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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.
Watch Huntstyle ride the SBT
Important Things to Know
South Boundary Trail Packing List
Below are a few of my favorite pieces of mountain biking gear and recommendations for your South Boundary Trail ride:
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:
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.
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:
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
Have you ridden the South Boundary Trail? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below!