Angel Fire Hiking at Wild Rivers on the Rio Grande

Wild Rivers Recreation Area has been set aside to allow visitors to experience the beauty of two national Wild and Scenic Rivers protected by Congress. Here the Rio Grande and Red River are preserved in their natural, free-flowing state for present and future generations to enjoy and appreciate.

The Rio Grande or “Great River” has sliced an 800-foot deep volcanic canyon through the high plains of northern New Mexico, rich with history, rugged beauty, and exciting recreational opportunities. This natural wonder is intensively used, yet 90 percent remains in a natural condition; the other 10 percent is developed for concentrated recreational use. Whitewater access draws visitors to the riverbank. The Wild Rivers Backcountry Byway, winding its way along the rim of the Rio Grande gorge, offers access to spectacular overlooks, including the confluence of the Red River and the Rio Grande at La Junta Point — possibly the most dramatic vista statewide, and it is wheelchair accessible.

The canyon ecosystem descends 800 feet from rim to river, creating a unique diversity in plant and animal life. Ancient pinon and juniper forests are home to 500 year-old trees. Watchable wildlife opportunities include mule deer, red-tailed hawk, mountain blue-bird, and prairie dog.

The climate is semi-arid with summer thunderstorms common in July and August, and snow possible from November through March. Summer temperatures range from 45 to 90F and in winter from -15 to 45F.

The following twenty-two miles of rim and river trails offer a variety of hiking options in the Recreation Area. Most trails begin from campgrounds where day use parking areas are available. See brochure map for exact trail locations. Trails are steep and hiking can be strenuous. Good physical condition, sturdy shoes, and plenty of drinking water are required. For more information on other trails in the recreation area, please stop by or call the visitor center.


Wild Rivers Nature Trail


  • Easy interpretive loop along the canyon rims of the Red River and the Rio Grande at La Junta Point.
  • Trail is approximately 1/2 mile long and takes approximately 1/2 hour to complete.

La Junta Trail

  • 1.2 miles one-way
  • Elevation drop 800 feet
  • Moderate to difficult
  • Spectacular views of confluence of Red River and Rio Grande

Little Arsenic Springs Trail

  • 0.7 miles one-way
  • Elevation drop 760 feet
  • Moderate to difficult
  • Good views of gorge; access to river.

Big Arsenic Trail

  • 1.0 miles one-way
  • Elevation drop of 680 feet
  • Moderate to difficult
  • Great views of river; cold-water springs; petroglyphs nearby

River Trail

  • 2.5 miles one-way
  • Relatively level; slight elevation change
  • Easy to moderate
  • Pleasant walk along river; trail connects with three other trails into gorge, making loop hike possible

Rios Bravos Trail

  • 0.25 miles one-way
  • Level
  • Easy
  • Self-guided interpretive trail with informational brochure.  Views of gorge

El Aguaje Trail

  • 0.7 miles one-way
  • Elevation drop 560 feet
  • Moderate
  • Popular fishing spot

Guadalupe Mountain Trail

  • 2 miles one-way
  • Elevation Gain 1000 feet
  • Moderate
  • Great views of Taos Plateau and mountains; tall pines, wildflowers, cooler temperatures

Rinconada Loop Trail

  • 6.1 miles (loop)
  • Level
  • Easy
  • Walk in sage, woods near rim of gorge


  • 0.5 miles one-way
  • Elevation drop 320 feet
  • Moderate
  • Shorter access to river


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