14 Aug Weekend Splendor at Rim Vista Trail
Piedra Lumbre, meaning Luminous Stone, is a world in which you’ll find this place- the Rim Vista Trail. It’s an advanced hike of vertical incline gaining roughly 1,700 feet to the flattop of a 230 million-year-old red and yellow plateau. Situated within Carson National Forest, this trail is exceptionally well maintained, clean and pristine, and is coined
“one of the best hikes for scenery in the state.”
And man, no words can describe the views from the top.
We started in Albuquerque from where we headed north to Española on the Big I. We zoomed through this sleepy southwestern city, taking US 84 North to Abiquiu. After a while on the main drag, we eventually passed Lake Abiquiu to our left, and Ghost Ranch to our right. Just 2-3 miles north from Ghost Ranch and situated on the righthand side of the road is a brown US Forestry sign that reads “FR 151”. The sign points to a gravel turnoff on the left, which you follow for about a mile until you reach the trailhead road that is marked with a sign that reads “Trail”. o.2 miles in, and you’re at the Rim Vista Trailhead. The trailhead is blemished with old campfires from past adventurers.
On this clear and dry summer day of 100 plus degrees, we were able to drive the entire way from turnoff to trailhead with a five inch clearance vehicle. We drive a 2016 Honda Fit. I would say that on a more wet day, however, a high clearance vehicle is necessary.
Along the 5.5 miles of trail, we saw red Wyoming Paintbrush in bloom and dried but aromatic Mountain Mahogany. In some parts, a “living soil”, more commonly known as cryptobiotic crust was also seen along the trail. This so-called “desert glue” is a sign that the soil is working hard to keep the place in place from erosion by wind and water.
About halfway along the trail, we came upon a dried and dead piñon forest. I learned from a local during a Meetup last summer that many large Northern New Mexico areas that are filled with dead trees are victims of the pine bark beetle. The beetle has been destroying large swaths of forests in the American West since 2000.
After four hours of hiking, we finally summited the Rim Vista Trail plateau where we rested on rock beds of multicolored lichen. The view from the top was magnificent and overlooked a valley where the Cerro Pedernal reflects in Abiquiu Lake. An interesting fact is that the Cerro Pedernal, meaning flint hill, is named after the ancient indigenous Pedernal people who used the area for its chert deposits. Chert can create a spark when struck against an iron-bearing surface and thus was a valuable material.
Georgia O’Keeffe also had her ashes scattered atop the Pedernal. The rock formation was the subject to many of her most famous paintings.
To the east, one can see Ghost Ranch, which sits at the end of the east Colorado Plateau. Those who study the history of the earth’s rock, say it was created from a volatile ebb and flow of the Laramide Orogeny. It’s a theory that may have formed the Rocky Mountains 70-40 million years ago. You can read about my time at Ghost Ranch capturing the golden hour here.