Distance: 6.5 miles
Season: Spring and Fall
Trail Conditions: Good
This pleasant hike takes you into a less visited part of White Rock Canyon cut by the Rio Grande and is one of only a handful of trails that descends from rim to river. The first section of the hike traverses through pinyon-juniper forest before a steep descent into Ancho Springs Canyon before ending on a flat floodplain at the largest rapid of this 20 mile canyon.
From Santa Fe, take US-285/84 to NM-502 towards White Rock and Los Alamos. Take the exit for NM-4 toward the town of White Rock. Upon entering the town, check your odometer. Continue along NM-4 for 4 miles from the first traffic light upon entering White Rock. You will be looking for a small parking area on the left side of the road with a green gate.
From the parking area, following the two track through the open pinyon-juniper forest. After about 3/4 mile, the two track will pass under and then follow a powerline. The two track descends and then immediate ascends again.
About 1/2 back uphill another two track, marked by a small cairn, appears to the right. Leave the powerline to go right traversing across the hill. The two track will quickly narrow into singletrack before cresting this hill and approaching the rim of the canyon.
As you reach the canyon rim, the trail will split again. Take the right fork, which leads you to the small rock wall on the cliff’s edge. The trail will go uphill again before starting its steep descent into the canyon. This first 1/4 mile is the steepest section of trail, but also the most scenic. From this point, you can see Ancho Rapid on the Rio Grande below as well as the volcanic tuff making up the top layer of the rim.
As you continue into the canyon, the grade gets easier, but due to the amount of loose rock in the trail, the walking remains difficult to pay attention. Eventually, the trail winds up in the bottom of the canyon. The trail becomes smoother and less rocky.
With less than 1/2 mile to go, the trail reaches the wash at the bottom of the canyon with water from Ancho Spring. The trail briefly crosses to the south side of the spring before crossing back over and veering away from the wash.
From here, the trail can become difficult to follow, but you are so close to the river and because the terrain is all but flat, worry not. Find a route that works for you and walk toward the roaring rapid that is now within earshot.
Enjoy a break at the Rio Grande before returning back to the rim. On your way back, be attentive to the trail. There are a couple sections at the bottom of the canyon that can be difficult to follow.