Socorro Fat Tire Trails

This is the online version of The Socorro Country Fat Tire Trail Book. The printed version was prepared in conjuction with the Socorro Fat Tire Fiesta, a community mountain biking event that was originally organized by volunteers and the Socorro County Chamber of Commerce, and later by Socorro Striders and Riders. The event is no longer held, but once had the participation of several hundred riders each Fall.

The Rio Grande bosque, historic ghost towns, pristine high mountains with sweeping views, interesting old mine sites, and high desert roads to be explored in solitude--all are to be found in the rides of this trail guide. Those of us who have assembled these rides know and love Socorro for the opportunities it provides to discover the beauty of the region.

Mountain bikers will find that Socorro is a gateway to adventure, and a dream come true. Within 20 miles of Socorro you can experience country ranging from typical Southwest desert to forested mountains rising to over 10,000 feet. All of which is ridable year-round.

Socorro is situated along the Rio Grande River valley at an elevation of 4,600 feet. To the east, we have the Quebradas Back Country Byway, and hundreds of miles of roads winding through exceptional geologic terrain. To the south, the Rio Grande floodplain and the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge provide intimate views of sandhill and whooping cranes, snow geese, bald eagles and host of other wildlife. To the west, you will find the Magdalena and San Mateo Mountain ranges with peaks in excess of 10,600 feet high. These mountains will test the most advanced bikers, yet still provide rides for the less experienced as well. To the north are the ancient petroglyphs at San Acacia and the steep-walled beauty of San Lorenzo Canyon.

We hope you enjoy the trails and countryside detailed by this guide as much as we do.


Always ride on established roads, tracks, trails or arroyo washes. Do not strike out on virgin terrain. The damage that bike tire tracks can do to the fragile plant life of this area is considerable.

Many of the trails in this guide involve downhill riding on single-track hiking trails. Please ride carefully and protect these trails. Do not lock your wheel: the skid gouges the trail, and encourages erosion. Ride slowly enough that you do not have to skid.

Try not to ride trails right after they get wet. Tracks in the mud can take months to years to heal out here, due to the paucity of rain.

Most of these trails are multi-use (i.e., they are used by more than just bikers). Be aware of other people on the trail, and be courteous--it's their trail, too! Remember that horses in particular can be easily spooked by bikes rushing at them: when you encounter an equestrian, stop and ask the rider how to proceed.

Whenever you come upon a wire or metal gate, close it behind you, even if it was open when you approached it. Losing a rancher's livestock is a quick way to get us kicked off their land.

Gear Bag

The gear bag. Every serious mountain biker has one, though the battles that occur when debating what truly belongs in it are often epic. It would be nice to have a full-service bike shop available when you suddenly hear that load hissing noise, but most of us don't have a pack that large (or a back that strong). So what to pack?

The Essentials

These items should accompany you on every ride.

Optional Items/Longer Rides

The longer or harder the ride, the more likely you will be to need these additional items.

Land Access

All these rides are on established roads, tracks, trails or arroyo washes. Please do not strike out on virgin terrain. The damage that bike tire tracks can do to the fragile plant life of this area is considerable. By staying on the trails you will also find that you have more time to enjoy the scenery instead of patching tires. Help us keep these lands open to mountain bikers!

Private Property

Many of the rides in this booklet cross private property; none of these rides comes with implicit permission to enter private land. Whenever possible, ask permission; always respect the rights of the owners. Keep all gates closed and tread softly.

U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM)

Almost all roads, tracks, and trails on BLM land are open for mountain bikes, though cross-country riding is prohibited. Some areas east of Socorro are being considered as future Wilderness Areas, which will then close them to biking.

Much of the BLM land is leased for grazing; please respect the rights of the ranchers by closing all gates and not spooking the cattle.

The BLM Office is located at 200 Neel Avenue in Socorro (835-0412).

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation: Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District (MRGCD)

Near Socorro, agricultural fields on the west side of the Rio Grande are irrigated by a system of irrigation ditches that bring water from the river. Nearest the river is a large Low-Flow Channel which feeds the array of smaller ditches. The MRGCD (703 Manzanares, Socorro; 835-1454) is responsible for assigning irrigation schedules to the ranchers, and for maintaining the ditches and the access roads that usually run along both banks.

These roads are not intended to be public thoroughfares, but they nevertheless serve as a wonderful network of pleasant paths for mountain bikes. There are occasional vehicles on the ditch roads, and the roads may sometimes be very muddy, sandy, or have a washboard surface-they can vary dramatically from one day to the next!

Occasionally you may find cattle obstructing the road. Approach slowly, to avoid causing them to panic and run into the barbed-wire fences or fall into the ditches.

The MRGCD offices are located at 703 Manzanares, in Socorro (835-1454).

U.S. Forest Service

The Cibola National Forest west of Socorro is managed by the Magdalena District Ranger Station on Highway 60 in Magdalena (854-2281). Bicyclists in the National Forest should stay on marked roads and trails, and should not ride within wilderness areas. Yield to pedestrians and horseback riders. The Ranger Station can provide trail maps and information on campgrounds.

