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FATMAP difficulty grade
The Otero Canyon Trail has been renowned as a classic mountain bike trail for decades.
Located in the Cibola National Forest just east of Albuquerque, the trail network in this region is often referred to simply as "Otero Canyon," taking its name from the most famous trail in the system. Unfortunately, Otero Canyon used to be even longer and rowdier, but the upper section of the trail was closed and bulldozed in 2020.
Despite this tragic loss, the remaining singletrack here is still an absolute gem that is well-worth experiencing! The route shown here is one of the medium/long loops incorporating Otero Canyon.
Beginning from the Tunnel Canyon parking lot, the ride climbs the steep, technical Birdhouse Ridge trail, ascending some challenging slabs and rock gardens.
Birdhouse connects seamlessly to West Ridge.
From these sections of elevated singletrack, you'll enjoy a few expansive views over the rest of the national forest and the mountains in the distance. When it comes time to descend off of West Ridge, you'll get to rip down a long, technical, rock-strewn descent through a series of sharp switchbacks.
Despite the switchbacks, this descent is still entertaining and well worth the effort to reach it! Then, you'll take a left on Otero Canyon proper and really get to open it up! The sight lines on Otero are long and the singletrack is flowy, with plenty of optional side hits like kickers, jumps, and drops.
The high-speed flow, air opportunities, and entertaining rock features are an absolute dream! The fun continues onto the Tunnel Canyon trail, and despite a short climb to reach it, Tunnel Canyon is a fun way to finish this rewarding descent. The technical difficulty of this ride toes the line between a FATMAP "Difficult" rating and a "Severe" rating.
The climb up Birdhouse and the descent down West Ridge are the most technical parts of the ride, whereas Otero itself isn't nearly as technical.
Regardless of how you rate this trail, if you don't mind a few rocks, you're guaranteed to have a great time!