During my annual mountain biking trip to El Paso, Texas, one of my friends suggested we check out the trails in Cloudcroft, New Mexico. Cloudcroft is approximately 100 miles out of El Paso, and it is a completely different landscape than the Southwest scenery! This gem of a place sits between 7700 to 8700 feet in elevation and is very reminiscent of the landscape in Big Bear, Ca. It is no surprise that Cloudcroft and Ruidoso, New Mexico (30 minutes from Cloudcroft), becomes a ski resort in the winter. Cloudcroft is also home to an annual mountain biking race that attracts riders from all over the state. Cloudcroft has a large network of trails for both mountain biking and hiking, and there are plenty of trail markers to guide you. It is actually a very well maintained network. You can pick up a map of the trails at one of the local shops in the Village. Some of the names of the trails are Trestle Recreation trail, Cloud Climbing Trestle trail, Crossover trail, and Switchback trail. These trails connect to each other and are labeled using a numerical system. It’s very easy to follow the map.
If you decide to explore every trail in this section, expect to make a full day out of it. I climbed to the Devil’s Elbow Viewing deck, which afforded me beautiful sights of the terrain and mountains. Of course, you can customize the loop for whatever you are feeling that day. I rode 17 miles my first go-around and condensed it to an 8-mile loop the second day. This ride will give you a rundown of the 8-mile loop.
We began this epic loop from the Village of Cloudcroft. It’s a small, quaint center where you can find a hotel, places to eat, and a bike shop. Head towards the adjacent neighborhood and head up the paved road.
Distance: 7.43 mi
Avg Speed: 4.5 mph
Elevation Gain: 1,299 ft
Calories: 592 C
U.S. Highway 54 East
U.S. 82 East.
You will arrive at Cloudcroft village in 16 miles, the destination is on your left. Park in the center.
(hover over steps for images – some steps may not have images)
In about 100 yards you will notice a trail as soon as you turn on the bend to your right.
As soon as you enter the trail (like 6 feet), veer right and begin climbing. Traverse through a short series of climbs and descents, and make your way around the forest and campground. Ride for about .75 mile until you exit on a campground street. At this point, you will notice an arrow approximately 30 yards ahead, pointing you towards the entrance of the trail on your left.
Enter, stay on the single-track, and continue riding. This section will end with a descent into a main road within the campground. You will see 2 fire roads as soon as you descend, and you want to take the one that is furthest ahead (like 2 feet ahead).
The first fire road continues to descend, and you will climb your way up this road at the end of the ride. Keep it in mind for later. Head left on the fire road. If you go right you will exit the campground in about ½ mile.
1.5- Ride along this level road for about 1 mile until you get to a fence.
Ride beyond the fence where you will quickly descend into an open area. This is a great rest stop if you want to enjoy the scenery.
2.5- there is a narrow singletrack on your left about 50 yards after descending into this rest area.
Check out the video of this trail, as it is one of the highlights of this ride! It is fast, smooth, and tons of fun for about 2 miles.
4.5- The singletrack ends at a wide open area that can be referred to us a 4 corners system.
If you head to your left on the wide open fire road, this will take you up and out of the campground.
It is a nice, steady climb for about 2 miles towards the exit of the campground. Or you can go straight ahead for about 50 yards and drop into the trail on our left. This will take you through a tunnel which the video highlights, and will take you on an extended climb all the way to Devil’s Elbow. There are several configurations to descend from Devil’s Elbow.
6.5- Head right after exiting the park on US highway 82 and ride back to the village.
8.0- back in Village.