Nature Trails

Hiking in to view the beautiful refuge scenery

From quiet marshes to sweeping vistas, the twelve nature trails of Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge offer a variety of sights, sounds, and wildlife. The trails vary in accessibility and difficulty, but all provide opportunities to experience nature in solitude or with family and friends. Seasonally, wildlife and wildflowers may be observed along the trails. Visitor Center staff may be able to help you choose which trail to embark upon!


Desert Arboretum

Status: Open daily from one hour before sunrise until one hour after sunset

0.25 miles roundtrip (level of difficulty: easy)

Why this trail? Examine a variety of desert-adapted plants. Spring blooms present colorful food choices for pollinators.

What’s the habitat? Open garden displaying a variety of desert plants.

Who lives here? Seasonally, search for crissal thrasher, ruby-crowned kinglet, white-throated sparrow, lesser goldfinch, white-winged dove, eastern white-throated woodrat, and long-nosed leopard lizard.

How do I get here? The parking lot is shared with the visitor center. The trailhead is along a paved path just west of the visitor center. 

Observation Blind Trail

Status: Open daily from one hour before sunrise until one hour after sunset

0.5 mile roundtrip (level of difficulty: easy)

Why this trail? Peer into a seasonal wetland from the shelter of a wall of viewing windows. 

What’s the habitat? Cottonwood forest overlooking a seasonal wetland.

Who lives here? Seasonally, search for black phoebe, American pipit, Bewick’s wren, Swainson’s hawk, lark sparrow, phainopepla, mule deer, and twin-spotted spiny lizard.

How do I get here? The parking lot and trailhead are located along the North Loop.

Boardwalk Trail

Status: Open daily from one hour before sunrise until one hour after sunset

0.5 miles roundtrip (level of difficulty: easy) 

Why this trail? Journey through cattails without maneuvering through water. 

What’s the habitat? Semi-permanent wetland with open water and cattails.

Who lives here? Seasonally, search for marsh wren, green heron, yellow-headed blackbird, western grebe, least bittern, northern rough-winged swallow, muskrat, and western painted turtle.

How do I get here? The trailhead and parking lot are located along the South Loop (the Marsh Overlook Trail is found at this trailhead too!).

Sparrow Loop

Status: Open daily from one hour before sunrise until one hour after sunset

0.5 miles roundtrip (level of difficulty: moderate) 

Why this trail? Compare the desert habitat to the wetland it neighbors.

What’s the habitat? Chihuahuan desert scrub dominated by sumac and saltbush.

Who lives here? Seasonally, search for white-crowned sparrow, Gambel’s quail, curve-billed thrasher, pyrrhuloxia, canyon towhee, Texas horned lizard, and desert cottontail.

How do I get here? The trailhead and parking lot are located along the South Loop (the Marsh Overlook and Boardwalk Trails are found at this trailhead too!). The Sparrow Loop is located at the western end of the Boardwalk Trail.

John P. Taylor Jr. Memorial Trail

Status: Open daily from one hour before sunrise until one hour after sunset

1 mile roundtrip (level of difficulty: easy) 

Why this trail? Explore a restored section of cottonwood savannah and salt grass meadow along a historic channel of the Rio Grande. 

What’s the habitat? Cottonwood forest surrounded by salt grass savannah.

Who lives here? Seasonally, search for wild turkey, blue grosbeak, great horned owl, northern flicker, American kestrel, common raven, desert side-blotched lizard, and Botta’s pocket gopher.

How do I get here? The trailhead and parking lot are located along the South Loop.

Bajada Loop

Status: Open daily from one hour before sunrise until one hour after sunset

1 mile roundtrip (level of difficulty: moderate) 

Why this trail? Survey sweeping views of Chihuahuan desert habitat from a reflection bench at the top of a bluff.

What’s the habitat? Chihuahuan desert scrub dominated by mesquite.

Who lives here? Seasonally, search for black-throated sparrow, sagebrush sparrow, Cassin's sparrow, sage thrasher, loggerhead shrike, American badger, and diamondback rattlesnake.

How do I get here? The trailhead and parking lot is located along the west side of Highway 1, 1 mile north of the Visitor Center (this trail is part of the Chupadera Wilderness National Recreation Trail!).

