In our quest to discover new and different hiking trails in the southern Rocky Mountains, we happened upon Manzanita Canyon Trail, off of State Road 150 in Taos County, NM one recent weekend. We had hiked both Yerba and Italianos Canyon Trails in the past, both running parallel to this one. We had really enjoyed Italianos Canyon Trail with its aspen groves and lovely meadows; Yerba Canyon was less enjoyable as it became quite steep and difficult to navigate in spots.

Manzanita Canyon Trailhead, NMThus, it was with a few misgivings that we approached the Manzanita Canyon Trail as it lay between the two. The sign at the trailhead informs us that is it 5ive miles to Lobo Peak.We got an early start in an attempt to avoid getting caught in the early afternoon thunder (and lightening) storms common during monsoon season in northern New Mexico. Leaving the trailhead at 9:30 am, we found ourselves hiking up a rocky road; a rather inauspicious start, given our experience in nearby Yerba Canyon the weekend before.

Manzanita Canyon Trail, NMThe road/trail soon leveled out, however, and became easily navigable. About five minutes in, we encountered our first creek crossing, easily managed by traversing two lovely hand-hewn logs spanning the stream. Molly, our English Cocker Spaniel who accompanied us, plunged right in to wet her feet and enjoy a drink of the cool, clear water.

We hiked on for another half hour or so, hearing the creek gurgling nearby but not seeing it. We passed by stands of aspen and a large variety of wildflowers growing alongside the trail, brightening the landscape with their brilliant colors.  It is quite humid on this lower part of the trail, somewhat reminiscent of what hiking in a rain forest must be like. Finally we reached the creek again, to Molly’s great delight on this warm day. Though our creek crossings are not as numerous as on the other trails, they are still plentiful; eleven as compared to sixteen and seventeen on the Italianos and Yerba Trails respectively.

One of the many waterfalls we spotted along the trail

One of the many waterfalls we spotted along the trail

After we have been hiking over an hour, we stop to share an apple and, as we are looking around, notice we have entered into a new climate zone as the vegetation has changed. Gone are the aspen and lower level wildflowers. Now we find ourselves surrounded by different varieties of wildflowers and more fir and majestic Ponderosa Pine trees. The humidity has also dropped a bit, in spite of our close contact with the stream.

One of several meadows along the trail that would be lovely for camping

One of several meadows along the trail that would be lovely for camping

Hiking on, we encounter several steeper parts of the trail, but these are covered with dirt and pine needles, rather than gravel as in Yerba Canyon, making them more stable and less slippery than on the other trail. We are pleasantly surprised by how much we are enjoying this trip. As with Yerba, we hike beyond the end of the actual canyon, but have not yet reached the end of the trail. We hike on through dense forest.

After we have been hiking for just over two hours, we reach a ridge line that feels as if it should be our connecting point for the Lobo Creek Trail that runs along the ridge of the Canyons. We find no sign, but enjoy hiking along the ridge for another ten minutes or so, when Terry spots the sign down a slight incline. We hike down to the sign, then continue along the Lobo Peak Trail, eager to summit Lobo Peak as the skies, while now a bit cloudy, still are mostly clear.

Stay tuned for A Beautiful Rocky Mountain Canyon Hike–Part 2–The Summit and the Descent

To find a place to stay for your visit to northern New Mexico, browse Woodall’s listings of New Mexico Campgrounds.

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