Santa Fe Rides: Take a Friend On Up to Deception Peak and Raven’s Ridge

Staying local during the pandemic has been a new thing for me. I’m usually on the road for most of the year, sleeping in our truck, documenting races, rides, people, shops, and communities. I can’t emphasize how strange it has been to just stay put. While it has been a bit of a change of pace, it’s really pushed me to take on as many of the local rides that I can and this week, I took on maybe one of the most infamous trails in our area; Deception Peak and Raven’s Ridge.

Riding up a bit further from our last Santa Fe Rides post – Aspen Vista – to the radio towers atop Tesuque Peak is quite the feat alone. Then, taking a turn onto Skyline pushes you up 500′ in just half a mile. That’s when you hit the crest of Deception Peak and begin to descend Raven’s Ridge.

Now a thing or two about this ride. It is very remote. Even though you’re only about 9 miles as the crow flies from town. I recommend taking a friend with you. Especially someone who has ridden it before as wayfinding can be quite difficult in the forest off the back of the ridge. All my friends here have spoken highly of this trail, so I finally made concrete plans with one of them, a dude who many of you know, Mr. Bailey Newbrey.

Bailey and I have been riding a lot together. He’s fit, fast, and flies down trails at Mach 3 speeds. I have long been impressed with his riding prowess, his style, and his determination. That’s how you set the second-fastest singlespeed time on the TDR I suppose.

While his go-to move for Deception and Raven’s is to ride from town, a good 5,000′ haul up on all singletrack, in the interest of time and enjoyment, I convinced him to hitch a ride with me in our Tacoma for the 20-minute drive up Hyde Park road.

We climbed up to Skyline, Pushed up to Ravens, and were enthralled with the backdrop of the Jemez and Sandia mountains, being pummeled by monsoons, as our local range, the Sangre de Cristo mountains – the southernmost tip of the Rocky Mountains – was engulfed with the Medio Fire, a dry lightning fire currently at about 80% containment that has decimated the Rancho Viejo Loop as well as the ever-so-rowdy Rio En Medio trail.

It was a somber experience, with all senses in overdrive and our emotions running the full spectrum.

As we took in the showcase presented to us by nature, those monsoon clouds drew a black curtain across the trail, as the wind chose our lines for us, with rain and hail coming in sideways. We tried our best to get off the ridge and into the treeline for cover.

Navigating a convoluted network of drainage and actual trail, we tick-tacked down through the old-growth, stopping at a vista that displayed the scale of the Medio Fire. It was one of the most stunning experiences I’ve had since moving to this beautiful state.

Soon, the trail ended, abruptly, at a barbed wire wilderness boundary. We slowly made our way along the slick roots and rocks, avoiding contact with the very material responsible for the stalemate between the Germans and Allies in World War I. Yes, it was a Frenchman in the 1860’s named Leonce Grassin-Baledans that first made a weapon akin to our modern-day barbed wire. Kinda makes you wonder what it’s doing along a “wilderness” boundary. Later, an American named Joseph F. Glidden applied for the patent in 1874, forever altering the American West…

Ending at the trailhead for the northern end of the Winsor Trail – the MTB shuttle ride of choice in town – we’re reminded that no bikes are allowed in Wilderness.

This is where you can either loop back to your car at the Aspen Vista trailhead, or continue south on Winsor, away from the wilderness area, all the way to Tesuque and back to town.

The beauty of this ride is only overshadowed by its risk. I’d like to suggest you not ride it alone the first time. Take a friend. It makes for better photos anyway… Many thanks to the Fat Tire Society for putting in work to keep this trail open.

Please note: due to its proximity to wilderness and the complications that arise when you throw bikes in the mix, please be very respectful of this area and of other users. If you see hikers or equestrians, please dismount and pass safely. We don’t want to lose access to these trails so shred lightly…