Gallup and McKinley County have invested heavily in developing miles of trails to appeal to outdoor recreation enthusiasts. Regardless of skill level and/or terrain preference, the area around Gallup has an impressive selection of well-maintained, conveniently located, lightly used trails. From the rugged, rolling High Desert Trail System, traversing a triad of mesas north of Gallup, to the singletrack network of trails perusing the ponderosa pine forests in the Zuni Mountains, there is ample variety when it comes to hiking, biking, and (occasionally) cross country skiing. Additionally, there is a really nice climbing area around Mentmore, just west of Gallup.
Outdoor Recreation In Gallup
You don’t have to leave town to find a good trail in Gallup. There are several short walks/hikes in-town.
There is a short walking trail that goes through We The People Park, which is a worthwhile stop for the outdoor sculpture exhibit alone. The park is listed in the Smithsonian Art Database. There is parking available.
The centerpiece is the We the People sculpture by Armando Alvarez. The 8-foot tall, 110-foot long semi-circular wall features silhouette cutouts depicting people from all walks of life, engaged in a variety of activities. Within the semi-circle, there are empty chairs and a collection of figures at lecterns with inscriptions. The artist raised private funding for the sculpture, installing it in 1994. Gallup citizens were used as models and a local bank president was used as the model for the Abe Lincoln-like figure who points to a young girl. According to the Alvarez, the sculpture commemorates “free speech, pluralism, democracy, and our coexistence with the environment.” Mr. Alvarez passed way in June, 2018.
Directions: The park is on the north side of I-40. To access the park, take the I-40 exit to Ford Dr./Myamora/Bataan Memorial Dr. Take the first left, on Joseph M. Montoya Blvd. The sculpture will be on your left. There is plenty of parking. The Playground of Dreams is across the street. Great stop if you have kids that need to burn off some energy.
Located on the south side of Gallup, off of Boardman Avenue, the UNM Gallup Fitness Trail is a 1.3 mile, well-maintained loop trail, with ample free parking available on campus. The trail is open year around, primarily used for walking, hiking, bird watching, and enjoying the wildflowers. There is less than a 100-foot gain on the trail so it is also a good option for visitors acclimating to New Mexico’s climate. Additionally, if you are looking for the full body workout, there is athletic equipment available next to the trail. They do not allow bikes, strollers, or dogs on the trails. Trail map
The People’s Flag
This half mile easy hike is on a crushed rock trail that leads up to the large flag that overlooks the City of Gallup. This flag installation was a collaboration of the City of Gallup, Gallup Land Partners, McKinley County, Veterans Helping Veterans, and donations from throughout the community. The trail is located on Hasler Valley Road, next to Michele’s Readi-Mix.
Geologically, a hogback or hog’s back is a long, narrow ridge or a series of hills with a narrow crest and steep slopes on both flanks. The North Hogback Trail is a great short hike to the hogback ridge northeast of Gallup. The ridge provides magnificent panoramic views of Gallup and Pyramid Rock.
The trail climbs steeply on switchbacks and stone steps at first. There are a bike toting stretches, but most of the trail is navigable on a bike. There’s cliff exposure when the trail goes over the ridge. Beyond that, a spur trail heads south, intersecting the highway. However, the main trail then north, running up a narrow valley and passing several cairns. There is a section of the trail that turns into a slog through sand before widening into a doubletrack. Some of this section is steep, with sand and gravel so take it easy if you aren’t familiar with the trail.
Directions: Take Hassler Valley Road east to the dirt road turnoff headed to the Gallup OHV Motocross Park. There is a sign, but it is easy to miss if you aren’t watching for it. Head north on the dirt road for about a mile. At the OHV Park, drive through the yellow gate to the north side of the motocross area. Park at the base of the first hogback fin on the right next to the sign at the trailhead.
More Outdoor Recreation Options Around Gallup
- Dog Park | 801 S 2nd St
Dog Play Area • Picnic area • Water fountains
- Fox Run Golf Course | 1109 Susan Ave
18-hole, driving course
- Gallup Brickyard Bike Park | 610 E Hill St
Bike Trail • Parking
- Gallup Skate Park | 308 E Highway 66, Downtown Gallup
Skate boarding • Roller blading Roller skating • Biking
- OHV/ATV Park | Hasler Valley Road
500-acre, Off-Highway Vehicle Park
- Playground of Dreams | 830 B Wilson Ave
General Recreation • Picnic area • Play area • Restroom facilities • Water fountains
Red Rock Park is the site of numerous annual events, including several large rodeo events and the Intertribal Indian Ceremonial in mid-August. It features a natural amphitheater set against wind sculpted red sandstone cliffs. There is an auditorium/convention center, with an 8,000-seat arena, a museum, a historic post office and trading post, stables, and a campground. The facility accommodates 600 for trade shows or concert performances.
