High Desert Trail System, New Mexico

The three mountain bicycling loops go from easy beginner to intermediate to technical, connecting communities of Gamerco and Mentmore, adjacent to Gallup, New Mexico. Designed specifically for mountain bikes, the trail system is great for an afternoon loop mountain bike ride with the family or all-day epic ride.

by American Trails Staff

May 31, 2012

Featured
National Recreation Trail

Designated in 2012


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in the NRT Database

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About

The High Desert Trail System, located just north of Gallup, is designed in a series of "stacked loops"— narrow, single track trails with great vistas and cap rocks. The three loops atop the mesas overlooking Gallup are named First Mesa, Second Mesa, and Third Mesa, representing the nearby Hopi Reservation and the Anasazi people that once occupied this region. Each mesa offers increasingly harder terrain to navigate and will engage riders and runners of every skill level.

The course is fast and fun single-track over packed clay, interspersed with some slickrock and sand. There are lots of small climbs and some technical sections. The system is very well marked and has parking and information kiosks at both ends. Map/signs are posted at all intersections.

For years, local trail users were "poaching" trails on properties leased out by the largest private landholding company in McKinley County, Gamerco Associates. This caused tensions with local ranchers and safety issues due to abandoned coal mining operations.

Adventure Gallup & Beyond (AGB), a nonprofit organization assembled for the purpose of creating an economic driver through adventure tourism, was successful in engaging and even adding Charles High, President of Gamerco Associates to the AGB Board. Gamerco Associates provided a legal easement through a tract of private land located on the high mesas between Gamerco and Mentmore.

Stan Smith, ace trail designer, worked with Rich Freedman, county surveyor and archaeologist, to lay out and survey the basic routes. Gallup Trails 2010 oversaw the construction, while local bikers refined the route and established the initial tread. Karl Lohmann and the Youth Conservation Corps provided supervisors, work crews, with the oversight of an ex-Forest Service trail engineer named Strider Brown. Strider designed several monumental stone switchbacks and many state-of-the-art erosion control features. His ability to see a route through a seemingly impossible obstacle is a testament to his experience and creativity.

Events

Annually, the High Desert Trail System is home to the following events:

  • Dawn Til Dusk Endurance Race, a 12-hour endurance mountain biking race
  • High Desert Screamer, a series of mountain biking races
  • Squash Blossom Classic, a weekend of running and biking events
  • Gallup Family Fitness Series, to promote wellness through family events each month

Steel sculptures by Bill Siebersma

Steel sculptures by Bill Siebersma

Management

The County has entered into an agreement with Adventure & Beyond to act as the gatekeeper for this trail system. AGB created a “Trails, Venues, & Events Policy” to manage trail and event use and has partnered with Gallup Trails 2010 and Gallup YCC to provide trail policing and reporting, maintenance, and improvement recommendations. AGB also helps promote and coordinate with nearby recreational and lodging opportunities.

Gamerco Associates has several existing grazing leases that run livestock in this same area. Proper planning for fencing and special singletrack cattleguards combined to limit improper joint use and develop holistic use of the land.

New Mexico's Adventure Capital

In 2011, Patty Lundstrom, State Representative, introduced and advocated for legislation to proclaim Gallup as the "Adventure Capital of New Mexico." After debate and deliberation, a unanimous decision was reached by the New Mexico State Legislature - etching in history Gallup's rightful place and igniting pride in its people. Now, Gallup under its new moniker, as “Adventure Capital of New Mexico”, has quite literally put itself on the map. The High Desert Trail System is a centerpiece that has gained national attention, use, and reputation.

Directions

Gamerco Trailhead: I-40 to Gallup, Exit 20 (Munoz Overpass) to US 491 North for 1.8 miles, turn left at light onto Chino Road. Trailhead on left in 0.1 miles. Mentmore Trailhead: I-40 to Gallup, Exit 16 to Route 66 (NM 118) West for 0.2 miles, turn right onto Mentmore Road/County Road #1. Continue North on dirt road - Trailhead on right in 0.2 mile.

For more information