Where to Wheel: New Mexico
Our Favorite Places to Offroad in New Mexico
Once you’ve got your truck together, and the trails start calling your name, where do you want to go? In this series, we’ve done the research for you. Today, we’re looking at the state of New Mexico, where there are mountain views like nowhere else in the good old United States.
Rio Bonito trail is located about an hour and a half west of Roswell, just outside of Alto. The trail is short, at just 3.7 miles, and most trucks will be able to take on the trail without too much of a challenge, assuming you’re working with even slightly higher than stock clearance.
If you’re looking for a little more than just challenging seat time when you’re out adventuring, Rio Bonito could be just what you’re looking for. This trail is unique in that it’s got an awesome opportunity for a detour on foot to petroglyph rock. Petroglyph Rock was once in the home Jornado Mongollon natives, who left the area many years ago. The only trace of their existence is the ancient etchings left in the rock. Take in the sights, take some pictures, and remember to tread lightly while you’re there.
Less than an hour outside of Taos, you’ll find the Goose Creek trail. Goose Creek is just over 7 miles in one way, and it’s a fairly easy trail that any truck should be able to handle. As you get closer to the end of the trail, it does get more difficult, but the obstacles you face will be worth it.
The trail ends at Goose Lake, which has campsites, an outhouse, and a great opportunity to catch your dinner from the lake. If you’re planning to fish while you’re out there, be sure to pick up a fishing license before you hit the dirt. To make the most of Goose Creek and Goose Lake, make sure you give yourself a full day. Even though you won’t spend the day wheeling, you’ll want plenty of time to relax and at least have lunch by the lake before you head home. This is a seasonal trail that is closed to vehicles of any kind during the winter months, so make sure the trail is open before you head that way.
About two hours south of Albuequerque, you can hop on the Monticello Canyon trail system. The trail takes a few hours to make it through, and it’s about 17 miles long. There are plenty of “water crossings” listed, but don’t sweat them. While you’ll technically cross the Alamosa Creek over 100 times, none of the crossings is over 12 inches wide in a normal season.
At the end of the trail, you’ll find yourself “stuck” in the Monticello Box, but it’s worth traversing your way out of. After the Box, you can follow a trail to the abandoned Ojo Caliente reservation. Park your truck and take some time to explore the area. It’s where Geronimo and his band of outlaw Apaches were arrested by John Philip Glum in 1874.
Though the trail isn’t super challenging, we’d recommend giving yourself a full day to enjoy the trail, do some exploring, and find your way back to where you started.
Backcountry Discovery Route
If you’re looking for a real overlanding adventure, the New Mexico Backcountry Discovery Route has everything you need. The trail starts just outside of Dell City, Texas, and runs over 1,200 miles north to the Colorado border. While there are no single track trails, some of the terrain can get rutted, and the weather changes the trail every week. Some spots in the trail are remote enough that they don’t see regular trail maintenance, so make sure you’ve got a wheeling buddy to help in case of emergency.
Along the trail, you can expect to hit high elevation mountain peaks, and run the beautiful desert landscapes that old western movies are made of. While there are typically gas stations reasonably accessible along the route, be sure to carry extra gas -- some of the small towns run out, and there are two spans where you can drive over 150 miles without gas. Primitive camping is common all along the trail, and there are plenty of organized campgrounds along the way as well. If you prefer hotels, first, we’re judging you, and secondly, call and book ahead. They’re small hotels, in small towns, and they book up fast during the peak months of June and September.
If you’ve got a week to kill, the New Mexico Backcountry Discovery Route is a great way to see this beautiful state in all its glory.
Before you go anywhere offroad, make sure you’ve got your truck loaded with the essentials, and don’t ever rely on strangers on the internet for navigation advice. Pick up a map on your way in, and know how to read it before you get there.
No matter where your adventures take you, when you’re ready to hit the trails, we’ve got all the gear and expertise you need. Call or email our helpful team of off road experts, and we’ll get all your questions answered so you can have a great time on the trails without worrying about all the details.