There are two popular trails available at Red Rock Park. The Pyramid Rock trail is a 3-mile round trip route. The trail takes you to the top of the Pyramid for fantastic views of Gallup and Fort Wingate. Church Rock Trail is a 2-mile trail, beginning at the Outlaw Trading Post parking lot. It winds up to the sandstone spire of Church Rock, again with a perfect perch for stellar views of Gallup or appreciating a sunset. Trail Map (pdf download)
Directions: Head 6 miles east of Gallup on Route 66, aka Highway 118. Turn left heading north on Highway 566. The park entrance is on the left about 1/2 mile. Follow the signs to Pyramid Rock Trail or the Outlaw Trading Post/Church Rock Trail.
Red Rock Park | 901 Pyramid Trail Rd
Concession stand • Horse stalls • Restroom facilities • Rodeo arenas
Red Rock Park East Campground | 801 Outlaw Rd
Camping and RV hookups • Hiking • Post office • Restroom facilities
Mentmore Climbing Area
There are two separate areas at Mentmore, the new area and the original area. The cliffs are composed of a well-cemented section of yellow to tan Cretaceous Gallup Sandstone. In total, there are over 100 routes, usually 40′ to 50′ tall. The majority of the routes are sport, with a few traditional in the mix.
During the rainy season (July/August), check when the last storm occurred before trekking to Mentmore from anywhere other than the Gallup area. The sandstone is fragile when it is wet. Local climbers ask that you wait about 48 hours following a heavy rainstorm before climbing.
The original area is well established with numerous routes. There are new climbs added to the new area every year. Some locals believe the ratings in this area are slightly overrated. Due to the remote location, there is rarely anyone at Mentmore other than locals. Dogs are welcome. More Details
Directions: Exit 16 on I-40. Head west on Route 66/Hwy 118 for ½ mile. Turn right/north on to County Road 1. After about 1 mile, the road makes a sharp turn to the left/west and becomes Mentmore Road. Follow Mentmore Road for about 1.5 mile. The road goes over a hill, turning sharply to the right at the bottom. At this turn, go through the open gate to the Mentmore Rock Climbing parking area.
- Original Area – Walk west along the path/dirt road from the parking area, down into the arroyo, then up again towards the visible cliffs. It is about a 5-10 minute walk. Be careful of broken glass and other garbage. The area used to be a dumping area.
- New Area – Walk south from the parking area towards the nearby cliffs. About a 5 minute walk.
The High Desert Trail System is popular with hikers and mountain bikers. Though it is close to Gallup, and only a few miles from I-40, the area has a backcountry, remote vibe. The trails were built on private land with funds provided by multiple agencies, including the city of Gallup and McKinley County. Good trail-head parking at both ends, with one parking area in Mentmore, on the west side of Gallup, and another parking area near Gamerco, north of Gallup. The latter is more popular.
In keeping with Gallup’s knack for artistic flair, there are multiple works of public art on the trail; rock sculptures, metal sculptures, and two sundials. In 2012, the Department of Interior designated the High Desert system as a national recreation trail.
The High Desert Trail System is dog friendly, but keep your canine cohorts on a leash, because there is wildlife in the area, including snakes and the occasional mountain lion. In the summer months, take a hat, sunscreen, and ample water. It is called “High Desert” for a reason.
With over 22 miles of stacked loop, single track trail, it is suitable for an afternoon loop or an all-day epic ride or hike. The trail network consists primarily of three loops stretching across three mesas, progressing west to east from beginning, intermediate, to more advanced, technical track. Additionally, the advanced loop has an option to cut it in half. Though all three loops are fun, the advanced course is going to be the most entertaining for mountain biking enthusiasts. There are some technical climbs, or hike and tote in my case and the descents are steeper.
Stem | 3 miles, 250′ climbing
Starting at the Gamerco Trailhead located off HWY 491 on Chino Rd, the stem is the most popular walking/running section of the HDTS. It is rolling and gentle with a sitting bench about halfway through the 3-mile section. The stem goes to the intersection of First Mesa Loop and Connector which is marked by “Six Flags”.
First Mesa Loop | 2 miles, 330′ climbing
This scenic 2-mile stretch is the easiest and the least technical of the high desert loops. You can ride in either direction efficiently. Good trail for novice or advanced mountain bikers.
Connector | 0.7 miles, 130′ climbing
Trail connecting First and Second Mesa Loops. There is an arroyo crossing that might be challenging if it rains a lot. That doesn’t happen often. More likely during summer monsoon season.
