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For a quick trip out of the main park area and into more mountainous terrain, consider hiking the Mosca Pass Trail.
It’s the only hiking trail that leads into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains from the paved park road.
Others are up the Medano Pass Primitive Road, so they are much harder to access.
The Mosca Pass Trail goes up a canyon with a small creek, through a patchwork of forest and meadows.
It’s excellent for wildflowers in spring and summer, and for foliage in fall.
The trail leads eventually to the grassy expanse at Mosca Pass, though there’s no reason to go all the way if you just want a taste of the scenery.
Go as far as you like as an out and back.
You’ll begin on the popular Montville Nature Trail, which loops through a forest of aspen, oak, and willow along the creek.
Mosca Pass Trail continues from the far end of the nature loop and heads more steeply uphill.
Before too long, you’ll reach some clearings where you can turn around for a view of the dunes.
Higher on the trail, the dunes disappear, and the surroundings are nothing but forest, fields, and rock outcrops.
Look for wildlife like deer, elk, and bighorn sheep. If you continue all the way to the pass, you’ll meet a 4WD road that comes up the other side of the range.
The hiking trail ends there, but you could walk farther along the road or up surrounding hillsides for additional views. Sources: https://www.nps.gov/grsa/planyourvisit/hiking.htm https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/riogrande/recreation/hiking/recarea/?recid=75203&actid=50