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  Biking Route

Quartz Hill Loop - Zuni Mountains

 
Trail enters the narrows between lava field and Quartz Hill ridge; looking east.
Quartz Hill ridgeline to the west of main trailhead on FR 447 in Bonita Canyon.  Trail follows the two-track into the hills.
San Rafael Mesa above Bonita Canyon, looking back toward trailhead.
Trail on upper ridgeline, south of Quartz Hill, view is east toward San Rafael Mesa.
Trrail in first open valley section north of Quartz Hill.
View east across Bonita Canyon to FR 447 and alternate loop trailhead.
 

The Quartz Hill trail loop is located 11 miles southwest of Grants NM in the eastern Zuni Mountains.  This part of the Zunis is an area of many forest roads, old mining and logging trails, and abandoned railroad grades.  High mesas overlook the Quartz Hill area from the east, and this area of low granite hills is bordered by recent lava flows on the north and west, with scattered cinder cones on the horizon.

This loop can be done in either direction.  The trail north of Quartz Hill runs in a long valley, and at the western end it climbs fairly steeply and swings around the ridge.  On the southern side, the track runs along a ridge, rising and falling and finally dropping down a long slope to Bonita Canyon again, and a second trailhead on FR 447. 

Between the two trailheads on 447, a half-mile apart, an old railbed runs down the valley and offers a shortcut across the eastern end of the larger loop trail.  In this area there is also a low dome of "slickrock" which offers a great change of pace from riding this 6-mile two-track loop.

There are other old two-tracks reaching beyond Quartz Hill that are ride-able, and they make this area a potential site for a future stacked trail system.

*This loop trail is also a key gateway segment of the developing Zuni Mountain Trail Partnership.  For more info, visit www.zunimountaintrailpartnership.com 

  

Route Directions

The Quartz Hill Loop begins 1/4 mile south of the junction of Zuni Canyon (Forest Road 49 from Grants) and FR 447, from Bonita Canyon to the south, near Malpais Spring.  Park just off 447 where a faint two-track heads down and west. 

A few faint sideroads lead off this loop to old mining sites or to connect with more distant forest roads, but the main route is easy to follow in either direction - by keeping the high ridge of Quartz Hill always on the same side as you go! 

Riding this loop trail counter-clockwise, follow the two-track across an open meadow from FR 447 toward the low hills to the left of the lava field in the foreground.  The trail swings west behind a low hill, enters the forest, and passes a gate as hills rise on the left and rugged lava squeezes from the right.  For the next two-plus miles, the two-track hugs rocky cliffs, crosses short bumpy sections of lava, and threads through narrow grassy valleys.  Two more fences are passed, with gates long gone.  Next, a powerline is seen on the right, but the trail soon swings south intro a narrowing valley, and then hits a short steep climb up through some old mining pits to reach a "tee" junction on a saddle. 

From here, the route swings left and climbs less steeply, coming up onto a ridgeline where the two-track swings more to the east, with a prominent cinder cone just to the southwest. Following this ridge past a faint old mine road, the trail stays high with many ups and downs.  Quartz Hill itself is often glimpsed to the north through the ponderosa pines.  Finally the trail drops off the ridge in several short stages, into a valley, across a creekbed, and past another faint mine road.  The valley opens up eastward toward Bonita Canyon, and the trail crosses an old logging railroad bed.  From here the rider can close the loop by following this faint trail, or, head on out to FR 447 and the short ride north to the first trailhead.

Route Length: 6.5 miles (by GPS)

Route Difficulty

Moderately Streneous - Best for Adults and Older Children

 ADA Accessibility Notes

n/a

 Eco-Friendly Notes

Cibola National Forest lands - Leave No Trace!

 Pet Friendly Notes

Open range; coyotes and rarely bears or cougars in the general area.

For More Information, Contact:

Mt Taylor Ranger District

http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/cibola/districts/mttaylor.shtml
1800 Lobo Canyon Road, Grants, NM 87020
505-287-8833
 

goldsmithtiki.com wrote on March 10, 2012: This is a really gret article. You know the area and the subject matter well. Nice contribution!

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Boundaries and names shown do not necessarily reflect the map policy of National Geographic.

Latitude: 35.098195000
Longitude: -108.012139000
Elevation: 7441 FT (2268 M)
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