All rides in this book that fall within the Forest have been reviewed by the Magdalena District Ranger's Office.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge

This is a wonderful bird refuge about 20 miles south of Socorro, particularly noted for the variety of waterfowl that spend the fall and winter there. Many of the roads in the refuge are closed to the public. The main roads in the refuge are open to bicycles as well as cars, but the Refuge suggests that the birds are less likely to be disturbed by cars than by bicyclists. The Refuge is open from an hour before sunrise until an hour after sunset every day.

If you tour the Bosque by bicycle during warm weather, be sure to take along bug repellent.

The New Mexico Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources

The Bureau of Mines on the campus of New Mexico Tech sells most topographic maps of the state, as well as a wealth of geological publications.

The Publication Office (835-5410, open weekdays) is in Room 107 of the Bureau of Mines Building.


Always carry lots of water. In the summer, two bottles may be enough only for half a day. Take an extra gallon for a full day's ride. There are very few places to find drinking water along most of the routes in this book. Mountain streams may run only during spring snowmelt; even that water should not be considered potable without sufficient boiling or other treatment.

Don't go alone. A riding partner can serve as everything from moral support to pack horse. You never know when you might need that extra set of hands--or when they might need yours.

Take your gear. Take your tools, spare parts, rain gear, maps, food, sunscreen, and bug repellant. If you have a cell phone, bring that too (it won't work in all areas, but it certainly won't help you if it's sitting at home)!

Dress in layers. The weather is often hot and the sun intense, but a quick thunderstorm, particularly at high altitude, can still cool you too quickly and bring on hypothermia.

Duck and cover. Lightning poses a real danger; if you must remain outside during a thunderstorm, seek a low place off ridges and away from lone trees, and away from your bicycle.

Watch for animals. Much of the Socorro countryside is still wild. Sooner or later, you will encouter some animals. Cows are common, but are harmless unless provoked. Snakes are also common (including rattlesnakes, which are quite poisonous), but one can also run into less common creatures such as bears and coyotes.

Beware of ATVs. Quads, dirt bikes, and other all terrain vehicles (ATVs) are a constant presence in Socorro. Unfortunately, many of the people who operate these ATV show a complete lack of discipline, knowledge of the trail, respect for the land, or consideration for other people in the area. If you hear an ATV in the area, be on your guard--it's pretty much certain they won't be.

Know your first aid. Minor injuries are relatively common in mountain biking, so it behooves one to know what to do. The Utah Mountain Biking website has a good page on basic first aid.

Miscellaneous Numbers

Socorro 911911
Socorro General Hospital835-1140

Tips and Tricks

Riding around Socorro presents some unique challenges. We present here some of our answers to these challenges.


Riding on sand can be easy and fun . . . or extremely difficult and frustrating. It largely depends on the condition of the sand, riding techniques, and your tires. In an arroyo that has recently had running water, the sand will be hard-packed and easy to ride. After the hard-packed sand is broken up by cows, vehicles, or even bicycles, it can become unridable. Sandy stretches may have intermittent portions which can and can't be ridden.

Try riding with steady movements so your tires don't dig in. Using wide tires, or having your tires slightly under-inflated can help. Also, using a very low gear will usually help.


Many dogs run free in the City of Socorro and in the surrounding rural areas. Most of the time ignoring them won't make them go away. A firm "NO!" will often deter even the biggest of them. When in a group, we send them running by issuing a chorus of growls, or a squirt in the face from a water bottle. If necessary, dismount and keep your bicycle between you and the dog.


Most of the mileage logs in this booklet are from our cyclometers. Our computers often don't agree exactly with each other; if we ride the route again, we get different mileages. One would hope that the GPS traces we're in the process of taking would fix this, but that has not been our experience. In fact, the GPS mileages often differ by more than our cyclometers!

Don't worry if you are off a little bit from the mileages in the book. There should be enough descriptive information in the rides so that you can find landmarks for the routes even if your mileage is different from ours.

Flat Fat Tires

This region has lots of things with thorns: the worst are prickly-pear cactus, mimosa bushes, and goatheads. Any one of these can end a ride faster than you can say "What's that noise?"

The best defense is the use of heavy duty tubes, tire liners, or tire sealant. Each of these will add a little extra weight, and may change the dynamics of your wheels and tires, but they are well worth having.

Be warned: Even using all of the above cures at the same time is not always enough! You should still carry patch kits (check that your glue hasn't dried out), extra tubes, and pumps.


The following information should be used to plan your rides to account for the seasons, and length of day. Socorro resides in the Mountain Time Zone, and observes Daylight Savings Time (MST=UTC-7, MDT=UTC-6).

Socorro's weather is similar to Albuquerque's; just add a few degrees in the summer, and subtract a few in the winter. Be aware, though, that the difference between day-time and night-time temperatures is often as much as 40 degrees!

Note that these trails tend to get mighty dark (and considerably cooler) after the sun goes down. Use the riding times given in the trail descriptions to plan for a safe return before dark, or bring the appropriate equipment with you.

* Corrected for Daylight Savings Time