Rio Grande Gorge, New Mexico
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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
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Recreation Opportunities 
at Río Grande del Norte National Monument


Visitor Centers

The Wild Rivers Visitor Center is located at the Wild Rivers Recreation Area about 20 minutes from the town of Questa, NM. The Visitor Center is open from Memorial Day through Labor Day, 9:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m.

The Rio Grande Gorge Visitor Center is located one mile south of the Orilla Verde Recreation Area in Pilar, NM, at the intersection of NM 570 and NM 68. The Visitor Center is open seven days a week; May 1 through October from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., November through April from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

 

Recreational Opportunities

Bicycling | Boating | Camping | Fishing | Hunting | Off-Highway Vehicles | Picnicking | Railroad | Scenic Driving | Swimming | Trails

Bicycling

Trails suitable for mountain biking include the Rinconada Loop Trail, Red River Fault Trail, Guadalupe Mountain Trail, La Vista Verde Trail, West Rim Trail, Peteca Point Trail, and Taos Valley Overlook Trails.  Unless otherwise signed, all dirt roads in the National Monument are available for mountain biking. Bicycles are limited to designated roads and trails.

Click here for more information on trails

Boating

The Upper Rio Grande Gorge includes the Class II Ute Mountain Run (24 miles) and the Class V Upper Box (6.5 miles). It also includes the Class III-V Taos Box (15 miles) which takes 6 to 8 hours, including stops for lunch and sightseeing. The rapids in the Box offer the best whitewater in New Mexico through one of the most scenic sections of the Rio Grande Gorge.

The Lower Rio Grande Gorge begins at the Taos Junction Bridge in the Orilla Verde area and extends south for 18 miles.  Trips in the Lower Gorge can be arranged from 2 to 6 hours, depending on river flow and where you put in and take out.

River flow levels are unpredictable so boaters should monitor the USGS website [USGS Water Resource Division - New Mexico District nm.water.usgs.gov] or call BLM’s recorded message at 888-882-6188 for current information.

There are no boating fees.  However, registration is required on the Ute Mountain, La Junta, and Taos Box, sections in the National Monument. Call the Taos Field Office at 575-758-8851 to register your trip on these sections.  Click here for River Segment Descriptions.

Most boating trips require a hike to or from the river and some areas are closed seasonally to protect wildlife. For safety, BLM requires that all boaters wear personal floatation devices (PFD) while on the river.

Commercial outfitters are available for day and overnight Rio Grande boat trips.  Commercial outfitters are permitted by the BLM; do not hire a non-permitted outfitter. All companies meet strict guidelines for equipment safety and guide experience. You may also rent a boat, or take your own for self-led river trips. Please review BLM's recommended river safety tips

Camping

A total of 5 campgrounds are located at the Wild Rivers area. All of the campgrounds are equipped with tables, grills, drinking water, and restroom facilities. One of the camping areas requires hiking down into the gorge where 16 primitive campsites are located.  There are 2 large group camping sites. All together there are 40 campsites available. 

Orilla Verde has seven campgrounds, each with tables, fire grills and restrooms. Four of the campgrounds also have drinking water and shelters. Pilar and Rio Bravo campgrounds offer RV campsites with water and electric hookups (no sewer). Pay showers are also available at Rio Bravo campground. There is a 14-day stay limit. A maximum of 8 people are allowed per campsite and a maximum of two vehicles.  Individual campsite checkout time is 10:00 a.m. Group shelters are available by reservation.  Each group shelter accommodates up to 40 people. Group shelter checkout time is 11:00 a.m.

Fishing - NMDGF publication on fishing in the Río Grande Gorge

Anglers on the Rio Grande or Red River will be challenged by brown trout, rainbow trout, or northern pike. All anglers 12 years or older must have a valid New Mexico fishing license. Anglers need to abide by fishing regulations and bag limits established by the state of New Mexico.

Hunting

The National Monument provides significant hunting opportunities; the area is particularly known for deer, antelope, and elk hunting. Hunters must have a valid hunting license from the state of New Mexico. 

Off-highway vehicles

Many miles of unimproved dirt roads are located within the National Monument. These routes provide recreational opportunities for motor vehicle touring as well as access for hunting, hiking, and camping. The primary access to the Taos Plateau is located near mile marker 401 on Highway 285. The dirt route is signed on the highway. Drivers need to exercise caution; high clearance and four wheel drive may be required depending on conditions and weather. Vehicles are limited to designated routes. Please obey all signs.  For more information, contact the Taos Field Office at the number provided below.

Picnicking

Both Wild Rivers and Orilla Verde have picnic areas with tables, grills, drinking water and restroom facilities.

Railroad

About 6½ miles of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad is located in the northwestern corner of the National Monument.  Built in the late 1800s, it was considered an engineering feat for the mountainous terrain through which it passes.  If you purchase a ticket for this private, historic, coal-fired, steam powered, narrow gauge train, you will experience two features of the railroad within the Monument: the Lava Loop which was used in the winter for turning snowplows and the Lava Water Tower, which was once used to water the steam engines, drawing water from the Río de los Pinos far below the mesa.

Scenic Driving

Several sections of the National Monument can be accessed and enjoyed by vehicle. 

  • The 13 mile paved Wild Rivers Backcountry Byway provides scenic vistas and recreational facilities northwest of the town of Questa. 
  • New Mexico Highway 570 travels alongside the Rio Grande for 6 miles north of the town of Pilar. 
  • Highway 64 spectacularly crosses the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge west of Taos.
  • Highway 285 passes through the NCA between Tres Pierdas, NM and Antonito, CO.  
  • A scenic loop may be driven by taking Highway 570 north of Pilar, continuing north when 570 becomes Highway 567 (upon crossing the bridge - the next 2 miles are gravel), turning right on County road 115 (West Rim Road), turning right on Highway 64, and in Taos, turning south on Highway 68 to return to Pilar. 

