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Trail Guide: Mountain Biking the South Boundary Trail in NM

Discover the thrill of mountain biking New Mexico’s South Boundary Trail. This comprehensive guide provides tips, routes, & essential ride info.

Mountain biker riding through aspen grove on South Boundary Trail in New Mexico

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New Mexico is kind of under the radar for mountain biking (and frankly a lot of other outdoor adventures), but it’s actually home to some awesome riding. One of the most iconic trails in New Mexico is the South Boundary Trail.

Located just a short drive from the quirky town of Taos and one of my favorite bike parks of all time, Angel Fire, the South Boundary Trail is a designated IMBA Epic ride that starts at 10,500 ft and slowly makes its way for 21 miles down the slopes of Mt. Osha.

While it’s not my favorite trail in the world, shuttling the South Boundary Trail is definitely worth a go if you’re in the Taos area for a few days. The trail traverses through beautiful aspen forests, along diverse singletrack (the last four miles are pretty full-on), and has a great remote, backcountry feel.

Sound like your type of riding? Read on to plan your pedal on the South Boundary Trail in New Mexico.

The South Boundary Trail at a Glance

Remote backcountry riding, beautiful aspen groves, over 4,500 ft of descending… these stats are for shuttling the South Boundary Trail.

  • Location: Taos, New Mexico
  • Trail network: Mt. Osha
  • Distance: 21 miles
  • Rideable time: 99%
  • Fitness level: Moderate
  • Skill level: Intermediate
  • e-bikes? No
  • Ride style: Cross-country/All-Mountain
  • Elevation gain: 2,034
  • Elevation loss: 4,804 ft
  • High point: 10,730 ft
  • Singletrack: 80%
  • Time needed: 2-4 hours of ride time
  • Ease of navigation: Moderate**

*As measured by my Garmin Fēnix watch
**I always recommend having TrailForks or MTB Project downloaded to your phone

Watch Huntstyle ride the SBT

Important Things to Know

Mountain biking the South Boundary Trail is awesome, but there are a few things to know before hitting the trail:

  • e-bikes are NOT allowed: E-bikes are not allowed on the SBT. Please respect this.
  • The elevation: The South Boundary Trailhead sits at around 10,000 feet and the trail immediately climbs to 10,700 feet. You’ll probably be gasping for breath and pedaling (or more likely walking) slowly. Take your time and if you start to feel dizzy rest for a bit before continuing on.
  • Climbing: Despite being a shuttled ride, the South Boundary Trail actually has a substantial amount of climbing. There is over 2,000 ft of elevation gain in total (with a brutal 1.5-mile grind up a rock-studded doubletrack at the beginning) so be prepared with snacks and water. It’s definitely not all downhill.
  • No water: There is no water on the trail, so bring plenty with you.
  • Bail options: There aren’t many places to bail if something goes wrong, so pack everything you might need to get yourself out of a bind. Garcia Park is the fastest and easiest way out.
  • Watch out for hikers: Hikers use the South Boundary trail as well, especially the last 4-5 miles. Check your speed, stay in control, and practice good trail etiquette.

What to expect

The South Boundary Trail is a 21-mile mostly singletrack shuttled ride in New Mexico that runs from Angel Fire (ish – it doesn’t actually start in the town of Angel Fire) down along the boundary of Carson National Forest to Taos, New Mexico.

Along the way, riders traverse through beautiful forest and high, open meadows with several chances of catching a glimpse of the Sangre de Christo mountain range.

Here are a few things to expect:

  • An hour-long shuttle: Whether you shuttle yourself or book a shuttle, it’s about an hour’s drive to the shuttle drop-off on Mt. Osha. The last stretch is pretty rough and rugged. See more about shuttle options below.
  • A lung-busting climb at the start: The first mile and a half is hard. Remember, you’re at over 10,000 feet so the air is thin and I guarantee you’ll be feeling it.
  • Heaven on Earth: The best part of the whole 21 miles is the short stretch called “Heaven on Earth”. This fast, flowy section comes up shortly after dropping in from the initial climb and it’s a blast!
  • Beautiful forest, no great views: When I rode the SBT, I was expecting some awesome views, but unfortunately there really aren’t any. That being said, the aspen groves and NM forest are beautiful.
  • The final four miles: The last four miles of the SBT are by far the steepest and most technical. You can skip this section by doing the Ojitos trail.
Mountain biker pedaling along trail through grassy field on the South Boundary Trail in New Mexico

South Boundary Trail Map

This map shows the shuttled route for riding the South Boundary Trail. It starts up near the summit of Mt. Osha and ends at the El Nogal parking area off of Route 64.

South Boundary Trail Shuttle from FR76 to El Nogal on Trailforks.com

Navigating the Route

There are numerous fire roads and turnoffs throughout the whole ride, but just keep following signs that say #164 and you should be fine.

I do always recommend having TrailForks or MTB Project downloaded to your phone.

