Bicycling in Grant County is some of the best year-around cycling in the southwest. Take it from me. I’m an avid cyclist who’s been riding here 20 years. What makes it so good? There are river valleys, mountains and outstanding scenery. The roads are lightly traveled and great for road bikes and there are plenty of forest roads and trails for mountain bikes. Here are some of my best picks.
For Road Bikes: The main highways have good shoulders but the most interesting rides are narrow two-lane roads.
The Mimbres River Valley, NM 35: This gradual ascending road takes you up the Mimbres River Valley. At the beginning of your ride the tall hills, dotted with pinions and junipers, rise abruptly from the valley floor and the 2-lane road follows the Mimbres River. At the upper end of the valley you’ll cross the Continental Divide at just over 6,000 ft, and descend into a broad, grassy valley where the road weaves through great stands of Ponderosa Pines. The tall peaks in the Gila Wilderness seem painted on the blue horizon before you. This is a beautiful, mellow ride that lets you keep a good spinning pace. The ride back down the valley will have you flying along. You can do an easy 50-mile out and back.
Emory Pass, NM 152: From the Mimbres River Valley you can also take NM 152 and climb the 2,000 ft. assent to Emery Pass. This ride is for strong and skilled bike riders. Some of the climbs are steep and the descent is fast with many blind curves. If you leave from the Mimbres River Valley it’s about 17 miles to the pass. If you leave from Silver City you can double the mileage.
Cherry Creek, NM 15: This road leaves Silver City and goes to the Gila Cliff Dwellings. It’s the local riders’ favorite ride. This graceful, narrow, 2-way road, with no lane markings, curves and undulates through beautiful pine forests and riparian canyons. The pavement is good and you’ll only meet an occasional vehicle. At times tall rock palisades line the canyon walls; at other times sudden mountain panoramas make you stop for the breath-taking views. There are many steep, blind curves so you need to be on top of your bike skills. It’s about 45 mountainous miles to Cliff Dwellings. Most riders only go part way and enjoy the scenery and the thrill of the ride.
A racer’s winter training ground: Silver City is the home of the Tour of the Gila, a premier, 5-day stage race. The mountains, elevation, and mild winters attract racers from around the country and Canada for winter training.
For Mountain Bikes: Silver City is the home of the annual Signal Peak Mountain Bike Challenge. There are great mountain bike rides in the Gila National Forest and you can ride on any of the trails and roads that are not within designated Wilderness areas. Information and maps are available at the Gila National Forest Supervisors Office and bike shops.
The Continental Divide Trail: The Continental Divide is only a few miles from Silver City. In the past few years the Gila National Forest has improved and signed new segments of the Continental Divide Trail. The trail north of Silver City is mountainous and requires good technical skills. A newly opened segment of trail southwest of Silver City and the Burro Mountains goes through scenic high-desert juniper covered hills and washes and is smoother with less steep grades. It’s a ride to remember when you ride the Continental Divide Trail.
Little Walnut Picnic Area: The Forest Service picnic area just a few miles north of Silver City offers several great mountain bike trails close to town. This is also along the Continental Divide with elevations of around 6,000 ft.
Fort Bayard Wildlife Refuge: Five miles east of Silver City is a part of the Gila National Forest with a special wildlife designation. The trails are closed to motorized travel but open to mountain biking, horseback riding, and hiking. There are several loops you can do and the riding ranges from fairly easy to technical. You may see elk, deer and wild turkey.
Silver City and Grant County is your bicycling vacation destination. Every day offers a new ride. There is a variety of lodging, dining, and two full-service bike shops to meet all you needs.
[By Jackie Blurton, Silver City KOA]