, then ride county and levy dirt roads to Bernardo (18 miles) to connect with the route at the Kiva RV Park (see the Apaches and Conquistadores route). This also avoids a couple of longer pavement stints… but misses out on Santa Fe and Rowe Mesa. Alternatively, there is an RTD bus to Moriarty if you want to start from there.

Additional Resources

  • Read Brian’s most excellent account of the New Mexico Off Road Runner here.
  • Jeff Bartlett rode the route in late November 2017 and wrote up another great account, which includes detailed, day by day impressions of the ride and his packlist. Read it here.

Terms of Use: As with each bikepacking route guide published on, 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. 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.

  • Dan Carter

    Well done Cass! I look forward to riding it soon.

  • Only one taco photo? Taco photos are why us folk up north dream of down south… ;)

  • Cass Gilbert

    I do have an nice one of some huevos rancheros I could add in…

  • Cass Gilbert

    Thanks Dan. Feedback and improvements are always welcome!

  • Chris Leydig

    Nice route, and great photos as always. How you liking that new Swift front bag? Looks sweet!

  • Cass Gilbert

    It’s been great, perfect for stowing a camera safely and easy to remove from the bike. I use a Surly Loop Junk Strap to keep it extra secure over the roughstuff, as some of the riding I do with it is probably beyond its design mandate!

  • Zach

    Nice route and write up as always, Cass. I really enjoy your work on this site, especially your photos. It seems like you’re a great advocate for bikepacking and are putting in a ton of work to developing routes. This is much appreciated by all of us.

    Now if there was a way to link the AZT, CT and this route into a loop…

  • Jake Kruse

    Very cool to see all the details on this. Putting this on the list for the fall. Thanks for another great looking route.

  • Cass Gilbert

    Thanks for the kind words Zach.

    I have some friends who rode from Las Cruces to the AZT…

    And I have another route in mind to connect the Durango to Santa Fe… so watch this space!

  • Cass Gilbert

    Hope you enjoy it! So you don’t cook to a crisp south of T or C, late fall/early winter could work well.

  • Scooterbug Likes Bikes

    How do you do it? I recently planned what I thought would be a great 3 day route around Kiowa National Grasslands with a friend, and other than Mills Canyon we hit more no trespasssing signs and fences than i care to mention. For some reason RWGPS let me route on private land. We still had a great time but ended up riding a lot more pavement than expected.
    And for anyone questioning those spring winds, let me tell you, they are no joke. We spent 4&1/2 hours going 20 miles in what seemed like steady 50 mph headwinds. Absolutely unrelenting.

  • Mark Troup

    I love the abandoned highway pic with nature slowly reclaiming the road. I call those “Mad Max” roads. Here in PA we have an abandoned stretch of turnpike that is now used by bikers and hikers. It can be seen in the movie The Road”. It’s just a quick 12 miles or so, but well positioned to link up with the flowy trails around Raystown.

    Looking to relocate in a couple years, and NM just looks better and better to me every time I see it.

  • Dan Carter

    Yes, there is a way! We’ve ridden from Las Cruces to the AZT, mostly on dirt and gravel. Bikepacking Roots has a new route to connect the AZT to the CT, via southern Utah.

  • Gary Blakley

    Great job, again, Cass. I would add, after having ridden much of the route on a 29er and almost all the route on 27.5+, I’d definitely go for the plus bike, given the choice. I’d venture to say it’s not as mellow of a ride as the photos might suggest. Don’t even consider a gravel bike.

  • Cass Gilbert

    I don’t know that New Mexican nook. I need to check it out!

    I’m not sure about RWGPS, but Google has a tendency to route cyclists through private land. Have you tried the desktop route planner CalTopo? That has a useful land use layer. So does the phone app Gaia.

  • Cass Gilbert

    Funnily enough I had that same… the year is 2020 and the earth has been scorched to cinder by mankind, only posses of fat bikers roam the badlands… kind of thought!

  • Cass Gilbert

    Thanks Gary!

