Everyone is welcome to visit Cibola National Forest, a 1,633,783-acre disjointed region that includes lands in central and northeastern New Mexico and the Oklahoma-Texas panhandle area. The forest contains significant acreage of grasslands, such as the 136,417-acre Kiowa National Grassland. Other portions of Cibola National Forest include four wilderness areas — Sandia Mountain, Manzano Mountain, Withington, and Apache Kid. Along with the lowlands, the forest is blessed with several mountain ranges covering most of central/northeastern New Mexico. Understanding the existence of these topographical features, it is not a far reach to discover that the elevation inside the forest changes from 5,000 feet to over 11,000 feet repeatedly as you progress across New Mexico. To manage the forest, the U.S. Forest Service set up its headquarters in Albuquerque, NM, not far from Santa Fe and Los Alamos, NM.
Climb to the elevation of 8,858 feet on North Baldy's crest by hiking Trail #8. The trailhead sits at 6,000 feet, so you are climbing over 2,800 feet in a short span. The pathway travels along a ridgetop that sometimes runs along the ridge's edge on carved out paths that hover over a 1,000-foot vertical drop. This is not a trail for inexperienced hikers, but the view and the colors are magnificent.
Length: 10 miles
The 10K Trail is an in-and-out pathway that travels through thick spruce forests in the Sandia Mountains. The trail ends at an overlook that takes in Albuquerque with the Ortiz Mountains beyond. This is an easy pathway that gradually climbs 971 feet.
Length: 5.2 miles
The Spruce Spring Trail begins at the Red Canyon Campground near Torreon, NM, and loops close to Manzano Peak to return along a ridgeline. The hike is fairly level for most of the way, with a few inclines here and there. Views along the path are spectacular, with deep canyons and high peaks visible at every turn.
Length: 7.1 miles
Intensity: Easy to Intermediate
Tree Spring Trail is a multipurpose path that hosts hikers, horseback riders, and bicyclists. The in-and-out trail located near Sandia Park, NM, features beautiful wildflowers. Forests shade the path for 80% of the hike.
Length: 3.7 miles
Intensity: Easy to Intermediate
These trails form a loop that travels through rough and muddy terrain. Hikers share the pathway with mountain bikers who also find the trail challenging. There is no tree cover, so the hot sun beats down on travelers during the summer months. In the spring, this trail features excellent colors as wildflowers blanket the hillsides.
Length: 7.9 miles
In the lower elevations, Cibola National Forest covers many acres of the New Mexico high desert where water is hard to find. However, in the upper climes, rivers and creeks rush down the hillsides filled with fish. These streams are sometimes a challenge for anglers, but the brave few find excellent fishing when they manage to climb down a rough slope to toss in a line.
Geocaching is a challenge in the Cibola National Forest. The game gives participants a lesson on how to follow directions toward a GPS site. Here, those who engage in geocaching find themselves climbing steep slopes or plodding along a hot desert path.
Stargazing, one of the most human activities visitors pursue in Cibola National Forest, is fantastic here. Unless there is cloud cover or a wind whipping sand into the air, the skies at night are clear anywhere in the forest.
Address: Forest Headquarters: 2113 Osuna Road, Albuquerque, NM 87113
Fee: Entry fee $0
Taking the time to explore Cibola National Forest while traveling through New Mexico provides a family with a fun and exciting adventure. Studying an area that transforms itself mile after mile like a chameleon is a wonder every family should experience. There is nothing like a family experiencing something new day after day from the comfort of an RV to create memories that bind them together for a lifetime.