Second Mesa Loop | 5.5 miles, 550′ climbing
This loop is slightly more demanding and technical than First Mesa; however, it can still be ridden in either direction.
Third Mesa Loop | 6 miles, 680′ climbing
Most technical of the three loops, with some exposed, extended climbs on the southwestern end; however, the loop can be cut in half at the intersection in the middle. The trail can be ridden in either direction. Counter-clockwise is more challenging.
For an unexpected, mountain refuge near Gallup, head into the Zuni Mountains to explore the 25-mile network of hiking and singletrack biking trails nestled in the Cibola National Forest. The forests provide a stark contrast to the terrain on the High Desert Trail, winding through groves of ponderosa pine, aspen groves, and open meadows. The Continental Divide runs, more or less, down the middle.
There are plans at the city and county level to expand the trail system to include unmarked trails in the vicinity. The goal is to develop over 60 miles of mountain biking single track. There are two developed campgrounds available, McGaffey and Quaking Aspen, as well as numerous meadows for primitive, back country camping.
Singletrack trail that follows an aspen lined drainage to Sheetrock Tank. Start at the Hilso trailhead.
Y2K | 3.2 miles, 455′ climbing or descent
Singletrack trail that intersects with Turkey’s Nest and Quaking Aspen. The trail runs parallel to NM-400 for about a mile before turning west and climbing to Andrew’s Tank. The trail is mostly a mellow cruise on rolling hills, with a few short climbs.
Turkey’s Nest | 2.1 miles, 358′ climbing
Trail climbs to Sheetrock Tank. The name is based on the abundance of wild turkeys in the area.
Broken Nose | 0.3-mile, 105′ climbing
Connects Quaking Aspen/Hilso with Turkey’s Nest. Basically, this trail is an alternative route to Sheetrock Tank.
Lost Lake Loop | 6 miles, 700′ climbing/descent
This trail starts at Sheetrock Tank and gradually ascends to the west rim. There is a small spur in the middle that leads to a worthwhile scenic overlook.
Singletrack trail running on the edge of the Fort Wingate Army Depot. This trail also leads to Sheetrock Tank, running north to Forest Road 481.
Berma | 3.3 miles, 700′ descent
Downhill singletrack with a lot of berms available to use as jumps. Though you can ride this trail in either direction, the downhill version is A LOT more fun unless you have an aversion to catching air. Ends at the gravel road just beyond the Hilso trailhead.
Want More hiking & Biking Options?
Twin Springs Area
Twin Springs is about 18 miles deeper in the Zuni Mountains. The area provides miles of two track forest roads and primitive single-track in the logging corridors. The Aspen Corridor single-track starts on the east side of the road. On the west side of Forest Road 50 there is a meadow in the aspens that is a popular camping spot for bike packers.
There is no signage and the roads are unimproved dirt roads so be aware of weather. They are fine when it is dry, but they can be unpleasant after heavy rain. This area is closed from December until mid-April due to unpredictable weather on the Continental Divide
Ramah Mormon Pioneer Trail
The Ramah Mormon Pioneer Trail is part of the National Trail System, which is jointly administered by the National Park Service and the USDA Forest Service, in conjunction with a number of other federal and nonprofit partners
The trailhead parking area is on the road to the Ramah Lake dam. The trail starts to the left of the restroom area and goes up to the top of the ridge. The trail continues north, eventually dropping down into the old rodeo grounds (Pasture Hollow), thru a deep arroyo, and then back up on the right-hand side. Trail Map
- Red Rock State Park: 8 miles east.
- Red Rock Museum: 4 miles east
- Acoma Sky City: 88 miles east
- Chaco Culture National Historical Park: 72 miles south
- Aztec Ruins National Monument: 96 miles north
- Canyon de Chelly National Monument: 90 miles northwest
- El Morro National Monument: 51 miles southeast
- El Malpais National Monument: 87 miles southeast
- Cibola National Forest: 15 miles south
- Bisti Badlands/DeNaZin Wilderness areas: 105 miles northeast
- Navajo Reservation: 10 miles west
- Zuni Pueblo: 20 miles south
- Four Corners Monument: 120 miles north
- The Continental Divide: 20 miles east
- Hubbell Trading Post: 56 miles northwest
- Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary: 62.6 miles southeast
- Bluewater Lake: 47.6 miles east
Gallup has more than 280 sunny days each year, 9.6 inches rainfall annually. In general, the Four Corners area has pleasant weather year around, though there are occasional winter storms that hit the Continental Divide and it gets unpleasantly hot in July and August. For the most part, low humidity and warm temperatures are the norm. However, jackets or sweaters are advisable for evening activities, because there is a stark difference between day and night time temperatures in the high desert.