    I agree. Riding in New Mexico can be such a mixed bag… arroyos, corrugation, abandoned roads…. which makes the terrain so well suited to Plus bikes. Or at least wide rims and generous tires. Personally, I find a 27.5 x3in tire rolls just fine on pavement too.

  • Scooterbug Likes Bikes

    CalTopo I’ll check it out for sure. Love your sugestions on public and alternative transport as well.
    As for Kiowa it is very much a nook, certainly a beautiful one, nonetheless, I’d be interested to see if you could crack that puzzle into something grander than I was able to.

  • I’ve used CalTopo for years and never noticed that overlays section. Awesome!

  • Ian

    Can this route be done from both directions?

  • Cass Gilbert

    Yes, it can. I’ve included a couple of sentences with the pros and cons, as well as prevailing wind directions, in the Need To Know Section.

  • Nathan Fenchak

    Assuming one felt fine dealing with the cold, how doable would this be in late November or December?

    Looking at historical temperature and snowfall data in Santa Fe, it seems that December might be too snowy on the northern parts of the route.

    Would starting from Albuquerque headed south be more reasonable, or would it not make much of a difference?

  • Cass Gilbert

    I’ve written up some pretty detailed comments on weather in the Know How section – that may help.The short answer is that it depends on the year and when/how much snow hits.

    Starting in ABQ won’t make a great deal of difference as the highest point of the route is on Bear Trap Canyon Road – though it’s further south, so theoretically might be a little clearer. As I mention above, you could always detour and run the VLA road instead which tyas lower in altitude. I’ve ridden that road in February and it was clear but cold – starting in Belen, having taken the Roadrunner south from ABQ.

  • Nick Winowich

    Great job Cass! I’ve ridden little bits of it, looking forward to riding more. Its really cool how you can identify the general location from the photo, the geography really is as diverse as you describe. I’ve never been on the Jornada del Muerto, only read about it; doesn’t this route follow it some?

  • Cass Gilbert

    Thanks Nick.

    I don’t believe this route follows the Jornada del Muerto – I expect it’s on the western side of the Caballos. I’ve followed the remnants of that route north though, now squeezed between White Sands Missile Range and one of Ted Turner’s buffalo ranches…

  • Ben

    Hey Cass, this is great – what camera did you shoot it on?

  • Cass Gilbert

    My trusty Canon 5D. Not the lightest setup in the world but great image quality.

  • Matthias Kace

    Hi Cass, I have never bikepacked before and I wanted to try this trail. How is it for a first timer?

  • Cass Gilbert

    Without knowing more about how much you ride, it’s hard to say! It’s not a technically difficult ride by any means. But there’s some big, open stretches that can be tough if the wind isn’t in your favour. Have a look at the ‘Difficulty’ box out to see what the challenges are.

  • Abe

    My bike is a Soma Wolverine with 2.1 inch tires, I’m thinking about starting near Albuquerque since my time is limited and heading south. Does this bike fall into your “Unsuitable gravel/adventure bike” category? If it would be an alright steed, which section would be toughest on it? Thanks in advance, I live in Northern Canada and am excited to see the desert for the first time!

  • Cass Gilbert

    Hi Abe, I’ve updated the route a bit, so there’s less sandy arroyos south of Hatch. It’s still rocky and a bit sandy in places, but should be fine for a 2.1in See the Best Bike section, I’ve added in some details there too.

  • Medium Rick

    Looks like a great route. Saved. Thanks for sharing it.

  • Daniel Jackson

    Considering this as a late February trip. Wondering when those pesky Spring winds typically begin…is late February early enough to avoid them? I imagine sub freezing temperatures at altitude would be the norm this time of year as well?

    Also – anyone have a recommendation for transportation from Las Cruces to El Paso Airport with bikes?


  • Cass Gilbert

    Yes, expect sub zero night time temps, depending on where you camp. Gary and I rode a big chunk of this route in February and it was definitely cold at night, but nice in the day. Unfortunately we timed our trip just after a storm, so had to divert around Bear Trap Canyon, via the VLA. But otherwise, you should be fine. As for winds… they can strike at any time!

