"This is the perfect time to kick yourself out of your rut and explore something new..."
As I write this, it's mid-July in a very dry 2011. Your usual hiking spots are closed, so what do you do? This is the perfect time to kick yourself out of your rut and explore something new. Here are a few ideas.
Tsankawi (san-ka-WEE) is a portion of Bandelier National Monument that sports an interpretive 1-1/2 mile loop trail through the unexcavated ruins of a 15th century pueblo and past lovely petroglyphs. Visitors need to stay on the trail, which requires climbing three short ladders and negotiating a few narrow spots where the trail is worn deeper into the soft, volcanic rock. Great views of the eastern basin, plenty of parking, and no entry fees at this time! More info: http://www.nps.gov/band/
Orilla Verde flanks the Rio Grande at Pilar and provides a short getaway with black rock and running water. The former state park is currently maintained by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the small entry fee may be paid at the visitor center on the highway, or with self-pay envelopes at stations along the length of the little park. Though known mostly to rafters and fishermen, the park has some trails which run along the canyon and provide some awfully nice views. La Vista Verde Trail is a 2.5 mile round-trip out-and-back route along a natural basalt terrace in the gorge. Sagebrush, a few petroglyphs and great views of the deeply-cut Rio Grande Gorge. Trailhead parking is located by driving through the park, across the river on the old steel Taos Junction Bridge, and traversing about halfway up toward the west rim. Watch for the marked parking area on your left at the end of one of the switchbacks. More info: http://www.blm.gov/nm/st/en/
Hike and soak at Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs. This place has always been a favorite of mine since it has a funky old history and little of the pretension of many spas. It's also a good jumping-off spot for some area hiking on BLM land. Park at the spa and visit the front desk for a map, or download one from their website before arrival. The spa has several shorter excursions which wind around their property but climb the mesa to the northwest for a real hike. Near the rim, choose either the left-hand branch to visit the plundered pueblo of Posi-Owenge (BLM interpretive brochure from the desk in hand) or turn right to take a longer tramp to see the Joseph Mine (or the farther Texas Mine) which yielded mica in large pieces up until the 1960's. Although trails are marked sporadically with cairns, a decent map is recommended since game trails and old ranch roads also criss-cross the area. Splurge on a ticket for the communal mineral springs on returning (bring your own towels) which are open until 10p.m. More info: http://ojospa.com/activities.
Cerrillos Hills State Park south of Santa Fe near the village of Cerrillos has one of the wierder histories of New Mexico State Parks. It was a boomtown mining area with the mine works scattered around the park to prove it, but more money was made by speculators selling the rights to unknowing Easterners than was ever taken out in ore. Now there are a series of short loop trails over the classic pinon-juniper hills. No facilities except a bathroom, but check out the fun Thursday evening programs from dedicated staff. More info: http://www.cerrilloshills.org/