Swimming

Swimming is not recommended. The Rio Grande is dangerous due to swift currents and cold temperatures. To protect water quality, swimming is not allowed in freshwater springs. Nudity is not allowed in the recreation areas.

Trails

Wild Rivers

Hiking Wild Rivers Nature Trail is an easy interpretive loop along the canyon rims of the Red River and the Rio Grande at La Junta Point. The trail is approximately 1/2 mile long.

Hiking The La Junta Trail is 1 ¼ miles one-way with an elevation drop of 800 feet. It is moderate to difficult, providing spectacular views of and access to the confluence of Red River and Rio Grande.

Hiking, Horseback Riding Little Arsenic Springs Trail is ¾ miles one-way with an elevation drop of 760 feet. It is moderate to difficult providing access to the Rio Grande.

Hiking Big Arsenic Trail is 1 mile one-way with an elevation drop of 680 feet. It is moderate to difficult providing great views of the river, with access to cold-water springs, and petroglyphs.

Hiking, Horseback Riding The River Trail is 2 ½ miles one-way. It is relatively level, and easy to moderate providing a pleasant walk along the river. It connects with three other trails into the gorge, making a loop hike possible.

Hiking The Rios Bravos Trail is ¼ miles one-way level self-guided interpretive trail with views of the gorge.

Hiking El Aguaje Trail is ¾ miles one-way with an elevation drop 560 feet to the Red River. 

Hiking, Bicycling, Horseback Riding The Guadalupe Mountain Trail is 2 miles one-way with an elevation gain of 1,000 feet through tall pines and has cooler temperatures. It has great views of the Taos Plateau and surrounding mountains.

Hiking, Bicycling The Rinconada Loop Trail is an easy level 6 mile loop trail through sage and woods near the rim of the gorge.

Hiking The Chiflo Trail is ½ miles one-way providing the shorter access to river with a moderate elevation drop of 320 feet.

Hiking, Bicycling, Horseback Riding Red River Fault Trail is a 5 miles loop through piñon-juniper woods and open sage flats with views of Guadalupe Mountain.

Hiking, Bicycling, Horseback Riding Vistas de Questa

Orilla Verde | Orilla Verde Campground and Trail Map

Hiking La Vista Verde Trail is an easy 1 ¼ mile one-way trail offering wonderful views up to the gorge rim and down to the Rio Grande. The trailhead can be found on the north side of NM 567, mid-slope between the Taos Junction Bridge and the Gorge Rim.

Hiking, Bicycling, Horseback Riding The West Rim Trail is an easy to moderate 9 mile one-way trail. There are two access points:  the north trailhead located at the rest stop on the west rim of the Rio Grande just off of US 64. The south trailhead located just off of NM 567 at the north end of the Orilla Verde Recreation Area.

Hiking, Bicycling, Horseback Riding Petaca Point Trail is an easy to moderate trail. The trail is 8 miles round trip.

Hiking, Bicycling La Senda del Medio Trail begins at Pilar campground and follows the east side of the Rio Grande linking the Pilar, Rio Bravo, Arroyo Hondo, Lone Juniper and Petaca campgrounds. The trail is 2 ½ miles one way.

Hiking Picuris Trail is located east of Taos Junction Bridge to the east rim of the gorge. The views are spectacular. It’s an old stock route ¾ miles one-way. Hiking is difficult. 

Hiking, Bicycling The Slide Trail is former highway 570, now closed to vehicles because of a rock slide.  It’s a 1 ¼ mile long trail in the Rio Pueblo de Taos gorge. It’s an easy trail, except through the rock slide area.

Taos Valley Overlook | Taos Valley Overlook Trail Map

Hiking, Bicycling, Horseback Riding Trader's Trail is an easy 1 ¾ mile long downhill trail to the rim of the Rio Pueblo de Taos. Consider taking the Rift Valley Trail back to the trailhead. 

Hiking, Bicycling, Horseback Riding Klauer Trail is an easy 2 mile trail along the rim of the Rio Grande Gorge.

Hiking, Bicycling, Horseback Riding The Antonio S. Armijo Trail is an easy 2 ¼ mile long trail paralleling Highway 68. 

Hiking, Bicycling, Horseback Riding The Rift Valley Trail is a moderate 9 mile loop trail traversing the entirety of the Taos Valley Overlook area.

Hiking, Bicycling, Horseback Riding La Gijosa Trail is an easy 1 ¼ mile long trail which can be used as a cut off to shorten loop hikes/rides.

 


Interactive Map Tour
Take an Interactive Tour of the Monument

Photo Gallery (Flickr)

Hiking/Backpacking Mountain Bike Trail Kayaking Rafting Camping
Picnicking Fishing Horseback Riding Scenic Driving Hunting
Watchable Wildlife Visitor Centers Backcountry Byway

Monument Information

Presidential Proclamation 

Fact Sheet | Text Only
Created: March 25, 2013
Size: ~242,500 acres of public land

Plan Your Visit
Visitor Centers and Recreation Opportunities
Things to Know Before You Go:
Fees / Season / Hours

Contact Information
Taos Field Office
226 Cruz Alta Road
Taos, NM  87571-5983
575-758-8851

Wild Rivers Visitors Center
575-586-1150

Rio Grande Gorge Visitor Center
575-751-4899

Public Lands Information Center

2013 Manager’s Report


Click map to enlarge
Map of Rio Grande del Norte National Monument