Borrego/Bear Wallow Trail

View of the trail
This hike is a pleasant short-ish loop with some vertical relief (about 800 ft elevation change) in an aspen-fir forest. Because of the aspen, this hike would be especially nice in the fall. You could extend the length of this hike by taking one of several other trails which intersect this trail.

Hike data:

Controlling agency: Santa Fe National Forest; Española Ranger District
Official URL:Forest Service web page for this hike
Region: North-central; Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
Near Santa Fe
start: 8838ft; 2694m end: 8838ft; 2694m
min: 8057ft; 2456m max: 8838ft; 2694m
elevation gain/loss: 813ft; 248m.
Elevation change is from track altitude data.
Length: 4.47mi; 7.20km. Total loop length from GPS track data.
surface: dirt
condition: Excellent
ease of following: Not all trail junctions have signs
obstacles: No value
If you are at a junction without a sign, the more heavily-traveled trail is probably the correct one.
Fee: $0.00.
Season: April 01 to November 30. The trail can be hiked whenever snow is not a problem.
Dogs: Yes. on leash.
Bikes: Yes. We met several mountain bikers on the first two legs of the trail.
Handicapped accessible: No.
Trailhead facilities: trash can(s).
Hike attractions: stream, wildlife (We saw many birds.), wildflowers.

When we hiked it:

Date: 2001-10-13 2014-09-07
Time it took us: 3:00. 4:54. 2:00 moving, the rest of the time taking notes, photos, eating lunch, etc
Usage (people/hour): 0.00. No usage data recorded. We saw several other hikers. 18.78. This trail is popular both with mountain bikes as well as hikers. 12 of the people in the people/hour calculation were on bikes.
Cleanliness: 0. No cleanliness data recorded. 9. We picked up 7 pieces of litter, one of which was an old, decomposing shirt.


Waypoint Type Description
150254Trail junctionSanta Fe National Forest tails 150 and 254
150TCTrail junctionUnsigned trail intersection
150THTrailheadSanta Fe National Forest trail 150 trailhead
150Y1Trail junctionJunction near 150TH
254182Trail junctionSanta Fe National Forest trails 254 and 182


Geohack online map list

Paper maps:

Map name Cartographer Year Scale Topo map? Online access Notes
Guide to Indian Country of Arizona Colorado New Mexico Utah Automobile Club of Southern California 1998 1:0 N Arizona Strip Interpretive Association (purchase) Good overview road map for northwest NM. No scale is given on the map. The corner coordinates are approximate.
McClure Reservoir USGS 1976 1:24000 Y from (free)
Pecos Wilderness, Santa Fe and Carson National Forests US Forest Service 2004 1:54000 Y From the National Forest Store (purchase)
Santa Fe BLM 1996 1:100000 Y Public Lands Information Center (purchase)
Santa Fe USGS 1954 1:250000 Y from (free)
Santa Fe National Forest US Forest Service 2004 1:126720 N From the National Forest Store (purchase) East half
Wildernesses of New Mexico US Forest Service 1981 1:1000000 N No online copies. Base map with national forests, wilderness areas and highways.

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Getting to the trailhead:

From the Santa Fe plaza, head north on Washington Ave. Just past the pink Scottish Rite Temple (pictured here), turn right on Artist road; the sign says that Hyde State Park and the Santa Fe Ski Basin are this way.
Scottish Rite Temple in Santa Fe
Sue, Diana, and Steve starting down the trail
Just after you leave Hyde Memorial park, there is a parking area on your left. This is the trailhead parking area. The trailhead is shown here in the photo, and it is at the edge of the parking area.

About the hike:

Diana, Sue, and Steve approach 150Y1
Right at the trailhead is a fork. One branch goes slightly up, the other down. You want the branch that heads down.

After about half a mile (~700m) (it took us 11 minutes of walking), you arrive at a fork in the trail (GPS: 150Y1). You can see Diana, Sue, and Steve approaching the Y in the photo to the left. At this fork, go right. You will be returning on the left fork. The trail has been all downhill to this point. Now, you begin climbing slightly. However, the climbing is only for a short period of time, and then you are slowly descending again.

