Winter hiking in Taos: Petaca Point

For solitude and sunshine, try winter hiking on the west rim of the Río Grande. A variety of trails follow the edge of the gorge and lead to dramatic overlooks with views down to the river and up to the snow covered mountains. These hikes can be found in the Orilla Verde (Green Ribbon) portion of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, south and west of Taos, New Mexico.

The Petaca Point Trail is one of these hikes. A lightly traveled trail, it begins at the south end of the West Rim Road. The trailhead is located just before the road descends along the switchbacks to the Taos Junction Bridge.

The Petaca Point Trail follows the west edge of the gorge south for more than four miles. It is single track with some rolling hills to start and soon joins a double track section, the remnants of an old road. The trail is surrounded by sage and passes through an expansive meadow.

The Arroyo Petaca begins near San Antonio Mountain to the north. It has been used as a travel corridor for humans for 10,000 years or longer according to archaeologists with the BLM and Carson National Forest.

Michael Kyte, district archaeologist with the Tres Piedras ranger district of the Carson National Forest, says “Although it seems a remote and little known part of the Taos Valley today, the Arroyo Aguaje de la Petaca has for thousands of years played a central role in allowing human life to thrive in this high, dry, and often harsh environment. Its name as shown on modern maps, no doubt only the most recent of many similar names in many languages, conveys something of its vital importance as ‘the water source for the Petaca.’

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