This is some of the most beautiful hiking in the Taos area!
Questa offers river chasms, forest streams, hidden meadows, and mountaintop lakes; expect wildlife!
Rio Grande del Norte National Monument
Here is where you’ll find the rare river access down into the gorge; in the ‘Wild Rivers‘ area. Enjoy the dramatic open scenery, well-
marked trails, and facilities along the paved loop road. (Turn left/west onto hwy 378 2.6m north of Questa’s traffic light.)
The Big Arsenic Springs trail leads down to where the spring flows into the Rio Grande; a perfect picnic spot, with petroglyphs just another 1/4m upriver. La Junta Trail is a very steep route to the joining of the Red River and Rio Grande, but a stunning hike. Less rigorous trails meander through the open landscape above the river gorge, including the Vistas de Questa trail that runs from the north side of our village into the quiet heart of the monument.
Find more information HERE, or phone their visitor center at 575-586-1150.
The Carson National Forest
Meadows, streams, wild flowers and cool forests define these trails between Questa and Red River on Highway 38.
Columbine Creek / Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Area
Columbine Canyon is a favorite for short or long excursions. Hike along the creek, picnic in meadows of wildflowers, or continue all the way (way) over the mountain to Taos Ski Valley.
Cabresto Lake / Latir Peaks Wilderness Area
Cabresto Lake, just NE of Questa is a beautiful mountain lake with ideal fishing, canoeing, and hiking. Heart Lake is a farther 5m hike off the north end of Cabresto Lake, with an added mile to the ridge that looks out over the whole Questa area. This route is the southern approach to the broad vistas of the Latir Lakes area of Rio Costilla Park. (access INTO the park is from the north.)
Find more information on the National Forest HERE, or phone the Questa Ranger Station Mon.-Fri. at 575-586-0520.
Rio Costilla Park
The park is high in the mountaintops that overlook our area. Permits to enter this private park can be obtained at the park office just 1m off highway 522 after turning onto highway 196 at the crossroads in Costilla. This is about a half-hour north of Questa, with the park entrance another half-hour’s drive.
Find more information HERE, or phone 1-800-RIO-PARK.
Further afield along route 196 are the remote and beautiful valleys of the Valle Vidal, back in the Carson National Forest. Satisfy all your cravings for solitude by planning at least an overnight camp in these two areas!
There are several opportunities for guided hikes
Rangers at the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument offer hikes on Saturday mornings throughout the summer. Call their visitor center at 575-586-1150 for current schedule.
Wild Earth AdventuresWild Earth Llama Adventures guides hikers and campers throughout our surrounding area with fluffy llamas carrying all your gear!
Find details HERE or call 1 (800) 758-LAMA
Please know you are in wild country. Following some basic guidelines will help ensure pleasure vs. tragedy:
Wear hiking boots that cover your ankles. There are rattlesnakes here; they hide amid rocks you may be stepping over and in tall grass. If you are in running shoes or sports sandals, do stay on clear, wide trails.
Bring a full water bottle (or two) even for what seems the shortest outing. The air here is VERY dry and the wind increases your dehydration. You will not sweat like you do in a more humid climate as a cue to hydrate.
Drink before you feel thirsty. Do this; and you may avoid the headaches of altitude sickness.
Speaking of altitude; wear a sunhat (not just a ball cap). At the 7-8,000’ altitudes here the air is very thin and sunburn occurs very quickly.
If hiking alone; let someone know exactly what trail you are taking and when to expect a call back from you with an “all clear.” The Forest Service, the National Monument and Rio Costilla all have a visitor centers or an office where you can inform someone of your plans. A good idea even if in a group!
Do not let children run down steep trails. Hiker deaths from falling into the gorge have occurred, believe it or not. Avoid injuries when you are a long, steep distance to a car.
Keep your group close together with a larger person at the front and at the rear, especially if your group includes children. In the lead position; a bear could be surprised, and at the rear; a cougar may stalk a small child lagging behind. Wild animals don’t want confrontation. Don’t surprise them, don’t act like ‘prey’ (i.e. being small, or running).
Keep your dog on a leash. Dogs can run ahead and surprise a bear, or try to fight a wildcat, or, get scared and run back to you, with the frightened wild animal in pursuit. On a strong leash, a dog can however be a good alert that you are not alone on a trail. Beware there are traps and snares in the woods!
If you do encounter a bear or wildcat; back away slowly, and hike somewhere else. If the animal has been upset and pursues you; raise your shirt up with arms as tall as you can be, make noise, and, throw stones if necessary. Fight an attack vs. running.
Never toss a cigarette onto the ground! (This includes out car windows.) Wildfire is our ‘natural disaster’ out west. During long-term droughts, moisture levels in our grasses and trees are very low. Our summer temperatures have been 10° hotter than average for the last decade or more. Sagebrush is full of oils and can take off like a torch from one small spark.
Remember, you will be hiking without cell-phone reception in many places, and far from the closest source of help. You are it. Enjoy this rarity, and respect it.