Great Outdoors

Taos hiking, camping and fishing for the handicapped

By William "BackpackerBill" Kemsley
For The Taos News
Posted 9/26/18

When Kenn, my all-time favorite hiking companion, visited recently he was blown away by the campsite where we put up for a night.What was so special about our …

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Great Outdoors

Taos hiking, camping and fishing for the handicapped

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When Kenn, my all-time favorite hiking companion, visited recently he was blown away by the campsite where we put up for a night.

What was so special about our campsite was its uber-design for use by disabled people. This was important, inasmuch as Parkinson's is now limiting Kenny.

He found the layout design of the campground especially handicapped-friendly with little extra touches, such as what Kenn called a "cane hook" in the outhouse, where he could stand and hook his cane while he took care of business. It seemed as a good deal of thought had gone into considerations of how a handicapped person would use all aspects of the campground.

We were camped in one of a string of seven campgrounds in a beautiful six-mile stretch of the Rïo Grande. Four are directly on the riverside with limited river access for the disabled. Two others are a short walk to the Taos Junction Bridge and a wide concrete boat ramp where there is even wheelchair access to riverside fishing.

All campgrounds have wheelchair-width doorways to the toilets and safety rails on the walls. Each campground has a concrete parking pad next to the toilets wide enough for a large vehicle and wheelchair mobility around it.

There's also a wide enough dirt campsite near the toilets to erect a tent by a disabled camper. Fireplaces are high enough and accessible enough for use by the disabled, and picnic tables will accommodate a wheelchair.

I spoke with John Bailey, manager of the Río Grande del Norte National Monument about these features.

He said, "I was on crutches the first couple of years on my job, so I was very sensitive to our taking extra effort to make our trails and campgrounds as handicapped friendly as possible."

Here's the campground where Kenn and I camped that night.

Arroyo Hondo Campground

It is on the edge of being primitive. It has five sites with a modern outhouse, but no host or water. Access: 2 1/2 miles on County Road 570 from Pilar on State Road 68, 16 miles south of Taos.

Wild Rivers Campgrounds

Four campgrounds are on the rim of the gorge. All are handicap friendly, have water and restrooms. None have hosts.

They all have wheelchair width doorways to the toilets, a concrete pad next to the toilets wide enough for a large vehicle and wheelchair mobility around it. Each campground has a wide dirt campsite for erecting a tent by the disabled. They also have accessible fireplaces nd picnic tables will accommodate a wheelchair.

Five miles of hard-packed wheelchair trails are on the rim. Access: 23 miles north on State Road 522 to Questa, one mile more to State Road 378, then 6 miles to the Wild Rivers. Continue around drive past the campgrounds.

Taos area wheelchair-accessible trails

Taos is blessed with a plethora of trails upon which a wheelchair travels well. Some of the best are on the mesa.

West Rim Trail

One of our most popular trails runs 17 miles alongside the rim of the gorge. You are likely to see a herd of bighorn sheep on this trail. Access: on US 64 to the Gorge Bridge 12 miles west of Ski Valley Road traffic light. The trailhead is immediately behind the visitor facilities.

Cascabel Trail

This is one of about 25 miles of trails on the west mesa south of Taos. Many are wheelchair friendly. The best is a three-quarter mile section from the parking lot to a viewpoint. A bench has spectacular views of the Taos Junction Bridge and the confluence of the Río Grande and Río Pueblo areas.

Access: 5-1/2 miles south on State Road 68 to County Road 110 then a few miles west to the parking lot at the end of the road.

Red River Walk

The town of Red River offers a nice stretch of paved trail along a river. It is delightful for an evening stroll when you almost certainly will encounter deer.

Access: 38 miles on Enchanted Circle. State Road 522 to Questa then State Road 38 to Red River.

Agua Piedra handicapped-accessible trail

A three-quarter mile hard surface trail leads out of the handicapped-access campground on the Río Pueblo with the same amenities as those in the other campgrounds mentioned above. Good fishing from stocked streams.

Access: 23 miles south on State Road 518 from the traffic light at State Road 68 on the south end of Taos.

Pot Creek Cultural Center Trail

An archaeological 1,000-year old site of the Anasazi forebears of both the Taos and Picuris Pueblo peoples. Ancestors lived here for well over a thousand years. There are remains of a kiva and ruins of the floor plan of a dwelling. The hard-surfaced trail winds circular for one mile with several nature information plaques. There are seven benches spaced equidistant from one another along the trail, which meanders through a cedar and pine forest.

Access: Six miles on State Road 518 southwest from the traffic light at State Road 68 in Ranchos de Taos. The two entrances are gated with closed signs on them. The Forest Service though permits entry to hikers and wheelchairs. The gates are closed due to the ongoing work restoring the site.

Eagle Rock Lake Trail

This three-acre lake is stocked with rainbow trout. It has a hard surface trail around the lake. Perfect for fishing in one of the most scenic settings in the state. Access: 23 miles to Questa and one mile east.

For more information, contact either the Río Grande del Norte National Monument (575) 758-8851 or the Carson National Forest (575) 758-6200 to speak to a knowledgeable ranger. They are friendly and accommodating.

William Kemsley Jr. is the founder of Backpacker magazine and co-founder of the American Hiking Society. He is an inductee in the Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame. He lives with his wife, Joy, and their dog Stanzi in the mountains near Taos.

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