Hiking in Los Alamos.
We have a lot of great trails right here in town (58 miles in total!), as well as around Los Alamos. Los Alamos trails app (http://peecnature.org/learn/los-alamos-trails-app/) is wonderful for navigation and information. PEEC nature center has free hiking maps of local trails. If none or few are on display, just ask the front desk, they have plenty extra in folders (lots of various maps). Los Alamos Visitor center has maps of trails as well. They also have free forest rangers maps, which are not usually on display, but available if you ask for them.
A word of caution. We live in a beautiful place, which we share with animals who used to live in this area for thousands of years. Los Alamos is a bear country. Bears are frequent visitors in Los Alamos. They were seen in all parts of town, including downtown and playgrounds. Occasionally mountain lions visit the town. Rattle snakes are native to Southwest, and can be seen on the ground, as well as in the trees. Be aware of coyotes, who live around the town. Coyotes are known to attack small dogs and cats in town. During the monsoon season (July-August) be prepared for thunderstorms in the afternoon. During the fire season (May-June) watch for smoke and keep in mind that fires spread fast here. During the windy day, choose trails with no or few trees, local trails often have to be cleaned from the fallen trees after strong winds we have here. Remember to bring extra water, as it's easy to get dehydrated here.
People who are new to Los Alamos, often choose to start with flat and easy trails, while they are getting used to our altitude. The easiest trail in town is the Rim trail, which connects two grocery stores in town. It goes from the trailhead next to the parking lot at Smith grocery store to the trailhead across from COOP grocery store. The trail is asphalt surfaced and has a pleasant view. When you make it to trailhead across from COOP, you can cross the road and go there for the coffee and ice cream, of fresh juice! It’s a nice, small, natural/organic shop.
For the views Tsankawi Village (need Bandelier pass, https://www.nps.gov/band/planyourvisit/tsankawi.htm) and Anniversary trail (https://www.hikingproject.com/trail/7022832/anniversary-trail-loop) are great. Anniversary trail doesn't stop at the bench, which marks the official end of it, the best part with the gorgeous views and large caves starts after the bench, just keep exploring :). Kwage mesa by the horse stables is another nice, easy trail, and the views are beautiful. It starts in the corner of the playground by the horse stable at North Mesa. Or go to arena and follow a wide road away from stables. The road and the trail go parallel. An easy and very beautiful trail is a Canyon Rim trail in White Rock. It starts in the Overlook park (make sure to see overlook too!). You will need to drive past the soccer fields and a playground, and on your right you will see a sign to the Blu Dot trail. Follow the sign, but at the trailhead turn Right and go to the edge of the canyon, you'll see a trail there. All trails above are hot during daytime in summer. Good trails close to downtown that offer some shade are trails in Acid Canyon behind the swimming pool. They will require climbing some steps, but not too hard. Our ski area is beautiful, and has trails which are also mostly easy and offer some shade.
The area around Los Alamos has many beautiful trails as well! Fall through Spring some great places to explore are Ghost ranch, Plaza Blanca, Abique lake area, Tent Rocks, and of course, Bandelier. The main loop in Bandelier is easy, and a trail to the falls is also good. Jemez area is local favorite place to go for hikes. It's best Spring through Fall, when it's too hot at other trails. We do have fires there often, so be mindful of that when hike. Fires spread very fast here and it can be challenging to outrun a fire. Check https://nmfireinfo.com/ for any fires in the area you are planning to hike in. Great places to hike in Jemez are Las Conchas trail (so pretty, it's been in a movie!), it's just past Valles Caldera. Valles Caldera has nice trails too, and they are not hard, unless you'll go up the South Mountain, which has some elevation gain. Many good trails are around Jemez Falls, East Fork trail to Las Conchas, Battleship Rock trails, and trails off the Forest Road 376. San Antonio Hot Springs is a popular destination, about 9 miles hike both ways (there are at least 3 different trails leading there, all are very different)..
