Southwestern Region Viewing Area
LOCATION and PHOTOS
Las Conchas Trail
Forest: Santa Fe National Forest
District: Jemez Ranger District
Description: This stroll along the East Fork of the Jemez River is an easy relaxing hike, perfect for finding wildflowers. The stream flows in a rocky canyon in a deep conifer forest, but also meanders through a series of open meadows. The trail goes for about 2 miles before climbing out of the canyon in a series of switchbacks. This makes a good point to begin retracing your route back to the trailhead. The stream, meadows, boulders, and forests provide a good diversity of wildflower habitats. There will be good wildflower viewing from June through September. The elevation here is about 8,400 feet.
Viewing Information: Some interesting, although not necessarily the most showy, plants along this trail are mountain tail-leaf (Pericome caudata), common hop vine (Humulus lupulus), and bunchberry dogwood (Cornus canadensis). Mountain tail-leaf is a shrubby plant that often grows in the cracks of boulders. It has clusters of yellow flowers, but the leaves are the most interesting part. As its name implies, the leaf blades are stretched out into long tails, often in a much exaggerated way. Common hop vine grows in several patches along the trail. The flowers of this vine consist of a series partly inflated overlapping bracts. This plant is a close relative of the cultivated hops used in brewing beer. Bunchberry dogwood is a common forest plant in the northern states and Canada. The population along this trail is the only one in New Mexico and represents the southernmost occurrence of bunchberry dogwood in the United States. The plants here are tiny compared to bunchberry dogwood plants found further north. To find this plant, you need to follow the trail up several of the switchbacks as it climbs out of the canyon and search along the north-facing wooded slopes.
Safety First: Summer storms can cause drastic temperature drops and hypothermia is possible even during the warmest summer months so always carry protective clothing. If you plan to hike a mile or more, you should take a small pack with protective clothing, compass, flashlight, first aid kit, water, and snack foods.
Directions: From Albuquerque, New Mexico, the driving time is 1.5-2 hours. Take Interstate 25 north to Bernalillo. Take U.S. 550 northwest to the Village of San Ysidro. Take NM Highway 4 the rest of the way to the Las Conchas Trailhead. You will pass through Jemez Pueblo and Jemez Springs before you arrive at the junction of N.M. highways 4 and 126. From this junction, remain on Highway 4 for about 11 miles. The trailhead is between mile markers 36 and 37. There is a small parking area on the north side of the road and a sign that says “Las Conchas Trailhead, Trail 137”. If you miss the trailhead, you will arrive at the Las Conchas fishing access area in about .25 mile. It has a toilet and picnic tables, but no hiking trail.
From Santa Fe, New Mexico, the driving time is a little more than 1 hour. Take U.S. 84/285 north to Pojoaque. Take N.M. Highway 502 west toward Los Alamos. Just before you reach Los Alamos you will come to the junction with N.M. Highway 4. Take Highway 4 the rest of the way to the Las Conchas Trailhead. You will pass through the Town of Whiterock and the entrance to Bandelier National Monument before you arrive at the junction of N.M. highways 4 and 501. From this junction, remain on Highway 4 for about 17.5 miles. The trailhead is between mile markers 36 and 37. Just before the trailhead, you will pass the Las Conchas fishing access area, which has a toilet and picnic tables, but no hiking trail. In about .25 mile, you will arrive at the Las Conchas Trailhead, which has a small parking area and a sign that says “Las Conchas Trailhead, Trail 137”.
Ownership and Management: USDA Forest Service, Santa Fe National Forest, Jemez Ranger District, Jemez Springs, New Mexico 87025. Phone: (575) 829-3535
Closest Town: Jemez Springs, New Mexico.