    Check out the Trail Notes section of the Monumental Loop for more LC-EP logistics, including the airport shuttle.

    Let me know if you make it. If I’m in Santa Fe, I can try and meet up before you head out.

  • Marcel Besemer

    I come from The Netherlands to ALB on Feb. 19 untill March 5th and have this ride planned from SF. Maybe I can start below ALB and see how far I come to extend my ride towards Las Cruces and beyond with (parts of) the Monumental Loop. My first desert ride… excited.

  • Taylor Thompson Lancaster

    Hey Cass. I’m wondering how much different it would be to do this route south to north. Any insights would be greatly appreciated

  • Daniel Heinze

    I’m arriving in Santa Fe on Thursday to start the New Mexico off-RR. I am considering continuing on to Tucson from Las Cruces.
    Anyone have a recommendation for a continued route? Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

  • Cass Gilbert

    Check in with the guys at Las Cruces. Dan Carter rode to Tucson so will have likely some notes.

    It’s been super cold in Santa Fe recently (though it looks to be warming up now). But bring layers and a good book, as sunset is around 5pm.

  • Cass Gilbert

    Hi Taylor, check out the Trail Notes section, there’s some specific notes about advantages of both directions there, with regard to wind and conditions.

  • Daniel Heinze

    Thanks Cass for the beta. Not clear on “at Las Cruces” (the town)? I hope to some time chat u up on N. India. I’ve also done several trips there (Sikkim, Zanskar & Kashmir).

  • Cass Gilbert

    Yes, LC, the terminus of the ride. There’s a link in Trail Notes to a shop called Outdoor Adventures – they will likely be able to help. You’ve probably done this, but have a look at the Monumental Loop too, for different options of riding from Hatch to LC, depending on your inclinations and bike…

  • Cass Gilbert

    Also, I’ve heard reports that the folks at the RV Kewa (mile marker 185) aren’t especially amenable to offering water to cyclists – as noted in the POI on the map. It might be worth picking up water beforehand if you get the chance. Last time I rode it, I saw a small blink-and-you-miss-it store halfway between the long desert paved stretch that precedes it – somewhere around mile 175, or along that stretch of road at least. I can’t see it on satellite imagery. But it you stop in, could you make a note of its location. Thanks!

    Lastly, I just updated the map with a few extra POIs and a new brewery in Truth or Consequences. You’ll need to download the RWGPS app to access all that info.

  • Daniel Heinze

    Thx Cass, I will send you coordinates from the water source at mm175. Arrived today , getting a tune at TBS.

  • Cass Gilbert

    Thanks. I’m headed back to Santa Fe so will miss you, would have loved to have met up otherwise.

    Drop me a line at if you need any advice along the way.

  • Cass Gilbert

    Sure, lots of options. Drop me a line at as I might well be in Santa Fe to have a chat before you head out, if you start from there. Enjoy!

  • Daniel Jackson

    Anyone got a good stealth camping spot somewhere between the Kewa RV and the ghost town at Riley? From satellites, looks good just about anywhere, but satellite images only tell a bit of the story…


  • Daniel Jackson

    Also, anyone know of public transport options with a bike from Hatch to ABQ?

  • Cass Gilbert

    Yes, plenty.

  • Daniel Jackson

    Any good camping opportunities 20 miles or so west of Truth? Looking for something up in the hills above Truth that is a good 1/3 day ride. We will be starting our ride in Truth early afternoon, riding the route North.


  • Cass Gilbert

    I don’t know specifically at that point. But If you go a little further, where the road begins to climb towards the small pass before Winston, there’s some nice spots away from the road with great views (on the right hand side, as you’re riding north).

  • Cass Gilbert

    I believe the Mexican bus stops in Hatch if you request it to. At least, I’ve seen it drop people off there. You’ll have to hope there’s room for your bike, which there should be.

  • Daniel Heinze

    Cass, getting back to you on the re-supply location near Interstate 25 & Highway 60 (34 25’19N 106 42’58W)
    Everyone should stop in to patronize this friendly establishment. I topped of on Snickers, gas and tamales.

