I’ve been in New Mexico for a few weeks now, getting into the swing of work. Easter weekend snuck up on me, and I totally forgot that I have Good Friday off from work. Score!! Hmmm… what to do… what to do… can’t let a perfectly good 3-day weekend go to waste, right? step 1: Fold the back seats down and pop the trunk on my steezy Chrysler 200 C rental buggy. Step 2: Pull the front wheel off my bike and shove that bad boy in back. Step 3: Load some clothes and other superfluous crap, and drive 210 miles to Durango. Boom. Road trip on.
While driving past White Mesa, one of my favorite rides on the planet, it was hard not to do a last minute e-brake slide and slam off the highway as I was jonesin’ to go ride. But I decided to try something new. Just a few miles up the road is Red Mesa (technically, it’s the San Ysidro Trails Area, but everyone calls it Red Mesa). I’d heard mixed reviews about Red Mesa – and after riding there, I can understand why. It’s primarily a trail network designed for motocross bikes. I use “trail network” loosely, as the design was probably created by someone throwing a bunch of spaghetti against a wall to determine if it was al dente. There are no luxuries such as trail maps or names. There are generic signs and cairns all over the place, and a lot of cacti so beware. This is like the wild west for mountain biking. Pretty much, you just get on your bike and explore. You can always see White Mesa, and you know that your car is parked between here and there. You can’t get too lost. Not for everyone. Luckily, exploration by bike is my jam.
After a short warmup climbing a fire road, you can branch off on the real stuff. Next thing you know, you’re on some pretty sweet singletrack. You can ride for hours (I only rode for one) going in and out of singletrack, sandy washes, and slickrock. Some of the riding is top notch, with roller coaster climbs linked to white knuckle descents and fun techy slickrock bits. Some of it, not so much. There are some grades that only 2-stroke love will push you up. Again, the key word is exploration. A fully rigid SS is not the appropriate bike at all for this terrain, but I’m used to that. Most would prefer a fully with 6″ of squish here. With all the rock ledges, shale and techy areas, this really is a great spot if you’re looking to improve your bike handling skills, especially technical climbing.
If you don’t know the area, you can get into some trouble navigating. But there are some super fun areas if you know where to look. I didn’t know where to look. So, I had to learn the hard way- hiking out of a few washes and steep rocky sections. However I also slipped into some slickrock gems and fast, fun descents. I can imagine that locals who learn this network have a blast here. Don’t get me wrong, I had fun. However, for the average touron like me, who is just passing through and is itching to get a fun bike ride in… I would go across the highway to White Mesa and jump on a pristine singletrack trail network that is well-signed and more suited to mountain bikes. Just my two cents.
Anyhoo… I still had to hit the fabled Alien Run in Aztec before getting to Durango… off to the next 🙂
P.S. – If you decide to ride Red Mesa, the parking area is a little tough to find without some help. It’s just off the 550 as you’re heading north, a few miles after the turn for White Mesa. I used the Singletracks App and my iPhone to get to the parking, and I suggest you do the same. It was a little farther up the highway than the GPS told me, but still helped a bunch.