Trail: Circle Trail
Geographic Location: east of
Santa Fe, NM
Length: 3.2 miles
Difficulty: 9/10 (Difficult)
Last Hiked: July 2014
Overview: A steep climb to several impressive viewpoints.
Park Information: http://www.emnrd.state.nm.us/SPD/hydememorialstatepark.html
Google Map: http://www.mappedometer.com/?maproute=327061
Directions to the trailhead: On the northeast side of
Santa Fe, take Paseo de Peralta to Bishops
Turn north (outbound) on Bishops Lodge Rd. Drive Bishops Lodge
Rd. 0.2 miles to Artist
Road and turn right on Artist
Rd. becomes SR 475 and Hyde Park Road
when you leave the City of Santa Fe. Drive SR 475 7.1 miles from its junction with
Bishops Lodge Rd. to the
Hyde Memorial State Park Visitor Center, which sits on the right just after
entering the park. Park in the lot
beside the . Note that there is a mandatory $5 state park
fee that must be paid before you begin the hike; the self-pay station is
located on the south side of the Visitor Center . Visitor
The hike: With a base elevation of 8500 feet, tiny 350-acre
is the highest state
park in Hyde Memorial
State Park New Mexico. The additional 1200 feet of elevation
compared to Santa Fe 8 miles to the
southwest creates a slightly moister environment. Thus, while the area around Santa
Fe sports a true desert appearance, tall pine trees
cover the park’s hillsides. The park is
named for Benjamin Talbot Babbit Hyde, a late 1800’s and early 1900’s
naturalist and nature educator who financed some of the pueblo excavations in
The park offers a 50-site campground, a small lodge, and three picnic shelters. The park also offers several hiking trails, the most famous of which is the Circle Trail described here. This trail gains 1000 feet over 1 mile, and therefore it presents some level of difficulty. Nevertheless, most people in decent physical condition can do this hike with adequate preparation. If you are hiking in the summer, make sure you allow enough time to complete the hike before the almost daily afternoon thunderstorms build. I needed just over 3 hours to complete this loop.
|West Circle Trail trailhead|
The trail crosses Little Tesuque Creek on a nice stone bridge before turning left to begin the climb. The climb is steep with an almost uncountable number of switchbacks. On the bright side, the trail is well-graded, well-designed, and well-maintained with no particularly rocky sections.
|View from first bench|
At 0.8 miles, you pass the second bench. This bench looks up the canyon toward Ski Santa Fe, the city’s current ski area. Back on the climb, an old trail exits left near 1 mile into the hike where the rerouted trail switches back to the right.
Just shy of 1.1 miles, you top a false summit and descend for a short distance before starting the final steep climb to the actual summit, which is reached at 1.2 miles. A sign greets you at the summit, but the pine trees growing here preclude any real views. To find the view, continue another 0.25 miles through a high saddle to reach another false summit, this one with a couple of picnic tables. Now you get to reap the fruits of your labor: views can be had off both sides of the ridge. The view east looks up the canyon toward Ski Santa Fe, while the view west extends across the desert north of
to the . Jemez Mountains
|View east up canyon|
|View west across desert|
The sound of vehicles zooming on SR 475 tells you that you are near the bottom of the steep hill. 2.1 miles into the hike, the signed Girl Scout Trail exits to the right. The Girl Scout Trail forms a 0.5 mile loop and features some nice interpretive signs. If you stay on the Circle Trail, the Girl Scout Trail’s other end is reached only a couple hundred feet later, so you can decide if you want to extend your hike by tacking on the Girl Scout Trail.
|Starting the East Circle Trail|
The Circle Trail climbs using one (but only one) switchback to reach the campground road, which it angles right to cross. Note that the vault toilet to your left here is the only restroom facility on this hike. The trail climbs gradually (but only gradually) to pass around a secluded sub-region of the campground that appears downhill to the right. Now at the East Circle Trail’s highest point, a gradual to moderate descent comes next.
|East Circle Trail|
The trail crosses the waterfall creek on a pair of wooden planks before heading into an area that treads along the steep hillside. At 3 miles, you descend some switchbacks on a recent trail reroute. A final moderate to steep descent over wooden waterbars deposits you at the lodge behind the
, thus closing the loop and
completing the hike. Visitor