Love riding remote singletrack and not seeing another person? The Rancho Viejo Backcountry Loop encompasses a true off-the-radar route that traverses big mountain ridges, follows wild streams, and provides a truly wilderness-like experience. Utilizing Pacheco Canyon Rd (FR 102) as your initial climb, the remainder route is rugged singletrack.
- Expert difficulty, mainly due to route finding and fitness
- Best June-October (depending on snow conditions)
- Access from Pacheco Canyon Road
- Total climb: 4,400′, Total descent: 4,400′
- Total distance: 18 miles
- Time needed: 4-5 hours
We recommend parking at the beginning of Pacheco Canyon Road at the stop sign–there are a few pullout spots in the dirt. The climb up the forest road is mellow with great views before it starts narrowing up along the creek. If you are looking for camping, camping along this section would also be a great start off point.
Keep your eyes peeled and use a GPS app (Trailforks) to locate the entrance to the Mineral Trail. This narrow, steep climb rises up towards the Aspen Ranch area before a brief doubletrack intersection and finally connecting to a portion of the Rio En Medio trail.
Ok, now some fun begins! You’ll descend the ripping fast section of REM, railing turns and picking up eye-watering speed, before you finally intersect with the Rio En Medio (the actual river that is). Here is another climb.
Climb up the singletrack, hop on the forest road, and watch on your left for the drop in on the Borrego Trail. You’re now entering a burn area, so after big winds be cautious of down trees. This is a fun, chunky, narrow bit of singletrack that culminates in big views of the valley and connects you to the Rio Nambe.
You will cross the Rio Nambe a handful of times. Be cautious! Most years this requires carrying your bike. Continue along this section until the trail finally starts a big climb that eventually turns into a hike-a-bike.
Topping out, you’ll now meander through forested ridgelines and canyons up and down until you reconnect briefly with the REM trail. From here, again, keep a close eye not to miss the connector of the Discount Trail that will lead you back to Pacheco Canyon Road.
Need to Know
- This is a true backcountry route: please be prepared and self-sufficient.
- Given all the water, bringing and using a small purifier can be helpful
- Please use a map or route finding app as some parts of the trail are not obvious.
- Early season conditions will likely include lots of blowdown. Bring a small handsaw if you feel enthusiastic.
- Yes, there is fishing in the Rio (small Rio Grande Cutthroat).