Junta Canyon Highpoint
Forest Road 76 through La Junta Canyon goes from near the Sipapu Ski Area over to Angel Fire. We decided to ride out and back to the highpoint making for a 26 mile ride with 3227’ of climbing. The highpoint of our ride was 11,314’.
There isn’t much to this ride, we started at the beginning of the canyon and rode out and back along the gravel. It’s a very popular camping area and most spots were full of people still waking up when we rode by. It’s a beautiful setting with pine and fir trees, aspens, a year round stream, and lots and lots of open space. The shaded parts were pretty chilly since the sun hadn’t fully peaked into the canyon yet.
After the first 9 miles or so, the road gets a bit rough and rocky and passenger cars aren’t recommended. We continued climbing up to the summit and took an offshoot to get higher up on a little knoll. There are sooooo many trees in this area that it’s hard to get a surrounding view but we got a couple peekaboo views of the Sangre de Cristos and then back down the valley we climbed up.
This could make a terrific multi-day loop with night stopovers in Angel Fire and Taos. The road was incredibly quiet in the morning and we didn’t see any other cyclists. I can see the area being very busy on the weekends with ATV traffic. Luckily, we rode this on a weekday and had it to ourselves.
Vadito/Penasco El Camino Loop
From camp we road an exploratory loop up towards Picurus Peak and then down forest road 469 into Vadito. From here we took the road a little ways to the next tiny town of Penasco before turning around. Our loop was 21.5 miles with 2700′ of climbing.
Once again, we didn’t come across anybody else on these old abandoned logging roads. There are so many miles of forested gravel and dirt roads around here. 469 was a rugged rocky washed out overgrown road for most of the way. From the top it was 4 miles of descent down into little Vadito. After taking the road into Penasco we turned around and started back. This time we rode the El Camino Real back up; the oldest trail in the United States.
The shady forest was a nice treat because the forecast was for 86 degrees. The trail winds along beside a creek though it is barely a trickle. A couple piles of bear poop kept me extra alert on this narrow path. This was our last ride in Taos and we’ll miss it.
Because of the pandemic, we haven’t spent time doing some of the things we intended back when we planned coming to the area. But we did get up early one morning and head into the Plaza area to look around before there was any bustle. It’s really cute!