An Ode to Road Trip Friends: Two Classic Santa Fe Gravel and MTB Rides

Playing host to road trippers this year is a stark contrast to our efforts to stay local and ride with small, familiar groups last year. New Mexico took Covid-19 seriously and as new citizens to this state, both Cari and I took these precautions seriously. Now with the vaccination efforts building across the country (get vaccinated!) we’re happy to open our doors to friends as they travel across the American West. Just last week alone, I hosted two stellar rides with some familiar faces, so check them out below…

Pacheco Canyon Climb

As I’ve mentioned before, I was expecting more gravel riding in the Santa Fe area but geographically speaking, there’s only one real gravel option in town with any sort of elevation gain. Sure, Rowe Mesa and the Caja Del Rio are great options but in the summer months, the lack of tree-cover makes these places quite difficult to ride at both a leisurely time and pace. No one wants to wake up at 4am to beat the heat – at least not me anyway, especially when you can climb up our Tesuque Peak along a beautiful, shaded dirt road amidst the Ponderosa and Aspen.

When Benedict, aka Ronnie Romance, and Arya came through town, after picking Arya up on the Tour Divide route, I had one ride I had to take them on. Both Bené and Arya love Aspen trees, so we began from town and road out to Tesuque and Chupadero before climbing into the Santa Fe National Forest along Pacheco Canyon road.

This is by far the most scenic and rewarding gravel ride in the Santa Fe area and you can ride it from town! No need to shuttle a car or take our beloved Blue Bus to access this pedal!

With the summer Monsoon season in full swing, we were greeted by the backdrop of the Jemez Mountains as they got pounded by thunderstorms, sending a cool blanket of air across the Santa Fe mesa and up into the Sangre de Cristo mountains. Climbing up through the badlands of Chupadero, you really appreciate any bit of cloud cover and cool air you can get. That is until you’re in the forest, which offers shaded solitude.

The climb is categorized as an HC by Strava and is approximately 12 miles long with an elevation gain of over 3,000′. Remember, you’re at elevation too, so expect it to be a bit harder than it appears on paper.

What strikes me most about this ride is the abundance of healthy, big aspen trees, which captivated Arya as we ascended. The descent can be done a few ways, either hopping onto Winsor trail and riding singletrack back to Tesuque, or descending Hyde Park road, before hopping onto Dale Ball singletrack back to town. You can’t go wrong but if you’re not comfortable riding rowdy singletrack on a gravel bike, I’d personally err on the latter route…

Alamos Vista

We’ve already posted about Alamos Vista – one of the local’s favorites in the area – but that doesn’t mean we can’t spread more stoke for this harder than it looks on paper ride. Seven miles and 1,800′ elevation doesn’t look like a crusher by any means but you’ll feel it!

It’s become one of my favorite rides to take visitors on. Partially because of just how beautiful it is and how it always blows people’s minds that this ride is only a few miles from the Santa Fe Plaza, as the raven flies. Alamos Vista begins above treeline and descends a ski run before dropping, abruptly into beautiful Aspen stands. This is by no means a “gravel bike” ride but is not impossible on an XC or hardtail mountain bike. Expect your rotors to heat up and your palms to get sweaty on the first drop in. It’s normal. ;-)

Jake works for Rapha’s newly-launched MTB line and was curious what we had to offer here on town when he rolled through for a quick stay. He asked me which trail I’d want to ride and this is always my answer for a quick after work jam. If you really want to loop in a hard day’s ride, then you can climb Winsor trail beforehand too!

Check out our Alamos Vista Reportage for the full details on this one.

Please, as with all trail activities, observe the Leave No Trace Principals, yield to uphill traffic, be nice, say hi, and in general, when you’re visiting new locales, be nice to the locals. :-)