The breathtaking beauty of the Jemez Mountains and Los Alamos has been, and continues to be, molded by the forces of nature. The remnants of volcanic activity, the Jemez Mountains are home to some of the most spectacular hikes in the state, including the Apsenola trail that leads you to the summit of Pajarito Mountain, with an elevation of 10,440 feet.
The Pajarito Environmental Education Center trail app allows you to search for a nearby trail that fits your hiking criteria. Looking for a short dog-friendly hike or an all-day trail run? This app will tell you your options and exactly where to go. The app profiles dozens of trips at Pajarito Mountain, Los Alamos County, Bandelier National Monument, and the Valles Caldera National Preserve.
Make sure you carefully plan and prepare for your hiking or backpacking trip before you take off for your adventure. During hours of operation, hiking is restricted to East Road, Aspeñola, and Aspen For Trouble.
Weather on the Jemez Mountains
The Jemez Mountains are subject to a wide range of climate conditions. Precipitation ranges from 20 inches (50 cm) in the lower area of the mountain to over 40 inches (100 cm) on the upper slopes. Temperatures fluctuate greatly from night to day.
Precautions should be taken to avoid being caught on exposed peaks and ridge tops during northern New Mexico’s regular summer thunderstorms. Plan ahead: watch approaching storms and get to a safe area before the storms hit. The safest places to be, if you do get caught in a storm, are forested areas away from ridge tops, ledges, rock outcroppings, or the tallest trees.
Several factors make it necessary to implement some restrictions — the fragile habitat of the mountains a threatened plant species, the Jemez Mountains wilderness designation, and the municipal watershed for the City of Los Alamos.
- Camping is not allowed on along Camp May Road except at the Camp May campground past the Main Lodge.
- Campfires are also prohibited in the same areas. Fires are allowed below 11,000 ft (3,352 m). Keep them small and use only wood which will burn completely to ash. Fires should be built on mineral soil. Take care to clear burnable material from the fire area. If you pack it in, please pack it out. Do not burn garbage, foil, cans, plastic, or nylon of any kind.
- Artifacts and ruins are a major portion of the history and heritage of the Jemez Mountains. All items of this nature are protected by law against damage or removal. We request that you only look, admire and photograph these items.
Endangered species are located at Pajarito Mountain; therefore, hiking is restricted to designated trails only.
Follow the golden rule of no-trace hiking and camping: “Take only pictures, leave only footprints.”
- Respect the land — do not cut switchbacks.
- Avoid wet trails if possible and avoid making new trails.
- Keep to the right of the trail — save the left for passing.
- Downhill traffic yields to uphill traffic.
- When in a group, do not block the trails; allow enough room for others.
- Enjoy your hike and please be safe!
Make sure you read and understand restrictions in the Jemez Mountains Wilderness listed below.
Trails Starting at Pajarito
Here are all the hiking trails that start at Pajarito. For more nearby hikes check out the Los Alamos Trails App.
Loop Distance: 2 miles Directions: The Lower Aspenola trail starts to the right of the red gate on May Camp Road: South of Pajarito Mountain lodge. Climb gently, cross a ski run, make a quick switchback, re-cross the run, the through the locusts, enjoying the views to the right. Follow the trail as it leads through the forest. Watching for Wintergreen flowers, Rattlesnake Plantain, and the fern-leaf lousewort. After the short, steep pitch, turn right onto the Aspenola trail. Near the blue Lone Spruce chairlift, turn back to the right and follow the faint path toward the green shack. From the shack follow the trail as it heads east, parallel to the parking area. For more info check out the Los Alamos Trails App.
Pajarito Mountain Loop
Loop Distance: 4.9 miles Directions: Take Lower East Road heading southeast from the lodge, taking the uphill roads (bearing right). After about 0.75 miles the road takes a switchback towards the west Upper East Road. In another 0.5 miles, the road reaches another switchback and climbs southward to an intersection of roads.