  • Cass Gilbert

    Great to know, thanks Daniel. So I assume you didn’t need to stop in at Kewa RV then?

    Was everything else along the route clear?

  • Daniel Heinze

    No need for the Kewa stop. The route was clear. What is not clear is private/public land
    signage (BLM) . Nice work on the camp locations.

  • marcel b.

    Daniel, Was that on Lamont Street crossing IS 25? How was the weather?

  • Daniel Heinze

    Yes, I believe so. Large flags out front. Can’t miss it. Weather was great for January. One morning of snow
    that made the clay road came alive around Chilili.
    The next day sunny with 70 mile tail wind. Yeehaw!

  • Daniel Jackson

    Anyone ridden in the mountains recently between Magdalena and Winston? Has this year had significant snowfall or might we ride next week as planned along this route?


  • Cass Gilbert

    I just rode this section and it’s all clear, as of a few days ago. In fact, I’d advise heading up to Withington Lookout (some snowpack but all rideable) for fabulous views. There’s a rambunctious, alternative route down, I’ll try and link to it in the next few days.

  • Daniel Jackson


    Thanks for the update – great to hear its all clear. We will be leaving from Truth and heading north on Sunday. Lack of water going north through that mountainous stretch is a bit daunting, but we are excited. Can’t wait.

  • marcel b.

    What kind of sleepingbag do you take with you Daniel? Hard to guess for me…. If I can make it, I’ll be arriving from The Netherlands in ABQ on monday, probably start Tuesday from Belen going South. Maybe meet on track..

  • Cass Gilbert

    if you’re headed north, I’d stick to the current route. The modification I have in mind works better in a southerly direction. But I’d definitely recommend an out and back to Withington Lookout, up at 10,000ft. You can see the world from there! (including the Very Large Array). It’s a 4 mile climb, mellow for the most part, with some snowpack right now. Don’t worry too much about H20. Carry 6L and you’ll be fine. There’s lots of water throw Chloride Canyon (it will be a challenging climb) and you can ask in Dusty to use a spigot if need be. Then, you’ll find water again at the top of Bear Trap Canyon. If it’s a sunny forecast, I’d carry capacity for 6L and you should be fine. There’s a new spot to get water beyond Kewa RV (best avoided as they’re not the friendliest of folks) which I’ll mark on the map. Message me at facebook/whileoutriding if you need anything.

  • Cass Gilbert

    Marcel, I use a 30F bag (-1c) to which I add a Sea to Summit liner and my clothes if needed. At this time of year, it drops below freezing in the north (less so south of Belen), but generally just at about 4 or 5am.

    If you’re starting in Belen, you can jump on a few levy dirt roads to break up 18 mile paved ride from the Railrunner station. I’ll post a route alternative that runs via Withington Lookout in the next few days, with a fabulous high elevation traverse and a fun and very rough descent!

  • Marcelb

    Thanks Cass! Looked at google satelite, excited!

  • Roan Marion

    To all looking to ride this route in the next 3 months. I’m a avid cyclist staying in Magadalana until the end of April. If you are in Magadalana and need help (tools, a bike stand ect..) or just want to chat come find us. We are in the “townhouse” directly across from the Magdalena Cafe on main Street. I also have a question for Cass or others who know the area: is the CDT north of 59 ridable? I see no reason why not but don’t want to assume.

  • Cass Gilbert

    Good to meet you Roan and thanks for the offer of help for riders.

    I haven’t ridden the CDT directly off 59 – this route scoops around on forest roads, then connects briefly with the same stretch of CDT for a couple of miles, before turning off into Chloride Canyon. That small section is mostly clear, with perhaps a half dozen fallen trees. I’d love to know what the rest is like!

  • Dylan Kentch

    I just (February 2018) rode the NMORR north to south. Super fun!! Do it! I took 8 full days and rode into Mesilla from the powerline road on day 9. This was reasonable for me and did not feel rushed. I bike toured for last September-November but just ate pizza and worked all December and January, so take Cass’ words about “winter legs” to heart maybe if that is you or me. Still, 60-70 miles/day was totally fine for the sunny, only kinda windy days I had. All my big winds were from straight out of the west or south, usually the west.

