Great Hikes: Canyon Rim Trail, Los Alamos, New Mexico

Updated on April 6, 2019
Tom Lohr profile image

Tom Lohr lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he explores the region with his canine sidekick, Ella the Brown Wonder.

Canyon Rim Trail
Canyon Rim Trail

The Quick and Dirty


TYPE: out and back

LENGTH: 4 miles

TIME: 2 hours


DOG FRIENDLY: yes, leash required

Los Alamos is the Bomb

Northern New Mexico is full of great hiking. It is also the location of the facility that invented the atomic bomb. The Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is situated among one of the most spectacular regions in the southwest. Bandolier National Monument, also the site of great hiking, is nearby. Visitors to the area usually put the town Los Alamos on their itinerary. That allows tourists to take in a little history along with outdoor activities.

View from the trail
View from the trail | Source

Getting There

The trail head is one of two places. The first, and recommended, is on the east end of town across from the airport. It has a small parking lot and toilet. The other is in the Smith's Marketplace grocery parking lot at 751 Trinity Drive. The recommended hike is to park at the trail head across from the airport, hike to Smith's, grab a light snack and hike back. If you need to pickup some water for the hike, starting at Smith's is a good option.This leisurely hike allows those in Los Alamos for a short stay to get in some hiking, or is a good first day stroll to help your body acclimate for more strenuous hikes on subsequent days.

Trailhead parking lot
Trailhead parking lot | Source

Los Alamos is Breathtaking

There is one issue that nearly all travelers to Los Alamos from other parts of the world experience: altitude. Los Alamos sits just above 7,000 feet above sea level. Anyone who visits, hoping to hop out of their vehicle and hit the mountain and canyon trails are setting themselves up for failure. If the lack of oxygen doesn't make you sick, it will certainly sap your endurance.

All higher altitude hikers and climbers know there is only one thing that will allow them to be successful in their adventures: altitude acclimation. Spending time at altitude allows your body to produce more red blood cells to help transport more oxygen to the rest of your body. Unfortunately, many visitors to Los Alamos do not have the time to acclimate before they need to be on their way.

Viewing spot along the trail
Viewing spot along the trail | Source

Take It Easy

Only an easy, flat hike is normally achievable during a one or two day visit. There is a way to take in some nice vistas while spending a short time in Los Alamos. The Canyon Rim Trail is tailor made for those who either have issues with the altitude, are in less than ideal shape, or have mobility issues.

Great spot for a break or snack
Great spot for a break or snack | Source

No Excuses

The Canyon Rim Trail is a two mile long, asphalt paved hike/bike/walk way that hugs the edge of of canyon and offers satisfying views. It is two miles long, but is an out and back hike for a total of 4 miles. The trail is also suitable for wheelchair navigation. A paved trail with zero elevation gain means visitors have no excuse to grab some exercise and scenery.

The Canyon Rim Trail is Ella approved
The Canyon Rim Trail is Ella approved | Source


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    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      15 months ago from UK

      This is a very useful and well-illustrated guide to anyone planning a hike along the trail.


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