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There are hundreds of miles of hiking trails in Taos County's mountain and high-mesa country. The trails are especially well traveled in the summer and fall, although nights turn chilly and mountain weather may be fickle by September.

Free materials and advice on all Carson National Forest trails and recreation areas can be obtained from the Forest Service Building, 208 Cruz Alta Rd. (tel. 575/758-6200), open Monday to Friday 8am to 4:30pm. Detailed USGS topographical maps of backcountry areas can be purchased from Taos Mountain Outfitters, South Plaza (tel. 575/758-9292).

One of the easiest hikes to access is the West Rim Trail, aptly named because it runs along the rim of the Rio Grande Gorge. Access this 9-mile-long trail by driving west from Taos on US 64, crossing the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, and turning left into the picnic area. The 19,663-acre Wheeler Peak Wilderness is a wonderland of alpine tundra, encompassing New Mexico's highest peak (13,161 ft.). A favorite (though rigorous) hike to Wheeler Peak's summit (15 miles round-trip with a 3,700-ft. elevation gain) makes for a long but fun day. The trail head is at Taos Ski Valley. For year-round hiking, head to the Wild Rivers Recreation Area (tel. 575/770-1600), near Questa.

The sage meadows and pine-covered mountains around Taos make it one of the West's most romantic places to ride. Taos Indian Horse Ranch, on Pueblo land off Ski Valley Road, just before Arroyo Seco (tel. 505/758-3212; www.taosindianhorseranch.com), offers a variety of guided rides. Open by appointment, the ranch provides horses for all types of riders (English, Western, Australian, and bareback) and ability levels. Call ahead to reserve and for prices, which will likely run about $100 for a 2-hour trail ride.

Horseback riding is also offered by Rio Grande Stables, P.O. Box 2122, El Prado (tel. 505/776-5913; www.lajitasstables.com/taos.htm), with rides taking place during the summer months at Taos Ski Valley. Most riding outfitters offer lunch trips and overnight trips. Call for prices and further details.

Trail Closures -- The drought that has spread across the Southwest in recent years has caused the U.S. Forest Service to close trails in many New Mexico mountains during the summer in order to reduce fire hazard. Before you head out in this area, contact the Carson National Forest (tel. 575/758-6200).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.