Ride Report – Dale Ball Trails: Santa Fe, New Mexico


As you may know, I spent much of Jan-March training, prepping, and testing gear for the Arizona Trail 300 race.

My loaded One9, shakedown testing for the AZT back in February.

Late in March, an amazing job opportunity arose that I couldn’t pass up- so I had to put the AZT on hold.  This is the first “teaser” of Longmire, which will start airing on June 3rd.  I’ve been working over 60 hours a week, and we’re all very proud of the show, so check it out!!

Luckily, we are filming in gorgeous Santa Fe, NM- and I’ll be living here until early July.  Can’t believe I’ve already been here for over a month.  The stages and production office are only 5 miles from my house, so I ride to work whenever I can (usually a couple days a week – we are on location most of the time).  So stoked to be a bike commuter!!  In addition, I’m having a ton of fun immersing myself in the plethora of mountain biking around town.  Santa Fe sits at 7,000′ elevation, and I can ride out of my house to the main trail system of the area- The Dale Ball Trails.  This intricate network of trails is very well marked, and a great way for hikers and bikers to get out and enjoy nature without having to drive far to get it.  It’s roughly broken into 3 sections – North, Central, and South. 

My bike is set up with the rigid fork, which is really helping me finesse my descending skills… and I’ve now ridden just about every inch of the Dale Ball system and much of the connecting network, which includes lots of the “Santa Fe Big Friggin Loop” – here’s my take on some of the local trails:

One trailhead close my house is actually at St. John’s College, and is called the Atalaya Mountain Trail.

This is where the climbing up Atalaya gets nuts.

This is NOT a singlespeed friendly trail- very steep and techy, lots of hike-a-bike- which usually I don’t mind.  Maybe I was geared a little heavy, but I just didn’t feel I was having that much fun hammering out of the saddle the whole time.  No wonder I saw lots of hikers on the trail,  yet not a single bike.  You gain over 1,600′ in just 3 miles, mostly in the last 2 miles.  It’s no joke.  However, once at the top of Atalaya Mountain, you’re rewarded with gorgeous views back down to the city of Santa Fe.

View of Santa Fe from the top of Atalaya Mountain

It’s worth it do to once, but definitely not my favorite.  From what I hear, most people do it as an out-n-back, so they at least they get the reward of going DOWN Atalaya (but there are so many hikers, you really can’t let it rip anywhere).  I chose to extend the ride by connecting with the Southern Dale Ball trails.  Although more fun than the climb up Atalaya, I’d still only rate this riding as OK.  Nothing amazing, some great singletrack sections here and there.  But to get to them, more hike-a-bike and so-so riding.  Some very tight spots with trees, and my wide bars did not always agree as they got hooked up on a couple of occasions.  But hey, beggars can’t be choosers, and I still enjoyed the riding.  More great views at Pacheco Peak.  The switchbacks in this area hardly feel as if they were created with mountain biking in mind- a few pretty dicey ones.  But once you get down to Upper Canyon Rd. and join with the Central Dale Ball System – it gets GOOD.  REAL GOOD.  The Central and Northern sections of Dale Ball are my kinda riding!  Singletrack, fun, mixed climbing with some speedy, techy descending.  If I only had one day to ride in Santa Fe, this is where I’d be.   You can do all kinds of loops, and everything is fun both ways.  Going up Trail 27 at the parking area of Cerro Gordo is a great place to start, and you can do no wrong.  Just ride.  There are so many trail intersections and with signs and maps you can’t really get lost.  Have fun trying.

Once you wear out the Dale Balls (yeah, that sounds funny), all you have to do is start pedaling up Hyde Park Rd for a bit, and you reach another great trail- The  Chamisa Trail.  After a steep, couple mile climb, you hit a “Y” – Sidewinder Trail up to the left, stay on Chamisa and go down to Windsor Trail on right.  You can’t go wrong here.  Sidewinder is a blast, and the rest of the descent on Chamisa down to Windsor is a blast.

View from Sidewinder Trail

All GOOD.  Windsor is also great.  Yesterday, I rode it from the trailhead at County Road 72A up to the Ski Resort.  It’s about 3,400′ of climbing over 10 miles.  Most people get shuttled to the top and ride down.  With good reason!  Lots of creek crossings (at least 13), tons of beauty, and a total lung buster to climb.  LOVED IT!

An aspen grove on the way up Windsor. Nice spot for a break.

If you don’t want to go all the way up, you can bail out at Bear Wallow or Borrego Trail, both fun- and that’ll get you back to Hyde Park Road for a pleasant cruise back down to town.

One of the many crossings of Tesuque Creek on Windsor Trail

Intersection of Windsor and Chamisa

Now that the snow is melted, I plan on checking out the Aspen Vista Trail.  I also wanna hit the brand new La Piedra Trail that connects Dale Ball North with Windsor.  I’ll probably head up to Taos in the next couple of weeks to see whats going on up there.

Life is good.  Bikes kick ass.

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1 Response to Ride Report – Dale Ball Trails: Santa Fe, New Mexico

  1. Pingback: Ride Report: Glorieta Baldy – Ice Cream Cone Loop -Santa Fe, NM | Dirty Teeth – Alan's Mountain Biking Adventures

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