Three trailheads along West Jemez Road (State Road 501) provide access to the canyons and mesas east of the crest of the Sierra de los Valles. The canyons are deep, narrow and sometimes shady as all were partially burned in the Cerro Grande and Las Conchas fires. Running water is found in stretches of all three, and in summer they support dozens of species of wildflowers. These trails are on the Santa Fe National Forest.
Water Canyon drains the east flank of Cerro Grande and has seen more than its share of post-fire flood events over the past two decades. The trail has been rebuilt twice since 2000. The trip to Sawmill Meadow makes a delightful short trip suitable for all ages; the full loop is a great half-day hike and short bike trip. Along the trail you will find shady forests, burned woods, boulder pile-ups from floods, and there is always water in the middle section of the canyon. The constant flow is a result of a mid-1940s water development that supplied Los Alamos National Laboratory. A small dam and other water works can be found in the north tributary drainage just above Sawmill Meadow.
Cañon de Valle is a long, attractive canyon with tall conifers, abundant wildflowers, and running water. The trail up the canyon follows a route that has been used for 150 years, but post-fire floods have force sections of the trail to be rerouted out of the flood zone. The long trail gains more than 1,000 feet as it climbs to the boundary fence of the Valles Caldera National Preserve. The fence is the turnaround point for this trip as access to the Preserve is not permitted from this point. Click here to download a brochure on hiking the West Canyons.