Snowshoeing trails

Snowshoe trails and events near Chama, New Mexico • Snowshoe Mag

Taking advantage of a foot of powder, we snowshoeed under a clear blue sky in the small town of Chama, New Mexico. Our favorite snowshoeing spot was Edward Sargent Wildlife Sanctuary, just a 5 minute drive north of Chama. We were practically alone except for a few snowshoers in the distance, and could quietly enjoy the mountains, streams and forests that surround us. Fortunately, the Edward Sargent Wildlife Area is not the only option for those looking to snowshoe around Chama. Here we focus on several trail options, as well as events for snowshoe enthusiasts.

Chama, a small town of about 1,000 people, is a beautiful mountain town at 7,870 feet (2,399 m), located just 7 miles (11 km) from the Colorado-New Mexico border. In summer the city is home to the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railway. This great adventure attracts visitors from across the country who want to explore the Rocky Mountains by train. In winter, however, the railway is closed and the area becomes much less populated. The smallest crowd offers plenty of unexplored terrain for snowshoers looking to get off the beaten track.

Read more: Snowshoe New Mexico: Where to Go in Enchantment Land

Exploration of the outskirts of Chama and the Cumbres and Toltec railway in winter.

Snowshoe trails near Chama, NM

Chama has several snowshoe trails in and near town for you to explore! Just be sure to bring your own snowshoes with you. Or, you can rent snowshoes an hour north of Chama at Pagosa mountain sports in Pagosa Springs, CO.

Edward Sargent Wildlife Area

One of the biggest prints to Edward Sargent Wildlife Area, as the name suggests, is an opportunity to see the vast wildlife of the park. Elk, deer, porcupines, coyotes, black bears, pumas, snowshoe hares, beavers, turkeys and a variety of other birds reside in the park. You never know what animal tracks you may find on your trip! With this in mind, however, some areas of the park are restricted during the hunting season. So, please check the park guidelines ahead of time to make sure you are ready.

Read more: A new passion found: tracking and identifying wildlife

Elk Interpretive Trail, Chama, New Mexico

The Elk Interpretive Trail, just north of the parking lot, is 0.5 km from a wildlife viewing area. Even though the trail is short, it is wise to take the snow conditions into account. We were the first to break the trail in about a foot of fresh powder. So it took about 45 minutes round trip. If there are no wild animals for the day, the observation area offers a beautiful view of the park and its surroundings.

Alternatively, once in the parking lot, you can snowshoe northwest on Route Nationale 29, which is not cleared of snow. Following NM 29 for approximately 1 mile (1.75 km) from the parking lot will give you access to additional snowshoe trails in the park (like this loop), as well as views of the Rio Chamita and the surrounding mountains.

Rio Grande National Forest

Located in southwest Colorado, the Rio Grande National Forest offers several snowshoe trails to explore if you’re staying near Chama.

A sure way to add extra beauty to your ride (I mean you can never have too much of it), is to snowshoe along a river. If you are a stream lover, the Chama River Trail follow the river to the confluence for a view of the upper Chama basin. This 7.8 km (4.9 mile) trail has relatively soft terrain and is excellent for beginners to snowshoeing.

The Red lake trail is an easy to moderate 5.2 mile (8.3 km) trail and just 24 miles (38.6 km) north of Chama. Snowshoe down the valley of La Manga Creek to an alpine plateau for views of the Continental Divide.

Susan at Edward Sargent's in Chama

The author enjoys beautiful snowshoe walks in Chama!

Chama Chili Ski Classic & Winter Fiesta

Each January, the Chama Chili Classic Skiing brings together avid snowshoers and skiers from across the region to celebrate winter athletics at this multi-day event. Located approximately 12 miles (19 km) outside of Chama, the event will take place January 18-19, 2020. Bring the family for a weekend getaway for fun runs and recreational activities!

For interested runners, the weekend begins with a junior 18 km freestyle and 6 km snowshoe race. Notably, the junior competition is also a qualification for the USSSA Nationals in Leadville, CO, in February. Then, on day 2, the races include a 12 km or 6 km classic ski, a 12 km or 6 km snowshoe race, or a combined 12 km or 6 km event.

If you are new to the racing game, the 1K or 3K Rookie Race is a great place to start. Dip your toes in the water… in the snow and see if competitive snowshoe racing is worth it!

Elk Interpretive Trail, Chama, New Mexico

This beautiful blue sky, typical of New Mexico’s winter, was the perfect backdrop for snowshoeing among the trees and mountains of Edward Sargent Wildlife Sanctuary.

After or between running activities, take part in the plethora of clinics and tours offered throughout the weekend. Choose to participate in the Beginner’s Cross-Country Ski Clinic, Freestyle Ski Clinic, Advanced Cross-Country Ski Clinic, and Ski Waxing Clinic. Or if exploring the area is more your style, hop on the Guided Snowshoe Tour to Edward Sargent Wildlife Area or the Ski Tour to the Spruce hole and yurt area.

To cool off and have fun, there will be yoga, music and a costume contest as part of the event. Then, after Sunday, you can go snowshoeing or skiing without competition on the groomed course. The course is available on Monday January 20 or the weekend after January 25 or 26.

Snowshoe near Chama, New Mexico!

Whether you are exploring the trails near town or in the surrounding area, Chama will provide you with the beauty you were looking for in an off-the-beaten-path region.

Did you go snowshoeing in the Chama region or competing in the Chama Chile Ski Classic? We would love to hear about your experience in the comments below!

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