Trail breakdown

The South Boundary Trail is actually a link-up of several trails that connect into each other to create a 21-mile route down the slopes of Osha Mountain.

Here’s the trail breakdown:

Mount Osha

After getting dropped off by your shuttle (see shuttle info below), the first trail of the day is Mount Osha. This is a grunt of a climb up an extremely rocky doubletrack road that is technically rideable in full but in my opinion not worth the gasping and burning legs.

It’s a pretty quick 800ft/1.5-mile ascent, though, and you top out at around 10,700ft – the highest elevation of the ride.

Don’t be ashamed to walk.

Two mountain bikers pedaling up hill with colorful aspen trees in distance
The initial climb from the shuttle drop-off is challenging and very steep. Walk if you need to

South Boundary Trail

The South Boundary Trail begins with a short descent on more rocky fire road before the trail turns into singletrack and you hit the best part of the whole ride: “Heaven on Earth”. This is a fast and flowy sidehill section that makes you think this whole ride is gonna be great!

For the next 10 miles on the South Boundary Trail, though, it’s pretty pedally and frankly a little boring, in my opinion. I found my mind wandering to non-mountain bike-related thoughts such as “I wonder if Taos has good ice cream” and “what would it take to make my life one big road trip?”.

It’s easy to zone out here because the views are hidden by trees and the singletrack is smooth and monotonous. But you may love it!

The South Boundary Trail develops into some mellow ups, quite a bit of fire road, a few beautiful meadows (including Garcia Park where some riders choose to start the ride), a long, flat pedal through scenic aspen and oak forests, and glimpses of the Sangre de Christo mountains to the right.

It’s ‘nice’, but not overly engaging. On the other hand, the group that we took the shuttle with said that South Boundary Trail is “the best trail in New Mexico”. So there you go. Ride it and form your own opinion!

Mountain biker riding down singletrack trail on the South Boundary trail in New Mexico
“Heaven On Earth” is a section of fast, flowy singletrack and it’s super fun!

South Boundary Trail – Final four miles

It’s not until mile 17 or so that things get rowdy. You will come to a steep, loose pitch followed by several very rocky and loose switchbacks that are challenging and fun.

Then the trail opens up a bit for more rocky and steep sections that will have you either quickly assessing and executing lines on the fly or slamming on the brakes to scope out the best course of action.

Somewhere in the middle of the down, there’s a great view out over Taos that is worth a photo stop.

You’ll quickly get back into the trees for the final descent to the parking area. It’s fast on the straightaways but watch out for the switchbacks, they come up fast and there are often hiker’s on the trail, so check your speed.

And just like that, you’re done! The 21 miles goes fast and it can easily be done in under two hours if you’re charging.

Mountain biker going over rock and log roll on technical section of trail
The final four miles are by far the most technically challenging

Ojitos Trail Optional Finish

The last four miles of the South Boundary Trail are pretty steep, rocky, and full-on. If you want to bypass this section and finish on a mellower note, you can take Ojitos trail. I haven’t ridden it personally, but I do believe that it’s an easier way down to the parking area.

South Boundary Trail Shuttles

I highly recommend booking a shuttle for the South Boundary Trail. You could shuttle yourself, but the road up to Osha Mountain is quite rough and personally, I wouldn’t take anything but a high-clearance 4×4 truck or Jeep up there.

Shuttle Taos is the only shuttle company for the South Boundary Trail. Be prepared for any early morning, though. We met the van at the El Nogal Trailhead at 8 am and then it was an hour+ ride up to the Osha Mountain starting trailhead.

The last few miles of the drive are quite rough and bouncy.

Alternative Start At Garcia Park

For those that don’t want to do the full 21-mile South Boundary Trail, you can start at Garcia Park and just do the last 12 miles. Garcia Park skips some climbing but it also skips Heaven On Earth, which is fast and super fun. Shuttle Taos has a Garcia Park start option.

Best time to ride the South Boundary Trail

The South Boundary Trail is typically rideable from June through October, but it can stay snow-covered later into the spring and get early snow in the fall. Call Shuttle Taos for the most up-to-date trail information.

Fall is a great time to ride the trail if you want to experience the beautiful colorful aspen leaves!

Mountain biker riding singletrack trail through aspen grove with golden foliage
I rode the South Boundary Trail in September when the aspen leaves are changing to gold. It was stunning!

Final Thoughts

I give the South Boundary Trail a 2.5 out of 5 for IMBA Epicness. It’s primarily a pedaly cross-country ride with a bit of legit DH at the end. The middle 10 or so miles feel a little monotonous with few to no engaging features or really any scenic views. Somehow it always feels like you’re pedaling uphill.

The forest is spectacular, especially in the fall when the leaves are changing, but vistas and overlooks are lacking. It will appeal more to cross-country riders than to mountain bikers looking for more engaging terrain.

Mountain biker stopped on trail next to sign in middle of meadow


Planning a road trip? Check out these other great places to ride around New Mexico.

Have you ridden the South Boundary Trail? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below!

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