“This scenic loop is a great low (7200') elevation ride for when the snows arrive to higher ground.
— Peter Lamont
Like most of the trails here in the high desert, winter brings snow, and hellatious mud. I wouldn't ride this in wet conditions.
Horsethief is a great loop along the east side of the Rio Grande Gorge. Quite suitable for spring and fall, when the snows arrive on, or are slow to depart from, the higher mountain rides in the area. Great fun for an intermediate rider... all the way to a hammerhead. Down and up, and all around.
Go fast! Or simply soak in the vistas with friends.
Need to Know
You'll want to park outside the gate at the highway. When the transfer station closes... so does the gate! Don't get locked in.
This loop can be ridden either way. When the prevailing SW winds are present, a clockwise direction will have the wind at your back along the rim. Often it is ridden both ways. Just turn around, and go the other way at the junction of the dirt road!
From the gate at the entrance to County Road B-008 ride about 150 feet in and look for a fence post on the right, the singletrack begins just before this post. This mile-long trail bypasses the dirt road that is the older access route, it crosses another road behind the transfer station at about 0.35 miles and continues through pinon and juniper forests, then an open sage field before joining the Horsethief Mesa Loop.
About a mile along, you'll reach the loop. Go right for counter-clockwise, or left and pass the intersection of the old doubletrack. If you ride clockwise there's a couple flowing miles down to the rim of the gorge. At mile 3 you'll see a s-track hard left. Take this out and back a mile each way, if you've enough time. Great view of the John Dunn bridge from there.
If not you'll soon swing right onto the rim (N) and begin your first of many small, and sometimes challenging climbs. There will be a short section of doubletrack from which keep a sharp eye out for the singletrack going left behind a tree (small rock cairn).
There are lots of places to stop along the way. There is another left spur along the rim, but it does not go very far at all. Stay to the right and travel away from the rim to get around a large drainage (arroyo).
When in doubt stay on the singletrack as it crosses the occasional road grade. This is New Mexico... don't expect a lot of signage. :-) Have fun!