The trail is dirt, occasionally eroded. You are walking through an aspen/fir forest.
Diana walking down the trail
Tesuque Creek
About 45 minutes after you left the trailhead, you reach another intersection (GPS: 150TC). You can take this to see Tesuque Creek, but continue on the main trail.
At 1.77mi (2.85km) from the trailhead (about 46 minutes of walking), you come to a bridge across the Rio Tesuque (GPS: 150Bridge). Cross here.

When the trail meets the stream, it makes a sharp right turn to get to the bridge. If you continue straight you can cross on a log, with the bridge about 20 ft to your right.

Diana on the bridge
Steve, Sue, and Diana approach the junction of trails 150 and 254
After you cross Tesuque Creek, continue for another few minutes for about 0.1 mi (190m). You will then reach the trail junction with trail 254 (GPS: 150254). Go left.
The trail parallels Tesuque creek in the bottom of the valley. It is more open here than when going up or down from the trailhead.
Steve on the trail
Trail sign
After about half an hour from the last trail junction (about a mile or 1.53km), and you come to the junction with trail 182 (GPS: 254182)). This is the lowest point of the hike. Turn left.
Cross the Tesuque Creek on this bridge and head uphill. After about 50 minutes, you will be back at the first Y in the trail and only a few minutes from the trailhead.
Diana on the bridge

Plants we saw along the trail:

Reader comments about this hike:

On Fri Jul 14 19:08:32 2006 Dan from Houston, TX said:
This is a great trail---nicely shaded and much more moist that the other desert trails in the area. Just pay close attention to where you are going. The first time I did this trail, I missed the fork at the beginning and ended up miles in the wrong direction. But otherwise, highly recommended!

On Fri Jul 11 21:45:07 2014 Gail from Cleveland,Ohio said:
My sister and I hiked this trail last week(July 3). I did not think the trail was clearly marked . Unfortunatley for us we made a few wrong turns and ended up lost ... With bad weather approaching. We ended up making the decision to go back to the river and hike up the way we came down. By the time we got to the parking lot it was dark, pouring rain and lightning and I was starting to get symptoms of altitude sickness,. We turned a 4 mile hike into an 8 mile hike and it could have been dangerous if we had had to spend the night in the woods! Lesson learned.... Do not trust park signs that are not clear about the direction they're pointing and what trails are merging into each other!

On Sun Jul 13 22:19:34 2014 Anonymous from Santa Fe, NM said:
Other than the in town Dale Ball Trails, this is probably the most popular hike in the National Forest around Santa Fe. It’s not uncommon to see 20 – 30 cars at the trailhead on a summer weekend. One reason is that it avoids ridge tops, so feels pretty safe in the monsoonal lightning storms that hit almost daily in mid-summer thru early fall. (The best chance of avoiding the storms is to hit this trail in the morning. It often starts to cloud up around noon, and by 1 or 2 you may encounter both heavy rain and lightning.)

Not sure how people manage to get lost here, nor where the listed 3 hour time comes from. A strong hiker (who is used to the altitude!) can easily do this loop in a bit over an hour. At age 65, with a creaky knee, I do it more on the order of 80 – 90 minutes.

As to navigation, the main trails are quite obvious. There are a few ‘social’ trails that branch off and dead end, but they are pretty obviously less traveled.

Perhaps the instructions on this site confuse folks. As noted above, the time it takes an average hiker is probably quite a bit less than the time listed. It’s about a mile down to the creek once you take the first right at the Y junction of the Borrego / Bear Wallow. About one quarter of that is a climb, then it descends thru switchbacks to the valley floor and is pretty much level to the creek. I figure on about 20 minutes for this portion.

I have no idea what the instruction saying, ‘About 45 minutes after you leave the trailhead, you reach another intersection (GPS: 150TC),’ means. There is no such intersection that I’m aware of. Simply stay on the trail to the creek and cross it on a new bridge that was installed in 2013 about 20 meters upstream from the old log and rock crossing.