Take a right and continue up the hill, but be sure to stop along this section and take in excellent views to the northeast (Wheeler Peak) and east (Truchas Peaks and Santa Fe Baldy). At the top of the Lone Spruce lift, a new set of views open up to the north and south. Take a left (south) behind the lift and you can relax and eat a snack/lunch on the south-facing wooden deck with excellent views of the Sandia Mountains near Albuquerque.
Follow the lower road on this side of the mountain to the right (west). In about 0.3 miles the road reaches an intersection. Turn right and proceed uphill to the back of Aspen Lift. Before reaching Aspen Haus (a Ski Patrol building) take in the views to the west that include the southern portion of the Valles Caldera National Preserve (Pajarito Mountain forms part of the eastern wall of an ancient volcano). At Aspen Haus follow the singletrack west (Aspen For Trouble) down the hill and past and around the holding pond. Follow the road west of the pond uphill to the Mother Lift. Take the southward trail directly behind Mother Lift about 100 yards and it opens up into a 180-degree panoramic view to the south. Several memorials have been located in this area that is worth visiting. Spend some time taking in the views, eat a snack, and drink some water.
Backtrack to the Mother Lift and take a left heading west. You’ll pass the “Fab Four” double-black diamond ski runs on your right. The road reaches a corner that is the boundary with the Valles Caldera National Preserve and offers a new set of spectacular views of the northeast portion of the Valles Toledo. Wildflowers are abundant and Fall colors are excellent from this vantage point. Head north down the hill and follow the road back up over a small hill for about 0.4 miles where the road reaches an intersection. Take a sharp right on Road 1. Keep heading downhill at the next two intersections in 0.25 and 0.6 miles. The road passes under the Mother (double chair) and Aspen Lifts (triple chair). About 100 yards after passing under the Aspen lift the road turns sharply to the west in a switchback back under Aspen lift.
In about 0.25 miles the road intersects Road 0. Take a right eastward again heading downhill. This road leads directly back to the ski lodge and the end of the loop in another 0.35 miles. Click here for a map.
Lower / Upper Pajarito Canyon Trail
Loop Distance: 8.7 miles Directions: This hike requires a shuttle. Leave one vehicle at the Mitchell Trailhead parking area on Arizona Street near the intersection with 45th Street in Los Alamos. Using another vehicle, drive to the Pajarito Mountain Ski Area via Camp May Road and park at the far western end of the ski area parking lot. The Guaje Ridge Trailhead is easily found a short distance west down Camp May Road on the north side of the road.
The trail starts in a forested area and heads north through a burn scar in a gradual ascent to Canada Bonito. After Canada Bonito, the trail climbs and intersects Pipeline Road. Turn east and proceed to the intersection with Guaje Ridge Trail #285 (a narrow, partially overgrown trail). Be careful and look for a rock cairn since the start of the Guaje Ridge Trail off of Pipeline Road is NOT marked with a sign and can be easily missed.
Continue east-northeast descending along the north side of a series of ridges until the intersection with the Mitchell Trail #69. Turn south and continue down a steep, rocky, descent to the canyon bottom. Proceed eastward to the terminus of the Mitchell Trail in the northern community of Los Alamos. Click here for a map.
Pajarito Ski Hill to Los Alamos North
Loop Distance: 7.1 miles Directions: This mostly downhill hike requires a shuttle. Leave the suttle at the base of Pajarito Canyon Trail. The Pajarito Canyon trail is a half mile south West Road on NM-501. The hike starts at the base area of Pajarito mountain. Take Lower East Road heading southeast from the lodge, taking the uphill roads (bearing right). After about 0.75 miles the road takes a switchback towards the west Upper East Road. Go past the switchback toward the radio tower that overlooks Los Alamos. From there you will see a small cairn marking the start of the upper edge of the Pajarito Canyon Trail. Follow the trail down. When the trail splits keep right to continue on Pajarito Canyon trail.
Click here for a map.
For more information on other trails near and around Los Alamos and Pajarito, visit Pajarito Environmental Education Center and Los Alamos Nature Center.