The Northern New Mexico Loop – An Overview

The Northern New Mexico Loop is the creation of Brett Tucker that starts and ends in the historic Santa Fe Plaza.  For five-hundred or so miles, I’ll be exploring one of my absolute favorite places in the world: New Mexico.

An overview map of the Northern New Mexico Loop. Overview map courtesy of Brett Tucker.

Starting on August 2nd, I’ll be hiking this route, and I expect to finish later in the month.

Being a loop route, the logistics are easy: Park my car at a friend’s condo in Santa Fe, grab a delicious breakfast the following day, walk, end back in Santa Fe to have a celebratory meal and beer, shower, and drive back home to see my kick-ass partner that I miss quite a bit. 

The Pecos Wilderness.

Why the Northern New Mexico Loop?

My original plans involved walking from the Canadian border at the northern end of the Cohos Trail, cobbling together other trails, single track, old stage roads,  paved road walking, and ending on the Atlantic Coast of Rhode Island via the North-South Trail.   My youngest brother is getting married, and a New England trek of 500+ miles ending in my home state seemed a perfect way to spend some time before the wedding.

Blue Sutters Beach on the Atlantic Ocean and the end of the NST. From the Providence Journal.

However, my equally important adopted Boulder family invited me to a bar mitzvah earlier that same week. I am also honored to be on the family list. And I’ve seen Avery grow from an infant to the young man he is becoming today. No way would I miss that occasion. And it did not make sense to fly back and forth to Providence in such a short time.

So, instead, I am driving all of six hours away to Santa Fe and hiking a route that I wanted to explore for a few years now.

And what’s not to like about New Mexico? The food, history, culture, and exquisite scenery all add to a place I love. I look forward to seeing northern New Mexico one step at a time.

Did I mention the food????


A route that is a loop

Rio Grande Gorge in Wild Rivers Recreation Area


AS mentioned, this route a loop. I’ll begin and end in Santa Fe.  Though I’ve seen most (almost all?) of the places on this loop, I never get tired of northern New Mexico. And seeing them as part of a complete journey lets me get a feel for the land. And it hs been a while since I’ve seen some of these places.

To avoid the thunderstorms in the high country, I plan on saving the high peaks regions of the Sangres for later in the hike.

Among the highlights I’ll see:

Of course, I am starting and ending a the Sante Fe Plaza with its rich history and arguably the best food available for any long hike! 🙂

Zia symbol from the Painted Cave in Bandelier National Monument.

Maps and Navigation in general

I’ll primarily be navigating by:

  • Brett Tucker’s map set
  • Gaia GPS with GPX waypoints provided by Brett as well.

It helps I am reasonably familiar with the terrain I’ll be traveling through, too.

Resupply and food

Brett has an excellent town guide available with all the needed information. The town info and databook is available via email from Melissa and Brett.

Other than Ghost Ranch, I’ll be resupplying as I go. I’ll also mail some maps along the way.

Issues and Concerns

Having hiked most of the area and a good chunk of the route separately over the years, I do not expect to see an issue covering a reasonably moderate 20-25 MPD overall esp with the daylight available. In some areas such as Bandelier, I plan on slowing down as the cultural artifacts aren’t to be missed and I’ll savor them.

Depending on the snowmelt, fording the Rio Grande could be interesting esp getting into Bandelier.  It is August, so the water levels aren’t as high vs. earlier in the summer. On the other hand, the snowpack levels are high this year upstream in the San Juans; which means a lot of snowmelt. I don’t think I’ll need my poor man’s packraftbut I am bringing a small blow-up pool toy to for some flotation in this languid water.


On Mt. Peale. PCO Joan West.

What I always write… 😉

Yes, yes. The question everyone seems to ask for some reason[1]:  What gear am I using?  Eh..go here..pretty much the same.

I’ll be going stoveless.

[1] Imagine you enjoyed a delicious meal. You savored the ingredients. The conversation ended up being delightful. And that last sip of wine really tied it all together. A perfect evening with good company and dishes that delight the tongue.  And then someone starts a discourse on what kind of knife you used to chop the garlic or what pan you used to braise the vegetables.  Just sayin’…  🙂 


Can I justify a side trip into Los Alamos for the Bathtub Row Brewery?

I plan on posting updates about once a week.  Some updates will be more frequent, some less so. I’ll have a few photos per update.  I’ll upload the bulk of my photos when I finish the trip.

This trek is my third year in a row going on a roughly month-long hiking trip.  I like this lifestyle a bit better than the one in my recent past!

As always, many thanks to a few people…

  • Thanks to both Melissa Spencer and Brett Tucker for route information, maps, and getting all the needed data to me promptly. Appreciate it!
  • I must mention Pam M. for letting me stay in her condo in Santa Fe, keeping my car there, and resting up when I finish the loop. That’s such a tremendous help!
  • My many friends and family in my community for their constant encouragement and support during the past two years. A two-year span where I transitioned from an IT Monkey to whatever it is that I am doing currently. 🙂
  • And of course to Joan. A kick-ass hiker herself, my favorite hiking partner, and a person in the middle of her 500+ mile hiking journey. I am gleefully looking forward to seeing here again later in August.


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4 years ago

Via con Dios mi amigo! Have a great trip…I’d like to do th Jemez to Pecos section!
Can’t wait to hear about this!

Leo Adam
Leo Adam
4 years ago

And in the photo I see several items you has suggested quite a few times.
I got and did not spend anywhere near a fortune. Thanks for the suggestions.
• Nemesis shades
• True Spec Boonie
• ULA CDT pack.
Money well spent.
I bet/ know I could have spent 10Xs more and not improved the quality one iota more.
Thanks Paul.

4 years ago

Thanks for sharing the Loop.
After leaving Angel Fire be sure and check out Comanche Creek Brewing in Eagles Nest.
The Cruces Basin is a true gem.
I look forward to updates.

Todd Anderson
Todd Anderson
4 years ago

“To avoid the thunderstorms in the high country, I plan on saving the high peaks regions of the Sangres for later in the hike.” So you are going clockwise? And isn’t the monsoon season across the whole state? Is the Sangres de Cristo section much higher than the rest of the loop? I’m very interested because I like to avoid thunderstorms as much as possible and it might help me plan future trips in the area. Just finished a loop hike from 1-Aug to 3-Aug in the Pecos Wilderness and trying to take in the views and avoid the thunderstorms… Read more »

Todd Anderson
Todd Anderson
4 years ago
Reply to  Paul Mags

OK. Maybe I will get up there someday in late August or early September. Would love to be able to have the whole day to walk on the Skyline Trail. I can see why you like hiking those kind of ridges so much now. It was awesome – and my daughter’s favorite part of the trip 🙂 Now if I can just figure out how to get her some sleep out there… 🙂

Enjoy your hike on the loop!!

Scott Shaw
Scott Shaw
3 years ago

I had a backpacking trip planned to Northern California this fall with my daughter and friend, but the wildfires there have changed our plans. We are now looking at New Mexico, as none of us have ever back packed there and we are looking for some thing new. We are all experienced backpackers, and are looking for a 2 to 3 night moderate difficulty trip in some beautiful wilderness hopefully not too terribly far from Albuquerque which we would be flying in and out of. Any suggestions for us NM first timers?