Santa Fe, New Mexico, is a mountain biker’s haven

When the conversation of mountain biking destinations comes up, the usual suspects are always mentioned: Moab, Whistler, Crested Butte, Sedona, Banff, Brevard and so on. Every once in a while, Santa Fe gets a nod, but after spending a week cruising its trails, we think it deserves to be mentioned with the rest.

White Ridge Trails just south of Santa Fe. Photo by David Sandel, DavidSandel.com

The White Ridge Trails, just south of Santa Fe. Photo: David Sandel

With well over 100 miles of trails within an hour’s driving distance from the city center, on varying terrain from fast, flowing flats to bomber downhills and technical climbs, Santa Fe has anything and everything any mountain biker could want in a weeklong getaway (or longer).

Dale Ball Trail: Close to town

Believe it or not, some of the best trails in Santa Fe are just a 10-minute drive from almost anywhere in the city. The Dale Ball Trail System is an interconnected network of about 23 miles.

Difficulty ranges anywhere from beginner to advanced, but for the most part it’s a cardio challenge. With technical, switchback-y climbs and long flat sections, you’ll get your workout for the day. Of course, there are some fast and short downhill sections to keep things interesting too. Did we mention it’s 95 percent singletrack?

La Tierra Inner and Outer Loop: Another classic

Hitting a gap at sunset on La Tierra. Photo: Courtesy of Singletracks.com

Between Dale Ball and La Tierra, there is no shortage of after-work or lunch-break rides close to the city. This is another fun, moderate system with about 25 miles of trails.

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It’s mostly singletrack, but there are a few fire and access roads you can take as well. Some parts can get loose and sandy, but the amount of flat land makes this a year-round trail that can be done with snow on the ground too. If you’re looking for fun, the outer loop has corner berms, gap jumps, tabletops and a little more.

Windsor/Borrego/Discount/Saddleback: Alpine views

The aspens on Windsor Trail in the fall provide a scenic backdrop for the great downhill riding. Photo: Courtesy of Singletracks.com

These trails are located in the mountains of Santa Fe National Forest, near Ski Santa Fe resort. The main trail is Windsor, a 15-mile, steep out-and-back (or shuttle-worthy screamer downhill). Borrego, Discount and Saddleback are additional out-and-back branches connected to Windsor and offer more steep, technical climbing and views of the aspen-filled valleys below.

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Because these trails are located in the mountains (10,291 feet at the highest elevation), you’ll have to wait for the snow to melt before you can get on them. But once you do, you’ll realize they were worth the wait.

Dead Dog Trail: If you need to try something new

Sixteen miles outside of town in Diablo Canyon — a climbing destination in and of itself — is a 21-mile loose, sandy trail system with sections of some of the most technical rocky terrain around Santa Fe. Despite the acceptable distance from town, it will still take close to an hour to get to Diablo Canyon.

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It’s protected by 7 miles of heinous washboard dirt road. But once you’re there and make it through the long, sandy ascent, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views of the Rio Grande from the top of the canyon.

White Ridge Trails: Worth the drive

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The White Ridge trails are also sometimes called the White Mesa trails. They’re about an hour southwest of Santa Fe, but worth the drive. The system is about 8.5 miles of mostly moderate trails with gentle, non-technical climbs and flats and downhills that are fast and flow extremely well.

But they’re not completely for beginners. There are a few branches that provide a true black-diamond experience that could lead you to taking your bike for a walk instead of a ride.