Hiking Trails of Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge

Northern entrance sign for the Bosque.

 Northern entrance sign for the Bosque. 

   Hiking trails in the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge  https://www.fws.gov/refuge/bosque_del_apache/  are a byproduct of the creation of this dramatic haven for birds and animals located between the Chupadera Mountains to the west and the San Pascual Mountains on the east. Running through the center is the Rio Grande which sustains the huge cottonwood trees in the refuge. "Bosque" in fact is Spanish for "woods," so the name of the refuge is literally "Woods of the Apache."  Author Robyn Harrison notes that the name "refer(s) to a time when Spanish travelers were surprised (not usually pleasantly) by Apache Indians hiding out in the cottonwoods near the Rio Grande in what is today central New Mexico." 

Hiking Trails Location

 To reach the Bosque, traveling south on I-25, drive nine miles south of Socorro, and turn east on US380 to the village of San Antonio. Turn right (south) at the flashing light to NM1. In about five miles you'll reach the boundary of the Bosque. Just outside the boundary is Bosque Birdwatchers RV Park  https://www.facebook.com/bird.watchers.16  which offers full hookups. This is a great stopover while you explore the Bosque. 

  Recognizing the need for habitat for migratory birds, the US government established the Migratory Bird Conservation Act of 1929 to acquire land and set up refuges for migratory birds. The Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge was thus created ten years later by an Executive Order of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on November 22, 1939, as a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife. During a recent visit there in late February we saw a Roadrunner, Snow Geese, Blue Herons, a coyote, and a turtle. So there is indeed a variety of wildlife. Sandhill cranes by the thousands stop in the Bosque in early February each year on their migratory journey north from Mexico to Canada. 

Hundreds of Snow Geese enjoy the pond at the Bosque.

Hundreds of Snow Geese enjoy the pond at the Bosque.

Hiking Trails From The Loop Drives

  First-time visitors to the Bosque should first drive around the North and South Loops, to get a general orientation. Along these loop drives are several stops which offer short walks out to viewpoints of the ponds. These ponds are created by the Refuge, and fields near the ponds grow crops which feed the birds. See the map below for the Loop Drives and hiking trails of the Bosque.

Map of Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge

Map of Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge

  If one stops at all of the lookout points on the Loop Drives you will have enjoyed several hours of hiking and bird watching. One of our favorite stops on the South Loop is the Boardwalk which reaches far out into the pond. Here we saw a Blue Heron sunning in the reeds.

Bosque Boardwalk with the Chupadera Mountains in the distance.

Bosque Boardwalk with the Chupadera Mountains in the distance. 

A Blue Heron seen from the Bosque Boardwalk.

A Blue Heron seen from the Bosque Boardwalk.

  A favorite stop on the North Loop was the short hiking trail out to the Observation Blind. Here visitors can "spy" on the birds behind a board fence with holes cut in it. Unfortunately we didn't see any birds there that day, but it's fun to peer through the holes anyway. 

The Bosque Observation Blind on the North Loop Drive.

The Bosque Observation Blind on the North Loop Drive.

Hiking the Canyon National Recreation Trail

  When you're ready for a longer hiking trail in the Bosque, the Canyon National Recreation Trail is a good choice. This 2.2 mile round trip loop starts under a railroad bridge and heads west toward the Chupadera Mountains. The trail winds through sandy desert and starts climbing toward sandstone rock formations. Trail signs point you to the left side of the loop, however the trail soon becomes indistinguishable in the sand upon entering the Wilderness Area.  We floundered around climbing the rocky hills looking for the trail but never found it.  A better alternative is to take the right side of the loop at the trail junction. Either way, the scenery is spectacular and worth your hiking efforts.  

The Canyon Trail starts below this BNSF Railroad bridge.

The Canyon Trail starts below this BNSF Railroad bridge.

The Canyon Trail leads to some interesting sandstone formations.

The Canyon Trail leads to some interesting sandstone formations.

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