“A tough climb with a mountain-top finish; great views of Santa Fe and the surrounding area as a pay-off.
— Phil Lucero
If choosing to ride down one of the alternate routes be careful not to enter the Santa Fe Watershed, which is just north/northeast of Atalaya Mountain. The Santa Fe Watershed is a protected area of the forest that has been off limits to the public for 70-80 years.
Family Friendly: Tough for kids...but being outside is good for any family!
The trail begins in earnest off of Camino Cruz Blanca (just east of Wilderness Gate Rd.) but many park as far down as the St. John's College and ride up St. John's Trail to meet up with the Atalalya Mountain Trail.
The first portion is a relatively, steady climb with a few technical spots. You'll quickly meet up with the St. John's Trail. After you connect, it mellows out a bit, and you even get a brief downhill. Once you start climbing again, you'll eventually have the option to take the steeper, original route to the left or the newer bypass to the right. The bypass is the preferred route as the climb south is a great section of trail and the more intense climb north (after the switchback in the bypass) is where this trail starts to show it's teeth.
For the novice, this will likely be the start of the "hike-a-bike" portion of the trail that scares off many riders. The next 1.2 miles is steep and unforgiving. There are some technical sections that would require (arguably) all riders to dismount. Once you get to the top of the ridge, you take a sharp turn left and ride north toward some beautiful scenic view spots that make the ride well worth it!
From here, most riders ride back down the same way they came up, but there are other options as well (Dale Ball connecting trails, Sierra Pelada to Secret Agent and many others).
This is a VERY popular hiking trail on weekends so please use common sense when descending and be courteous to others that are out for a great day on the mountain!