Hiking Trails

Hiking in to view the beautiful refuge scenery

From quiet marshes to sweeping vistas, the eleven hiking trails of Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge offer a variety of sights, sounds, and wildlife depending on the season. The trails vary in accessibility and difficulty, but all provide wonderful opportunities to experience nature and observe wildlife in solitude or with family and friends. Refer to our pet regulations to learn more about our efforts to protect wildlife and your pet.


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Chupadera Wilderness National Recreation Trail

(1 mile loop or 9.5 miles roundtrip to Chupadera Peak)

The Chupadera Wilderness National Recreation Trail winds through typical Chihuahuan desert scrub habitat dominated by four-wing salt bush, creosote bush, and mesquite. A gentle climb will lead you to a bench (about one-half mile from the trailhead) that offers a panoramic overlook of the refuge and surrounding areas. Hikers may continue on the loop and return to the trailhead and parking area, or they may head to the peak of Chupadera Mountain. An incredible variety of desert plants, reptiles and birds, as well as interesting geological formations can be observed as you gain altitude from the valley floor to the peak.

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Canyon National Recreation Trail

(2.2 miles roundtrip)

The Canyon National Recreation Trail takes visitors through native Chihuahuan desert and into Solitude Canyon, a deep ravine carved into sandstone by flash floods over the ages. Scenic vistas of the canyon and the refuge are favorite photo opportunities. The abundance of burrows, holes, nests, and middens gives evidence to the snakes, lizards, birds, bats, rabbits, kangaroo rats, and other desert wildlife that are active along the trail, especially in the cooler morning and evening hours. This trail loops through the southern edge of the Indian Well Wilderness Unit.

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Bike Trail (Low Flow Conveyance Channel East Service Road)

(North route: 11 miles roundtrip; south route: 11.3 miles roundtrip)

Bike or hike this level, gravel road to get away from cars and crowds. You may spot some of the more secretive refuge inhabitants. Stay back from the steep edge of the channel.

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Marsh Overlook Trail

(1.5 miles roundtrip)

Walk through willows and cattails and around a seasonally-flooded wetland on this trail. Look for secretive marsh birds like bitterns and Virginia rails in the marsh. The trail includes a quarter-mile (round-trip) spur trail to a reflection bench on top of a bluff that overlooks the south end of the refuge and is well worth the ten minute detour.

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Boardwalk Trail

(.5 miles roundtrip)

This trail takes you across a semi-permanent wetland that has year-round wildlife viewing opportunities. Cattails and bulrushes hide night-herons, marsh wrens, and busy muskrats, and turtles bask on exposed snags in open water. Cormorants and grebes are common in this area.

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Sparrow Loop

(.5 miles roundtrip)

At the west end of the Boardwalk Trail, the few steps leading up to the Sparrow Loop transport you into an entirely different habitat. Search for tracks and songbirds, darting through sumac and saltbush.

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Rio Viejo Trail

(1.7 miles roundtrip)

Walk along a former channel of the Rio Grande as it winds through a restored cottonwood forest. Golden cottonwoods, native grasses and an abundance of migrating songbirds make it a must-hike in the fall.

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John P. Taylor Jr. Memorial Trail

(1 mile roundtrip)

This trail takes you into a restored section of cottonwood savannah and salt grass meadow along a historic channel of the Rio Grande. This restoration is a work in progress that is a tribute to late refuge biologist John Taylor, who’s years of research in salt cedar eradication and native habitat restoration provided a vision for the future of the refuge.

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Desert Arboretum

(.25 miles roundtrip)

This mostly accessible trail is paved from the Visitor Center and along the eastern edge of the garden. There are several benches for wildlife viewing and quiet contemplation.

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Observation Blind Trail

(.5 mile roundtrip)
(Trail currently CLOSED)

Seasonally, search for songbirds and butterflies along this wooded trail. The viewing area overlooks a managed wetland unit, which may be home to mule deer, ducks, or songbirds, depending on the time of year. 


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Wilderness Area Access


Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge has three wilderness units that total approximately 30,000 acres. The Indian Well (9,987 acres), Chupadera (5,300 acres), and Little San Pascual (22,448 acres) Wilderness units are open for hiking year-round from one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset. There are two trails on the refuge that provide access to some of the wilderness acreage on the west side; Chupadera Wilderness National Recreation Trail and Canyon National Recreation Trail.

Motorized vehicles, bicycles, horses, and overnight camping are not allowed in the refuge wilderness units.
You may hike off trail in these areas.
Travel is at your own risk and you should notify a friend/family member of your trip plans.
These areas are also open to hunting during certain seasons.

Horses are only allowed in the Little San Pascual Wilderness when used in support of legal hunting.