The Dale Ball Trails are a 30-mile network of single-track routes used by both hikers and mountain bikers, winding through stands of piñon and juniper in the foothills.
Two trailheads give access to the North, Central, and South Sections of the trail: From the northern trailhead, on Sierra del Norte (immediately off Highway 475 after mile marker 3), the North Section trails vary a bit in elevation, but the Central Section (south from the parking area) is more fun because it’s a longer chunk of trails. The southern trailhead, on Cerro Gordo just north of its intersection with Canyon Road, gives access to the Central Section and a newer South Section, which is very difficult, for advanced riders only.
Note that the trail that starts at the southern trailhead lot, part of the Santa Fe Canyon Preserve, is for foot traffic only—ride your bike one-tenth of a mile down Cerro Gordo to the start of the Dale Ball system.
A very popular run is Winsor Trail (no. 254), which provides a great range of scenery and terrain. It has become best known as an awesome downhill joyride, with a local shuttle service providing drop-offs at the top. But local riders strongly discourage this tactic—the Forest Service has considered closing the trail to bikes because of accidents and damage done by sloppy skidding. Instead, it’s recommended you earn the great descent by pedaling up first—there are few deadly steep ascents, so it’s tiring but not impossible, and you’ll rarely have to hike-a-bike.
If you just want an easy out-and-back cruise, the Santa Fe Rail Trail is perfect. The wide gravel path begins at Rabbit Road (take St. Francis Drive south and under I-25) and runs along the railroad tracks through town and on to Lamy, a trip of about 11 miles that’s almost completely level. If you’re feeling especially leisurely, you can bike down and then take a train back with the Santa Fe Southern Railway tours.
© Zora O'Neill from Moon Santa Fe, Taos & Albuquerque, 2nd edition