“New Mexico's highest alpine ride with stellar views and lots of classic mountain singletrack.
— J. Bella
Northside at Taos Ski Valley is a privately owned recreational trail system on Bull of the Woods and Frazer mountains, maintained by a couple avid bikers and local volunteers. Permits cost $10 per day or $50 seasonally, and can be bought at a trailhead kiosk 1/4 mile up from the property boundary gate, and at some local shops; ridenorthside.com/
Northside is open dawn to dusk from mid to late June through October, weather permitting.
Surrounded by wilderness areas, Northside offers some of New Mexico's best legally rideable high alpine terrain. Trails on Bull of the Woods Mountain extend up and around to the west side of Frazer Mountain, providing access to some great views of Taos Ski Valley, the Williams Fork Mountains, and the Columbine Hondo Wilderness to the north. The highest trail peaks out at 12,163 ft. on Frazer Mountain with 360° views extending from Wheeler Peak and La Cal Basin to the San Juans and northern Sangre de Cristos.
The rides here incorporate old mining roads with mountain singletrack built for bikes. Some of the terrain is steep, with a few intense climbs and a couple hike-a-bike sections, all of which lead to exciting downhills. The trail system offers lots of different routes including easier, shorter loops on the lower half of the mountain to compliment the longer, more burly long-distance rides that this trail system provides.
The Wildflower Alpine Loop is one of the moderate rides and can be done in a few hours or less, or it can be a longer scenic ride with stops at the many beautiful overlooks.
Need to Know
It's worth bringing a camera on this ride. Check out maps of this and surrounding areas at Gearing Up Bike Shop and Taos Cyclery in Taos. Atop Bull of the Woods and Frazer Mountains' connecting ridge there are views of the Middle Fork Trail/Forest Road 487
and East Fork to Lost Lake
The Wheeler Peak Trail
crosses Northside and continues into the Wheeler Peak Wilderness on the east side of Frazer's summit ridge, there is a sign where the trail enters the Wilderness (do not ride past hte sign) and it's a short uphill hike to the right toward the summit and the trails leading down the west side.
Post ride, the Stray Dog Cantina is a great spot to end your ride with a margarita or local beer and some great New Mexican food, and the Box Canyon gift shop has lots of cool and unique artwork from locals.
This loop was designed as a clockwise route, yet can be ridden in either direction with variations and lots of sweet downhill descents, in case the incredible views and gratifying climbs aren't enough to satisfy your high alpine desires.
The ride begins in the Twining Campground parking lot in TSV. Ride up Twining road, turn left on Phoenix Switchback and continue to the entry gate to Northside. Take the trail around the gate on the right and continue 1/4 mile to the kiosk, permits and maps are available here. The Bull of the Woods Road
climbs beyond the kiosk for nearly a mile, up two steep climbs known as the 1st and 2nd Mothers, then clears a bank as it turns right into Jean's Meadow.
Catch your breath here on the smooth glide across the meadow and climb .1 mile to a trail junction. Sawmill Trail
is on the left and Gold Camp on the right. Take Sawmill Trail
, follow the singletrack along old mining roads. It will join with the Steam Engine Trail
then cross a shallow stream where Columbines and other wildflowers are abundant at the peak of summer. Continue up the forested singletrack a ways, cross the road onto Redi's Run
, climb through more forest and cross the road again onto Antoine's Corner
. Ride along this trail until you reach the Red River Overlook.
Continue up Bull of the Woods Road
to the short Sheep Herder's Trail on the left. Climb this short, steep section or continue on the road a couple hundred feet to the junction with the Malachite Trail
. Ride up this trail as it climbs the higher slopes of Bull of the Woods Mountain, passing old mines before opening up into the high alpine. There's a short, rocky trail leading to Bull of the Woods' summit on the right, continue straight across the saddle onto the Wheeler Peak Trail
above steep avalanche chutes dropping into glacial valleys. Ride through a short rocky section, then upwards as the trail climbs towards Frazer's northern slopes.
Take the right fork onto another rocky section then into the forest where the trail becomes smoother. When you come to the sharp left switchback, take the narrower trail leading right through some thick trees, this is the High T. Ride this as it traverses below Frazer's north point onto the western slopes, opening up with some amazing views of Kachina Peak and Lake Fork Mountain. When you reach the doubletrack at Frazer Mountain Road
, turn right to continue the loop on the western trails, or to add some mileage take the optional ride left up to Frazer's summit, then return to the junction with the High T.
After dropping a ways from the High T, the road levels out on a flat overlook, enjoy the view (there's a bench by a tree on the right) then continue down the road to the left, ride across an open overlook above the ski area, then watch for the Ox Cart
Trail on the right. This trail is steep and fairly smooth, watch your speed and use both brakes as needed; this section can get really fast. Ride past the Deer
and Drainage Trail junctions to cross the Frazer Mountain Road
onto the Overlook Trail
. This is one of the gems on this ride, a smooth and flowing, curvy, and beautiful trail through aspen glades, which are usually either sunny and colorful or mystically stormy.
After rejoining the Frazer Mountain Road
from Overlook for a quick downhill section, drop left onto Dark Trail. Pop out back onto the road and continue descending a fast stretch of doubletrack. Ride up to a high point, turn left onto Late Afternoon and cruise the short loop on the sunny side of the ridge, around right back to below the entry. Ride down the road to a "Y" junction, turn left and then drop onto Gold Camp. Watch your speed as you approach Hike-a-Bike, a steep, gnarly but rideable drop onto a turn. Hike down this pitch if needed, then cruise along an old mining road, flow down a switchback, then ride out through a rolling, mossy forest.
Ride down the road back to the gate, then down the village roads to the parking lot.
History & Background
In the late 1800's, this area was developed as working copper and gold mines known as Twining and Amizette. Not much gold was discovered after a few promising strikes, then geologists determined the area wasn't likely to produce much besides the few isolated pockets that had been found. Much more copper was produced, but there were problems with equipment and production halted in 1903, then issues arose regarding use of funds by some investors and Albert C. Twining was convicted of embezzlement. Later, the founder of the mines, William Frazer, formed a partnership with Jack Bidwell who accused him of stealing their investment cash, an argument ensued and Frazer was shot and killed.
A few decades later, the area was discovered by Ernie Blake on his flights between Santa Fe and Carbondale and he envisioned an alpine ski area, and Taos Ski Valley was founded, which has now led to some awesome trails here despite the abundance of wilderness surrounding this region of the Sangres.