Distance: 4.3 miles
Water: Water available throughout route
Season: Late Spring, Summer, Fall
Trail Condition: Good
The upper Rio en Medio Trail – Trail #163 offers a pleasant day hike along a lush riparian stream. The hike can be done either from the Santa Fe Ski Area or the Aspen Ranch Trailhead. The Apsen Ranch route is preferable as most of the climbing is completed in the first half of hike. Additionally, you will likely have the trailhead to yourself!
From Hyde Park Road, turn left on Forest Road 102 between Big Tesuque and Aspen Vista. Follow FR 102 downhill for 3 miles until reaching a large intersection. Turn right to follow Forest Road 412 back uphill and stay left when the road forks again. Despite seeing little traffic, the narrow road should be in reasonably good condition. After one mile, the road widens at a small parking area marked by a trail sign.
From the trailhead, start past the kiosk uphill. The trail will quickly fork. You can take either route. The right fork is the official trail, but the left fork will be a fun detour along what appears to be an old acequia. If you take this route, follow the trail above the acequia as it completes a large horseshoe around the small rise. Eventually this slightly overgrown path will meet-up with the official trail that goes up and over the small hill.
Once the trails have merged, follow the official Rio en Medio Trail – Trail #163 downhill towards the creek, which should come into earshot around this point. The canyon housing the Rio en Medio is fairly wide at this point, and the small little valle is filled with aspens.
Cross the creek to the north side, and turn right to follow it upstream. The canyon quickly narrows. There are many small pour-offs along the stream, which help make the hike so aesthetically pleasing.
The trail remains on the north side of the stream until the final 1/4 mile. Shortly before this crossing, the trail climbs through a small clearing that provides some views back down the canyon.
The stream eventually splits between two forks and the trail cuts between them. The Rio en Medio Trail ends at a signed junction with the Winsor Trail – Trail #254. Turn around here or continue 1/4 mile up to the ski area by going left at the junction.
Return via the same route. If you are unsure where the stream crossing is at the bottom, look for the widening canyon, the widened creek bed that has been eroded by hikers, riders and bikers, or a small cairn that marks the left turn.