Hyde Park Circle Trail

View east from the trail, showing winter-damaged trees
A trail with excellent views of the Sangre de Cristo, Jemez, Sandia, San Pedro, and Ortiz mountains (i.e., views in most all directions). This trail gains 855 ft (261 m) in the first 0.94 mi (1.5km). However, the climb is worth it for the views.

Hike data:

Controlling agency: New Mexico State Parks; Hyde Memorial
Region: North-central; Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
Near Santa Fe.
start: 8398ft; 2560m end: 8398ft; 2560m
min: 8398ft; 2560m max: 9399ft; 2865m
elevation gain/loss: 1000ft; 305m.
Most of the elevation gain is at the very beginning of the trail.
Length: 3.91mi; 6.29km. The actual length will vary depending on the route you take through the campground.
surface: mixed
condition: Excellent
ease of following: Easy except in part of the campground.
obstacles: No obstacles, but it is steep in some places.
The trail is narrow and rocky in places.
Fee: $5.00.
Season: All year. This hike can be quite hot with the elevation gain. Be sure to take sufficient water.

Winter is hikable only if we are in a drought. Snow damage to the trees on the ridge shows winter may require snowshoes or skis. Check with the park before trying this trail in winter.

Dogs: Yes.
Bikes: No.
Handicapped accessible: No.
General notes: This hike is near both the Hyde Memorial State Park and the Black Canyon campgrounds. If you stay at Black Canyon, a trail crosses the meadow from the far end of the Black Canyon trailhead parking (near the highway).
Trailhead facilities: flush toilet(s). At visitor center only. picnic area, trash can(s), vault toilet(s). Throughout the campground. water.
Hike attractions: exercise, scenery, wildflowers, wildlife.

When we hiked it:

Date: 2002-08-11 2004-08-28
Time it took us: 3:00. 3:00.
Usage (people/hour): 2.67. Most of the people are on the trail behind the campground. I only saw two people on the ridge portion of the trail. 0.50. I saw nobody on the ridge.

I could hear people in the park as well as the traffic on the road for much of the hike. The park gets heavy use due to its proximity to Santa Fe.

Cleanliness: 9. 9.


Waypoint Type Description
HMPLPTrailheadHyde Memorial State Park visitor center and trailhead for the loop trail
HPLP2Trail junctionHyde Park Circle Trail crossing the campground road


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 from Amazon (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 sar.lanl.gov (free)
Pecos Wilderness, Santa Fe and Carson National Forests US Forest Service 2004 1:54000 Y from Amazon (purchase)
Santa Fe BLM 1996 1:100000 Y from Amazon (purchase)
Santa Fe USGS 1954 1:250000 Y from sar.lanl.gov (free)
Santa Fe National Forest US Forest Service 2004 1:126720 N from Amazon (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
No short text
Drive seven miles to the Hyde Park Visitor's Center. Park in the visitor center parking lot and pay the park day use fee. The trailhead (shown here) is across the road from the visitor center.

About the hike:

View south about 20 minutes into the hike
You start by crossing a bridge over the Little Tesuque Creek. You can barely see it in the trailhead photo above. While this trail's elevation is not large compared to many hikes we have done, the elevation gain happens in a much shorter distance. You get to start climbing as soon as you cross the creek, and you will be climbing almost non-stop for the first third of the hike. The initial part of the hike is in and out of shade, and as a result, the sun can be hot. Make sure that you take enough water on this hike.

Here is an early view south, with some of the trail in it.

As you are climbing, the trail at times has some level parts. Enjoy these---they are a welcome respite.

As you climb, you can see Black Canyon, where the campground is, however, you cannot see the campground itself. As you continue to climb, take regular stops to view the scenery; the views on this hike are great, and at one time or another, you get views off in all directions.

This view is to the SSE.

View SSE
View south about 20 minutes into the hike

When you have been hiking around 40 minutes or so, you reach a ridge line where you may get more breeze. I certainly appreciated the cooling air.

The trail is on granite and decomposed granite. Granite is made of feldspar, quartz, and mica. Sometimes you will see a bunch of only one of these minerals, or rocks which a preponderance of one. For example the rock in the picture has a lot of mica in it.

Another reason to look for the micaceous rocks is that they indicate that you are nearing the top.

When we first hiked this trail, New Mexico had been in a serious drought for a while. As a result, there were few wildflowers. However, this Scarlet Gilia (also known as a Scarlet Skyrocket) was making a go at it.
Scarlet Gilia
View WNW

When you start getting views off to the southwest (Santa Fe, the San Pedro Mountains, the Sandia Mountains) and west (Jemez mountains), you can be happy for many reasons. One is for the views. Another is because you are nearly at the top of the hike.

This view is to the WNW, and you can see the Jemez in the distance.

When you start to see trees down all around you from winter damage, you have reached the end of the big climb. Take a break, smell the forest, and drink some water.
Rock with lots of mica in it
granite-colored horned lizard
I shared the trail with this granite-colored horned lizard. He or she was gracious enough to allow me to take this photo.

Enjoy the views of the Sangre de Cristo mountains.

When the trail heads down, this is not really the beginning of the trek down.

View ESE from the picnic tables
The first picnic table
Right after a short climb, you reach a pair of picnic tables. These always strike me as odd, because normally I expect tables to be near a road. I wonder how they got up here. They make a nice rest before heading downhill.

From the picnic tables, the trail used to have two branches. You could go past the picnic tables, or start down here. If you have older guidebooks, they will mention this. I took this older branch the first time.

The park has changed the trail; you should take the trail that goes down. They indicate it with tree trunks on either side of the trail.

When I took this photo, I was standing near the second picnic table.

trail down, between ponderosa trunks
Oregon grape

The forest is different on the way down. You are walking through more shade.

The second time we hiked this trail, the Oregon Grape were getting ripe. The turning leaves and ripening berries indicated that autumn was on its way.

The trail heads down, steeply at times (hiking poles may be useful). You also go around several switchbacks (such as this one). Please do not cut across the area between the switchbacks; doing so is even steeper, and it can cause erosion problems on the trail.
switchback on the trail
rock-edged trail
When you get near the bottom of the hill, you will reach a junction. This is the Girl Scout Joe M. Clark memorial nature trail. The two paths will both take you to the trailhead for the nature trail. I took the lower branch. You will know you are on this trail when the trail is rock-edged.
When you reach the trailhead for the nature trail, you have several options. You could walk along the highway back to the trailhead. However, a better choice is to cross the highway, and go uphill just past the ice skating pond. You will find this bridge. Cross it, and on the other side, go up and to the left.
small bridge

When the trail gets to the gravel road, you should see this trailhead across the road (GPS: HPLP2. This trail is one of several that runs behind the campgrounds. All should eventually take you to the visitor center.

A ranger warned me that this trail goes through a couple of campsites. If you continue in the direction you were heading, you will find the trail picks up again. This was good advice, as I would have been quite confused had he not mentioned it. You go right through campsites 17 and 15. The trail takes up again on the other side of the road, on the right side of site 15.

Also, one time I obviously made a wrong turn and the trail I was on died out. I headed downhill and found the real trail again.

Plants we saw along the trail:

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