Section 6:  Rio Chiquito / FR 437 to Taos Plaza

  • Rio Chiquito / FR 437 to Drake Canyon 7.7 miles
  • Drake Canyon entrance to Taos Plaza 11.5 miles 

19.2 miles total section 6

Gaia maps (digitized step-by-step tracks) of this section are here.
Or click the Gaia map screenshot below and it will expand to full browser window. You can then zoom to different parts of the image.

Or check out my new map for section 6. It’s available in legal size (8.5″ x 14″, 14MB) and in tabloid size (11″ x 17″, 34MB).

Taos Plaza

Note that the campsites shown on the map above are not official campsites. But they are good places to put up a tent.

Text overview of Section 6

Follow the Gaia maps on your phone while you’re on the trail (Gaia works without cell reception) but here’s the text version of the walk just for extra information.

  • The section starts at the bridge that crosses Rio Chiquito, at the approximate intersection of Forest road 478 (which would bring you back to Bernardin Lake) and Forest Road 437, which if you take it left from the bridge (or west) will take you towards Drake Canyon and then on towards El Nogal trailhead and, eventually, Taos Plaza.
  • You will be on Forest Road 437 for about 7.25 miles. This road does get some traffic, but it’s “traffic” as in a car going by maybe every 15-20 minutes or less. There is usually a very wide shoulder – a whole field’s worth of shoulder – and the road doesn’t have any tight bends until you get close to Drake Canyon.
  • The benefits to going along FS 437 is that you’ll have water the whole way. Rio Chiquito runs along pretty much all of FS 437, and all of the section of it you’ll be walking. There are also over a dozen established campsites, and possibly 20 or more of them along the way. Even if you skip the campsites and camp in the far corner of a field, or on the other side of Rio Chiquito, there’s no lack of space here. I camped on the far side of Rio Chiquito approximately across from the entrance to Drake Canyon. The “RIo” is small enough there to cross in good hiking boots and not get your socks wet. That far west along FS 437 you will hear and see more RVers and people, but if you’re on the far side of the creek you can get away from them.
  • The entrance to Drake Canyon is wide and well-worn. You will be taking Trail #165 – The Drake Canyon Loop Trail – for 3.92 miles until you reach Trail #166, the Ojitos Trail.
  • Drake Canyon is a climb up. The trail is somewhat challenging. You will see signs for mountain bikers. Hopefully you won’t get run down by any. They tend to avoid Drake Canyon because the trail is pretty rough for mountain bikes.
  • When you reach Trail #166, the Ojitos Trail, take a right. Stay on #166 for 1.3 miles. At that point you’ll take a left on to Trail 164, South Boundary Trail, and you will probably start seeing more people, and more mountain bikers. If you are absolutely parched for water, there is probably some 0.97 miles down South Boundary from the right (ie, eastish) at American Spring. The water at American Spring is sketchy – it’s kind of a metal holding tank next to a large seep, but if you really needed water, it’s there. Also, if you wanted to camp somewhere before you headed into Taos, there are plenty of large flat areas and fields around American Spring (also called “Bear Spring”).
  • Assuming you carried enough water from Rio Chiquito before you left headed into Drake Canyon AND you are ready to walk into Taos Plaza in the next 2-3 hours or so, head left/west on South Boundary.
  • You will take South Boundary Trail 3.34 miles down into the El Nogal trail head and parking lot. There is usually water here in the creek, but when it’s really dry, the creek can be dry.
  • From El Nogal you will go out to Route 64 and take a left, then after a third of a mile (0.33 miles, to be exact), take the left on to 585 for about 200 feet, then take a right on to Witt Road.
  • The walk along Route 64 and 585 is short, but it is an active single lane highway. If you dont like being on the shoulder of those roads, there is trail 164B, which will save you being on highway for about a quarter of a mile. However, you’ll miss the water and the parking lot and bathrooms at El Nogal. See the inset below for what that alternate route looks like. You’ll still end up on Witt Road.
  • You will be on Witt Road for 1.3 miles if you go through El Nogal. It’s a nice, residential street that has a fair amount of tree cover.
  • At the end of Witt Road you’ll be on Route 64 again. Take it left, basically north/northwest, for 1.36 miles, all the way into Taos Plaza. Route 64 is also known as Kit Carson Road. You’ll start seeing B&Bs and gift shops and whatnot as you approach Taos Plaza. Once you’re at Taos Plaza you’ll be within a couple minutes’ walk or less of several dozen restaurants, bars, hotels, motels, gift shops, ice cream shops, etc. Taos is fun. 0.55 miles down Route 64 is El Pueblo Lodge, which I have stayed at three times now, including after Riley and I finished the thru-hike in 2018.
  • Congratulations. You have completed the Santa Fe to Taos Thru-Hike.

Riley asleep in a bed at El Pueblo Lodge

Image 32 of 32

Gives you an idea of what the rooms are like, maybe a little. This one had a tiny kitchen and a fireplace. And a great bed.