Marsh Overlook Trail

Status: Open daily from one hour before sunrise until one hour after sunset

1.5 miles roundtrip (level of difficulty: easy - moderate) 

Why this trail? Search for secretive marsh birds in cattails and phragmites. Overlook the south end of the refuge from a reflection bench at the top of the spur.

What’s the habitat? Chihuahuan desert scrub surrounding a seasonally-flooded wetland.  

Who lives here? Seasonally, search for Virginia rail, American bittern, bushtit, vermilion flycatcher, Lincoln’s sparrow, common yellowthroat, northern leopard frog, and Texas spiny softshell.

How do I get here? The trailhead and parking lot are located along the South Loop (the Boardwalk Trail is found at this trailhead too!).

Note: A trail guide corresponding to lettered markers along this trail may be available at the trailhead (and for download here)!

Rio Viejo Trail

Status: Open daily from one hour before sunrise until one hour after sunset

1.7 miles roundtrip (level of difficulty: easy) 

Why this trail? Travel along a former channel of the Rio Grande through a restored cottonwood forest.

What’s the habitat? Cottonwood forest.

Who lives here? Seasonally, search for hermit thrush, ladder-backed woodpecker, western tanager, yellow-breasted chat, yellow warbler, javelina, elk, and checkered gartersnake.

How do I get here? The trailhead and parking lot is located at the eastern end of Bosque Road.

Note: A trail guide corresponding to lettered markers along this trail may be available at the trailhead (and for download here)!

Canyon National Recreation Trail

Status: Open daily from one hour before sunrise until one hour after sunset

2.2 miles roundtrip (level of difficulty: moderate - strenuous) 

Why this trail? Loop through the southern edge of the Indian Well Wilderness Unit and traverse the bottom of Solitude Canyon.

What’s the habitat? Chihuahuan desert scrub dominated by fourwing saltbush.  

Who lives here? Seasonally, search for peregrine falcon, rock wren, sagebrush sparrow, verdin, greater roadrunner, Ord’s kangaroo rat, and desert box turtle. Summer monsoon rains often produce colorful blooms.

How do I get here? The trailhead and parking lot is located along the west side of Highway 1, 1 mile south of the Visitor Center.

Note: A trail guide corresponding to lettered markers along this trail may be available at the trailhead (and for download here)!

Elmendorf Trail

Status: Open daily from one hour before sunrise until one hour after sunset

4.2 miles roundtrip (level of difficulty: easy) 

Why this trail? Reflect on the history and future of Bosque del Apache.

What’s the habitat? Chihuahuan desert scrub, willows, and cottonwoods.

Who lives here? Seasonally, search for great blue heron, northern harrier, savannah sparrow, Say’s phoebe, western meadowlark, raccoon, striped skunk, and desert kingsnake.

How do I get here? A small parking area and trailhead are located adjacent to the self-pay station at the entrance to the Tour Loop. A larger parking lot is located along the South Loop (the Marsh Overlook, Sparrow Loop, and Boardwalk Trails are found at this trailhead too!).

Chupadera Wilderness National Recreation Trail

Status: Open daily from one hour before sunrise until one hour after sunset

9.5 miles roundtrip (level of difficulty: strenuous) 

Why this trail? Trek through interesting geological formations as you gain altitude from the valley floor to the peak.

What’s the habitat? Chihuahuan desert scrub dominated by fourwing saltbush, creosote bush, and mesquite.

Who lives here? Seasonally, search for scaled quail, cactus wren, rufous-crowned sparrow, canyon wren, green-tailed towhee, black-tailed jackrabbit, and banded rock rattlesnake.

How do I get here? The trailhead and parking lot is located along the west side of Highway 1, 1 mile north of the Visitor Center.

Bike Trail (Low Flow Conveyance Channel East Service Road)

Status: Open daily from one hour before sunrise until one hour after sunset

North route: 11 miles roundtrip; south route: 11.3 miles roundtrip (level of difficulty: easy) 

Why this trail? Notice wildlife and plants away from cars and crowds. Watch out for plants with spines and thorns!

What’s the habitat? Chihuahuan desert scrub, willows, salt cedar, and cottonwoods.

Who lives here? Seasonally, search for common black-hawk, American coot, Mexican duck, great egret, pied-billed grebe, and twin-spotted spiny lizard.

How do I get here? The trailhead and parking lot is located at the eastern end of Bosque Road.