July 19, 2011 at 10:19 AM

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..."

By Karen Denison

At Home Outdoors

Karen Denison is owner of Outspire Hiking and Snowshoeing guide service, a former biologist, and a shameless admirer of the outdoors.

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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/planyourvisit/tsankawi.htm

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/prog/recreation/taos/orilla_verde.html

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.php?action=viewcontent&content_id=19

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/location.html

Road trip!  Wild Rivers Recreation Area encompasses the triangle where the Red River meets the  Rio Grande north of Taos.  Since both rivers are at the bottom of 700-foot canyons at that point,  you can guess how scenic it is.  A series of well-marked and maintained trails leads from the rim  down to the rivers.  Try a pleasant 4-mile loop by descending the trail to Little Arsenic Springs,  walking on trail upriver through the fragrant sagebrush and volcanic boulders, climbing out on Big  Arsenic Springs Trail and returning to your parking along the rim via Rinconada Loop. Take lots  of water and a nice snack to enjoy at the springs before the climb.  There's a nice Visitor Center  where you may pay the modest entry/parking fee and don't forget to visit the overlook at La Junta.   Do watch out for poison ivy. We don't have much compared with other states, but there is some  down in the canyon.  More info:  http://www.blm.gov/nm/st/en/prog/recreation/taos/wild_rivers_rec_area.html

If you really, really just have to log a couple of quick miles with the dogs, then consider the La  Tierra Trails in the northwest quadrant of Santa Fe city-owned land.  These inter-linked loops are  primarily used by mountain bikers and don't afford the variety of the Dale Ball trails, but can get you  some exercise from one to several miles over gently rolling hills.  There are marked trailheads and  parking areas off Las Montoyas Road north of NM 599 and trails are easy to follow, but be  prepared to do a little self-navigating as signage is yet to be installed.  A proposed official map is  here: http://www.santafenm.gov/DocumentView.aspx?DID=8353 but know there are currently  other bike trails and user-defined paths to confuse things a bit.

Special note:  All these areas are open for hiking now because they have little or no "forest" of  overhead tree cover. That means hot at mid-day, so you might consider getting an early start and  throwing frozen water bottles in your pack or cooler for your return. Quit procrastinating and get outside!

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