    Some thoughts that might make the route easier or help folks in the future:

    The spring you reach on the first day out of SF (cool rock over hang cave, I forget the spring’s name) was oily, skunky and super not ideal. But if you ride past that only a little bit there’s an amazing windmill pumping out awesome water into a trough. It’s near a couple stock ponds. My cyclocomputer was set on 26″ wheels instead of 29″ at the time (oops!), so I couldn’t tell you the exact route mile this windmill is near, but I have the lat long and I bet you could find it that way: N 35°30.850′ W 105°47.089′. The stock ponds show up on my Garmin base map. I met four riders just after I’d passed the windmill who hadn’t seen it, so I don’t think the GPX track I got from / RWGPS officially passes by it. NB: I downloaded that track in January 2018, and Cass told me it’s had some tweaks since them.

    The 10 Points store has great tamales and burritos.

    The Micah Market about 7 miles east of I-25 was open and I stopped in for water. It’s a super small store and is kinda hidden behind a mud wall. Blink and you’ll miss it. The open sign was illuminated and that was the only way I could tell it was a store of some kind and not a private building. It’s on your left as you go west (south side of the road).

    The Chloride loop west of the Highway 52/59 junction is awesome and I rode it and so should you. The Gila is cool. There was only 1 down tree across the trail on the CDT, which for the CDT as a whole is like a paved sidewalk. Some of the roads near the CDT stint are short and steep and maybe I could have used a 30t front ring, but I grunted up them well enough despite this. Coming down Chloride Canyon to Winston was a major highlight for me. Not to be missed.

    Didn’t look for or need the tank just before you enter the wash south of Faulkner Canyon Rd, but did get water from the top of the big tank at mile 482 or so. Tasted fine, good stop. I like an eye dropper full of bleach for water treatment if needed, and Crystal Lite powder to hide the skunk or chlorine taste as needed.

    I came in on the “official” route all the way from Corralitos Road. The powerline road is quick, it’s a bit soft and chunky around Picacho Peak, but then suddenly, surprisingly, you’re on pavement in the suburbs.

    There’s a picture of my bike here, and following is a small description of some of its salient points. 29×2.1 in the front, 2.2 in the rear. Rigid, steel, v-brakes, tubes with Stans and had no thorn punctures, one pinch flat. 1×10, 34t in front and 11-42t in the rear. For me this was a perfect and awesome bike for the route. As you know, smaller tires than this aren’t recommended for the route but you could always go bigger but I wouldn’t go bigger or smaller. I have a Surly Troll with Velocity Duallys and 26×2.4 tires and a snowbike with 80mm rims and 26×4 tires. If I had all three of these bikes with me all the time on this ride, I’d still have been on the 29×2.1 maybe 98% of the time. The wash below Faulkner Canyon Road is the only place I’d have ridden the snow bike, maybe. I had a double wall tent, stove, pot and fuel, tubes, down jacket, tools and space for 7.5 litres of water but neither needed nor carried this much.

    I’d agree with Cass’ 6 as a difficulty rating if I had to. I’d prefer to 100% whole-heartedly agree with everything written about *why* this route can be challenging/ easy. Soon after I got to Cruces, it snowed on Mt Withington and my 6 day there would totally have been an 8 or 9 then. But yeah, generally it’s fast, non-technical dirt roads and a rigid bike is totally fine and you could have an ECR with 29×3 out there, but I wouldn’t do that and you probably don’t need to either.

  • Dylan Kentch
  • Doug Wenger

    Any suggestions on where to leave a car in Santa Fe? Sorry if I missed this somewhere. Thanks.

  • Stephen Reynolds

    Would you recommend riding this in late may I’m trying to get to AW
    To start riding north on GDMBR.
    I have a friend who could drop me off half way down then ride the route then veer off to AW


    Steve Reynolds

  • Cass Gilbert

    Sorry not sure what AW is…
    Not really a summer route… gets a bit toasty hot in lower lying, southern New Mexico. Northern New Mexico and the high elevation areas are great at that time of year though.

