The Dale Ball trail system is broken into two areas, Dale Ball north and Dale Ball Central, they are easily combined for a few hours of pure mountain bike fun. The entire trail system is singletrack and was purpose built for bikers, runners, and hikers. The trails are at elevation so someone that has not acclimated will likely be sucking wind, there is a fair amount of climbing, all of which is rewarded with some great downs. The flow of the trails is fantastic and there is plenty of recovery areas when climbing. These trails drain quickly after rain and are typically rideable year round. They are super busy on weekends, be on the lookout for runners.
We take a trip to New Mexico every year, we always stop in Santa Fe to ride Winsor, Tesuque, Rio En Medio and Dale Ball before heading up to Taos. These are some of our all time favorite trails and we think they should be on everyone's must ride list. Santa Fe may not be the first place you think of when you are planning a mountain biking vacation, but it should be high on your list.
Dale Ball was the first trail I ever road the first time I visited Santa Fe. In fact, I wasn't even acclimated to the altitude and we hit it around lunch time in mid-July.Even though we're dying of exhaustion and lack of oxygen, my friend and I had a blast. For the most part the trails are extremely well marked (the north system). The south part of the trail network could use a little help. The map on this site was a great resource for our second trip.I don't recommend taking a big hit or heavy bike on this trail. This is definitely cross country at its best.
There is nothing super technical on the northern part of the Dale Ball trail system. It is mostly undulating XC single track over (natural) crushed sandstone, although some of the climbs can get arduous, and some of the descents are loose and tricky. The main technical challenges involve tight switchbacks on ascents and descents. On some of these, the trail designer was thoughtful enough to cut the switchback with a nice big rock or some other obstacle right in the middle of the turn. :| In general, this trail should be rated intermediate because of the large amount of total climbing involved, even though no climb, taken in isolation, is particularly long or difficult. Given that the trail is all between 7000-8000 feet, those not used to the elevation will be huffing and puffing. The flow is amazing, however, and there is always a recovery section built into every climb.The most difficult continuous loop with no backtracking starts at Sierra del Norte and takes the following turns: (2) right (3) right (4) right (5) left (6) left (8) right (7) left (10) left (11) right (19) right (20) right. At the road, take a left, then quickly take an acute left onto Cerro Gordo (there is actually another road not shown on the map-- the trail does not end at Cerro Gordo as pictured.) Remaining turns: (26) right (25) right (23) left (22) left (16) right (15) right (14) right then left at Hyde Park Road and follow it back to Sierra del Norte.This is about a 10-mile loop with approximately 1600 feet of gain/loss spread out over the ride. The most arduous climbs are on the back side, between 27 and 14.
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