Across the creek the trail is obvious and it intersects the Winsor Trail (Trail 254) about 40 meters beyond the bridge. Turn left (downhill) on the Winsor and proceed about .7 miles to the intersection with the bottom of the Bear Wallow. It takes me about 15 minutes – not half an hour. Again, there is a sign at the junction, and another new bridge over the creek added in summer of 2014. Not hard to find at all.

Unless you miss all the above, the only place that it’s really possible to go wrong is after you recross the creek and head up the switchbacks of the Bear Wallow. At the top of the first climb from the creek, there is a social trail that goes along the canyon edge for 50 or 100 meters before it peters out, but it’s generally marked with a row of rocks and / or branches to show it’s closed. Just make a sharp left at this corner and keep climbing.

From the creek to the Y junction is roughly another mile. It’s a climb, but I generally figure on 25 minutes or so for that section. Then it’s right at the Y and back to the parking lot.

All in all, a pretty sweet hike. Just remember that Santa Fe is about 7,000 feet in elevation and this trail is in the 8,000 – 9,000 foot range. That means there is 16 to 18% less oxygen in the air you’ll be breathing, so if you haven’t acclimated, it will definitely slow you down.

Also, take more water than you think you’ll need. The desert and the altitude really dry you out. Sunblock is also important, because there is less atmosphere to filter the UV. Temperatures can change rapidly, so take a shell for warmth and protection against the rain. Take some energy food along, too, and consider stopping by Travel Bug in Santa Fe or REI to pick up a good map of the local trails.

On Mon Jul 21 09:00:10 2014 jomobco from Denver, CO said:
This is a great trail for a quick hike. The "triangle" of the Borego, Winsor and Bear Wallow trails can be done in a little over an hour. There is vertical which really gets the blood going and for about 1/3 of the hike you are hiking along a stream. It is very well marked and very clean. The parking has been easy in the two times that I've been here.

On Sun Jul 27 17:19:08 2014 Gail from Cleveland,ohio said:
Hi , it's me again. Thank-you for Responding and commenting on my hike. Lol I would like to know how we got lost on a loop trail also! I remember hiking down to the water and crossing on the new log bridge then coming to the Windsor trail sign... This is where the trouble started. I do not remember it being very clear on wether we should turn left or right. I think it says Windsor trail , does it say borrego/bear wallow trail also with a clear arrow pointing left? There were 2 of us and we both thought it was not clear so we actually did turn left and we liked about a mile not seeing any trail signs( apperently we missed them?) we ran into a guy on a bike who told us we should of turned right at the sign by the river so we hiked back and continued that way. After about an hour or so we asked another person on a bike who told us ... Yes the parking lot was up ahead so kept going. When we weren't reaching any parking lot or hearing cars and with the apperently thunderstorm rolling in we decided to turn back and go all the way back to the river and go up the way we came. I would love to go back and do this hike again to see exactly what we did wrong.... We are not inexperienced hikers and I'd say I am in good shape , my sister excellent shape. She actually went on to finish up our trip in the Grand Tetons and hiked 10 to 15 miles each day. As for the elevation.... I was very affected . I think it went from bad to worse because we ended up having to run the last 2 miles on and off because it was getting dark. This is the exact opposite of what a person is supposed to do when they're feeling sick from the altitude. We had no choice or we would have spent the night in the woods. We had no water left ... Dead cell phones(so no light) and only light clothing on! IT WAS ONLY SuPPOSED TO BE A SIMPLE 4 MILE HIkE! It was raining , thundering and lightening.... Not the best place to be! By the time we got back to the car I was breathless , heart pounding, extremely dizzy , chills and I started throwing up and continued this for about 3 hours! We should of gone to the ER but we decided to just drive towards Colorado ( our next destination) but only got as far as Las Vegas , NM. Where we ended up staying because I was so ill. This experience goes in my stupid column of stuff I've done in my life. I definenitley learned a lesson. I believe you when you say it is an easy hike and I really am going to go back and do it again. Again... There were 2 of us and we both decided on the trails to take.... Along with the "help" of the only 2 people we saw on the trail the whole time!

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