FATMAP difficulty grade
The High Desert Trail System is a unique ride in that it provides the opportunity for a highly entertaining, sometimes remote, and potentially lengthy ride, all within convenient distance from a major interstate highway.
The area is divided into a couple stem trails (a long one from the main trail on the east end and a short one at the trailhead on the west end), and four loops (First Mesa, Second Mesa, and Third Mesa, which is itself comprised of two loops).
It's easy to compose a ride of anywhere from 4 to 24 miles.
Going from east to west, the loops generally get more challenging, with First Mesa being the easiest and Third Mesa THE most difficult.
While all loops ride well in either direction, the general consensus is for clockwise travel.
If you're not into the easy stuff, simply park at the western trailhead and ride just the 3rd and 2nd Mesa.
The eastern stem and First Mesa tend to ride fast.
The desert surface has a few soft spots, but much of the trail is nicely packed and the trail banks around natural contours in the topography without too many sharp turns, making for a super fun pedal fest.
There's not much in the way of technical obstacles or climbs here, so this part is both singlespeed and fully rigid friendly. As you move to Second Mesa, the climbs become a little more intense and there is an occasional rock obstacle to maneuver, but it's still lower intermediate territory overall.
Some fun for the advanced rider shows up on Third Mesa, with more tight spots, sharp (but usually short) climbs, some switchbacks, and at least one sizable rock slab.
Still, Third Mesa will likely be a blast for a confident intermediate as well.
It's a great place for an advancing rider to develop and show off new skills.
This is a desert, so it's very dry, there is no shade, and it gets mighty hot in the summer.
On top of that, it's usually windy here, so come prepared with both water and proper attire.
With that in mind, any rider can have up to three hours of great fun on this trail system.
The good news is that with all the connected loop opportunities, you have plenty of bail out options if it looks like things are going south on your ride.
If you're ever passing through New Mexico on Interstate 40, you definitely owe it to yourself to stop and sink your knobbies into these trails!