  • Cass Gilbert

    Sorry, I’m not too sure… I’m guessing a side street in town is ok. I wouldn’t leave a vehicle at any of the city’s traiheads as people get stuff broken into. You could also ask the guys at the Broken Spoke, Santa Fe, and see if they have any ideas. They’re all keen bikepackers and may be able to help.

  • Stephen Reynolds

    Class AW is antelope Wells. Iamjoini gdome people to ride great divide

  • Doug Wenger

    Sweet, that helps, thanks for the info.

  • GreatEskape

    Looking forward to doing this the first two weeks of April, riding from Las Cruces northbound. Anyone have any intel on the route conditions? Specifically concerned about water between Winston and Eagle Spring, but it sounds like there is at least water coming up Chloride Canyon, and hoping there is no snow coming up Bear trap canyon. Thanks!

  • John Paul Ramos

    This is on my bucket list to do in October 2018. :)

  • Grant Henderson

    Looking to use this as a means to finish off our GDMBR trip in the summer which would bring us to New Mexico in mid August…from a comment below you reckon avoiding the route south of Truth or Consequences in the summer….? Any idea how we could get back to Albuquerque from there or at least a town where we could catch the roadrunner train?

    Anyone else have experience riding this (August) time of the year?

  • Cass Gilbert

    Aside from the sections that linger at high elevation, I imagine much of the route would be very hot in August… I’d pick a few towns and and google temperature checks to make sure you’re ok with it. Bear in in mind the monsoon season (roughly mid June to mid Sept) makes many dirt roads impassable too.

    The El Paso Limo Express bus (see above for info/links) should stop in T or C is you request it. They normally have room for a bike or two. Or, it’s pretty easy to hitch (up to Belen, from where you can hop on the Railrunner, or direct to ABQ).

    If you want to get to ABQ, you’re best bet may be to ride to Cuba on the Divide and ride/take the Blue Bus (community bus that takes bikes) to the Railrunner from there. Or drop down from the Jemez to Santa Fe, and ride from there.

  • Grant Henderson

    Thanks for the advice! We did the Baja Divide in Jan/Feb and by the time we got to the southern loop we were feeling the heat (we are Scottish so not just pale but translucent). Looks like the temps will be a few degrees higher in NM so doable. Guess we will just need to take our chances with the monsoons. Looks like such a cool route, really keen to get to the Very large Array.

  • Liz Van Heusden

    Sorry if this has been asked but what do you think about safety on the route? Was thinking of soloing this trail as a female.

  • Grant Henderson

    Hey Cass – we are in Del Norte on the Divide and planning our New Mexico leg and have a few questions. I notice that Abiquiu on the Divide Route is only 47miles from Santa Fe….any reason you recommend cuttin off at Cuba and not here (besides the bus option in Cuba) …is the road between Abiquiu and Santa Fe busy with traffic or something maybe?

    We are planning on doing your overnighter ride out of Santa Fe then getting the Railrunner to belen to do a 4D/3N abbreviated NMORR, through Magdalena, Winston and T&C. Weather permitting.

    Thanks for putting these trails together.

  • Cass Gilbert

    Hi Grant, the main road between Abiquiu and Santa Fe, via Espanola, isn’t much fun in my opinion. It’s relatively quick but fairly busy in parts. The Blue Bus runs to Santa Fe though, and takes two bikes.

    There are nice ways of linking Abiquiu and Santa Fe … following the Divide into the Jemez, then cutting through the Valles Caldera, and dropping down St Peter’s Dome Road, or riding across to Los Alamos (see for ideas). But that will obviously add tack on some days.

    As you say, you can also ride to Cuba and bus from there, if you’re not fussed about visiting Santa Fe. It’s a great ride and again, the bus takes two bikes. From there, you can connect with the Railrunner and head to Belen. Enjoy!

    PS Keep an eye on the weather, as many of these sections get extremely tacky in the rain…