One of my favorite trails is the Red Rocks trail across from Walatowa Visitor center past the village of Jemez Springs. It's very much like Sedona, and is a sacred place for the Jemez tribe (but they allow hikes, they are $7 per person with the guide). I love the drive there too, especially amazing in fall - rust colored rocks and bright yellow cottonwoods. Our forests were damaged by the fires from Los Alamos to Valles Caldera, but the drive gets beautiful closer to Lu Cueva. Make sure to call ahead of time if you'll go to the Red Rocks, as sometimes they are closed for the movies shooting.
We have many beautiful drives here too, I like a road to Abique lake, and a drive to Cuba through La Cueva, and back through Jemez Springs. The part of it before Cuba is like Colorado, and the part past Cuba are rust and red mesas.
When I have visitors from out of state, and they only have one day to explore, I show them my favorite places along hwy 4. I will include it here in case you want to see a little bit of everything in 1-2 days. Our route looks like this:
1st stop - Valles Caldera (30 minutes from downtown). We just stop and admire the view. It is a fun place to hike when you have more time, has various trails. Sometimes we get a free permit and drive farther to explore. There is an amazing black obsidian trail there. Many black obsidian rocks grouped together. There are designated parking spots along the road there, where you can get out and explore. Bicyclists love Vales Caldera, as you can bike and hike there. The stuff is super friendly there, if they are not busy, they can give you a free ride in a van, and then pick you up.
2nd stop - Las Conchas trail. The trailhead is on the right, a few minutes past Valles Caldera. Do not confuse with the Las Conchas fishing access trail, which is before that. Las Conchas trail is a beautiful, very popular trail. At the end you can get to a longer trail and keep going for a while.
3rd stop - Soda Dam. 55 minutes from Los Alamos. Amazing rock formations and a small waterfall. Popular spot.
4th stop. Lunch at the Village of Jemez Springs (1 hr from Los Alamos). Los Ojoes has the best food, but I usually go to Hwy 4 Coffee shop, they are faster, and have tasty pastries. Jemez Stage Stop often has live music, the rumor is that Mike, the owner, bought the restaurant so that he can play his music there :) I go there with my son for music, live chickens and goats and the view. Their pies are also good.
5th stop. Gillman tunnels. About 15-20 minutes past the village. Turn right to 485 from hwy 4. A Beautiful drive to tunnels, especially in fall, and the tunnels themselves are very impressive. Sometimes they are closed for movies shooting. If you have time and continue going, you'll come to FR 376. This road is beautiful (needs a high clearance vehicle) and has many trails to explore. You can also get to it from hwy 126 off hwy 4 as well. This area is great in summer, popular for free camping and hiking.
6th stop. Red Rocks trail. Back to hwy 4, drive for about 5 more minutes. Stop at of Jemez Welcome center (former Walatowa Visitor center, 1hr 15 min from Los Alamos) and ask for a guide (Antony) to take you to the Red Rocks trail ($7 per person). The trail can be closed for movies, so good to call ahead to make sure they are open. The area of the trail is considered by the tribe to be a sacred land. The trail is very much like Sedona, most people who I take there, tell me it's the best thing they saw in NM.
7th stop. We are turning back here, unless you want to explore
the Ponderosa winery, which is a little farther the hwy 4. By that time people
are usually ready for the hot springs! Giggling Springs is a popular place. Jim
is the guy who runs it, fun to talk to, loves to hike and knows the area really
well. Some think that Giggling Springs are overpriced compare to Ojo Caliente,
but they are the only hot springs in the area, that are hot and Easily
Also, if you like to hike in groups, we have hiking groups in
town. Los Alamos Mountaneers is one of them, they organize longer hikes and hiking trips. The best local book on trails is a book
by Craig Martin. It is usually available at PEEC and History museum. For out of
print books on hiking, our local book shop at the library is a good source.
Craig sometimes leads hikes from PEEC, and probably knows our area better than
anybody else. If you like archaeological hikes, this site is a good source of
Some other links to local trails are: