“A good mid-distance loop with some elevation gain and not too many people, especially in the middle portion.”
— Eric Moffat
Fall Colors · River/Creek · Views · Wildflowers
This is a good mid-distance run that combines some steep ascents and descents with sections of gentle incline and decline. It's a nice trail in mostly good shape, with some great views and varied terrain. It's also wooded and provides good shade, especially along the Windsor section.
The steep, western section of the Saddleback Trail
is fairly challenging, with larger, loose rocks, deep ruts, some overhanging branches and sudden twists. Watch the ankles and knees. There are some unbridged creek crossings along the Windsor—you'll either have to play leap-rock, use downed trees, or get wet.
The initial climb out of the Chamisa Trail parking lot climbs quickly and is a bit steep, but it mellows out fairly quickly, and one has done the majority of one's climbing by the time one reaches the saddleback junction. The Saddleback meanders along the ridgeline offering occasionally stunning views of the plains.
It climbs gradually before dropping down a steep, rocky, and rutted trail that leads to the Windsor cutoff junctions. The further descent to the Windsor Trail is pretty mellow with occasional creek bed crossings. The Windsor Trail is lovely, sometimes running high above the Tesuque Creek, sometimes right alongside, with plenty of crossings both of the bridged and more adventurous variety.
The canyon is often narrow and very shaded with plenty of pines as well as cottonwoods, willows, and other deciduous trees, in the spring providing a green canopy above and in the fall blanketing the path a gorgeous yellow. The ascent back up the Chamisa Trail from the Windsor is mellow at first, but constant, and then becomes quite steep. The run back down to the parking lot is a welcome respite.
Flora & Fauna
I like this run because it traverses different environments. You start in Ponderosa forest, traverse the Saddleback with some scrub oak, and then drop down through piñon and juniper to the Windsor Trail. The creek offers rich, green, mossy sections with plenty of deciduous trees and the constant gurgle of running water. There is lots of birdlife all along, and lots of deer tracks. Plenty of bear scat as well. The Chamisa Trail, being quite popular, is often strewn with humans and dogs.