“Route mainly features the spectacular views from Guaje Mountain, but also many popular trailheads.”
— Bill Blumenthal
Birding · Fall Colors · River/Creek · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife
This is a long trip overall for kids, but the trip can be easily shortened by turning around early. The route can also be started at the Rendija Canyon Trailhead which shortens the trip by 1.4 miles.
This north-south round-trip route features a climb to the summit of Guaje Mountain with its outstanding, unobstructed views of the Jemez Mountains to the west and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the east, but crosses many popular east-west trails along the way, including Guaje Canyon Trail (Forest Service Trail #282) on the northernmost point of the route. Starting in a residential neighborhood, the trail quickly enters National Forest land and transitions into a remote wilderness adventure. The route mainly follows the Pajarito Trail (Forest Service Trail #286) with the return route following a short section of the Cabra Loop Trail #279
Need to Know
Beyond Rendija Canyon there is virtually no shade. This trip can be very hot, even in the spring and fall. Summer lightning and thunder showers can be very intense, so plan to depart early in the morning and return before noon. Bring plenty of water and sun protection. Guaje Canyon will have water that can be filtered/treated almost all year. It must also be noted that the Los Alamos Sportsman Club and shooting range is located a short distance down Rendija Canyon. The is no danger from stray projectiles along the trail, however the noise from gun fire can be unpleasant during this portion of the trip, especially on weekends when there are many shooters.
This popular outing starts and finishes on Barranca Road just west of Barranca Mesa Elementary School. Look for the Barranca Crossing Trail
heading north midway between Dos Brasos St and Loma del Escolar St. The trail descends behind a residential neighborhood. In a half mile it crosses Rendija Rd and passes the Rendija Canyon Trailhead parking lot. The trail descends again into the bottom of Rendija Canyon and crosses Forest Service Trail #279 before ascending north on Pajarito Trail #286
The trail crosses Cabra Canyon which is filled with wildflowers in the fall before ascending about 550 feet to a small saddle on Guaje Ridge at the 2-mile point. Turn right (east) on the saddle and follow the trail to the top of Guaje Mountain in another 0.3 miles and 150 feet elevation gain. Enjoy the 360-degree panoramic views of Los Alamos to the south, Pajarito and Caballo Mountains to the west and the Truchas Peaks in the Sange de Cristo range to the east.
Return back down the mountain to the saddle and continue north on the Pajarito Trail #286
down into Guaje Canyon. The forest north of Rendija Canyon was severely burned over in the 2001 Cerro Grande Fire and many large downed Ponderosa Pines remain scatter over the now very arid landscape. The Pajarito Trail #286
crosses the eastern trailhead of the Guaje Canyon Trail #282
at the bottom of Guaje Canyon which has suffered intense flooding damage after both the Cerro Grande and the 2011 Los Conchas fires.
Turn around at this 3.25-mile point and return south to the saddle. Descend 0.2 miles south from the saddle and look for a side trail heading west. Follow this trail for 0.6 miles until it intersects the Cabra Loop Trail #279
. Turn sharply south on the Cabra Loop Trail and follow it another 0.6 miles to the intersection with the Pajarito Trail again. Turn south on the Pajarito Trail and follow it past the Rendija Canyon Trailhead and back to the starting point on Barranca Road.