Hike, Virtually

Follow along the Gavilan Trail

Hiking Gavilan Trail is a richly rewarding walk in the woods. Lace-up some sturdy shoes, bring an extra layer of clothes, and plenty of water – you're in for 1,000+ foot elevation gains per mile and stunning views. Gavilan translates to Sparrowhawk (aka American Kestrel), a small raptor that is widespread in North America. The name is understandable - once you've seen the first meadow, your heart will fly, viewing the vast meadow fringed with trees and abundant with wildlife.

Gavilan Trail Waypoints
Gavilan Trail Relief Map

If you're coming up from the historic and charming Sagebrush Inn & Suites area in the southern part of the Town of Taos, drive north on Paseo Del Pueblo Sur. You will pass the Taos Plaza on your left and the Taos Inn, "the living room of Taos" on your right. You are now on the north side of the Plaza, and the road is now Paseo Del Pueblo Norte (US Route 64). Keep going north to the intersection of 64 and State Road 150/Ski Valley Road. Take a right on 150 and head towards the lush mountain foothills. Those who may be struck by intense pizza, calzone, or lasagne cravings post-hike will want to note Pizaños restaurant on the right-hand side. As you travel on 150 into Arroyo Seco, slow to admire the charismatic little town, but stop at Arroyo Seco Mercantile for a unique keepsake of your visit. The road will turn to the left and then curve right, giving you a magnificent view of Valdez below you and Arroyo Hondo to the west.

Proceed approximately 7 miles to the Gavilan #60 trailhead on your left. You'll know you've missed it if you pass Austing Haus. Parking for the trail is on the north side of the road - look for the small cutout for the trailhead immediately before Austing Haus (Please do not park on private streets for any trail access.).

At the Gavilan Trailhead
Trailhead marker for Gavilan Trail

You'll be starting at about 9,000 ft, hiking the first quarter-mile behind some lodging and residences.The trail, shaded by tall trees, includes a couple of crisp stream crossings in more wet years. 

Entering the Columbine-Hondo Wilderness
The start of Gavilan Trail
Aspens along Gavilan Trail
 
On the way to the scenic meadows is a waterfall trail.

The cutoff for the waterfall trail
Waterfall Trail along Gavilan Trail

If you choose to see the waterfall, note that much of the path that leads to it has eroded into the canyon, anyone could walk to where they can see it, but to hike down to the stream requires climbing down a steep, loose slope that the average hiker should not consider.

Waterfall along Gavilan Trail in Taos

This sun-dappled trail will lead you 1.5 miles, the last of which is a somewhat steep part.Your reward is in front of you - the Lower Meadow.

The Lower Meadow
Lower Meadow on Gavilan Trail

Congrats, you've just completed 1,500 feet of elevation gain! Good news to anyone weary at this point; the views start – a real-life relief map spreads out before you. Lucky visitors may see elk grazing in the meadow or on the edges of the treeline. In this meadow and the two to follow on the trail, summer wildflowers stretch to the sun while butterflies take advantage of the seasonal bounty of nectar.

Many people spend their hike getting to and adventuring around the Lower Meadow, but the meadow areas are two portions; the second is the largest. If you've made it to this point, keep going! As you get to the Upper Meadow, if the second stream crossing is running, you can follow upstream and find the spring that feeds it.

Spring water along Gavilan Trail
Spring fed water in Taos Ski Valley

The Upper Meadow

Upper Meadow on Gavilan Trail

After the upper meadow, you'll be facing a steep climb, including a set of switchbacks to the top of the Gavilan Trail - 11,205 feet! From here, you'll have spectacular views in all directions.

Views of Taos Ski Valley from Gavilan Trail

Unless you have planned for and packed well for a longer hike, it's best to turn around and head back down. The prepared hikers can continue west on the Lobo Trail up and over Gavilan Peak to the ridge above Long Canyon, then continuing around that cirque northeast towards Gold Hill. Heading west on the ridge that extends to Lobo Peak, the trail will treat you to the tops of Italianos and Yerba along the way.

Trail junction of Gavilan and Lobo

It's best to pay close attention to the weather. Our summer monsoons can make the higher elevations subject to sudden inclement weather - high wind, rain, or even hail! Pro tip: Get up early and leave the high, exposed ridges by 1 or 2 pm in the summer, due to the likelihood of pop-up rain potential. If you are going through the meadows or are on the trail, you'll have rain protection from big trees if you need it. Be prepared with a second layer of clothing and take it slow – if you are not used to the altitude, drink more water than you think you may need, expect not to feel as fit as you would at lower elevations! If you haven't hiked in our area before and are solo hiking, make sure that someone knows what time you expect to be back.

Mileage to Lower Meadow: 1.5 miles
Distance to top: 2.4 miles one way / 4.8 miles round-trip

Realize that you need gear for your excursion? Grab it in Taos Ski Valley at BootDoctors, Cottam's Ski Shop, Taos Sports, or Andean Software. Want to linger and enjoy the mountain majesty? Get your pre or post-hike nosh on at Bumps Market, Black Diamond Espresso, or The Bavarian.