The El Morro National Monument Ride out and back is a terrific spring or fall ride. This a delightful tour that goes through red-rock terrain, wildflowers, and pinon and ponderosa pine forests. This is a fairly moderate tour with no big hills and the one climb up the continental divide only gains about 370'. Follow NM53 south from the vicinity of Grants. There is a new El Malpais National Monument Visitor Center 23 miles south of Grants on NM53 that has interesting information and water. Further south you pass the Bandera Volcano Cone entrance before climbing the Continental Divide.
Bring some walking shoes and take time to tour the El Morro National Monument and view the historic "Inscription Rock" which has hundreds of inscriptions carved on the 200 foot sandstone mesa. There are also some petroglyphs.
Ruins of the Atsinna Pueblo, occupied by Anasazi ancestors of the Zuni people on top of the mesa, are worth the couple of miles walk. The mesa top has great views of the area.
It can get really, really hot in the summer so take plenty of water, snacks, and your camera. Boy can it be windy in the spring, too.
Return from El Morro by retracing route back to starting point.
Distance: 84.0 miles, 2.657 ft. elevation gain.
Getting There: This ride starts in Grants at NM 53 and West Santa Fe Ave (old US 66).
Roadway: Two lane road with a good shoulder most of the way.
Options: You can camp out at El Morro and make it a two day ride.
MAP CUE SHEET TCX COURSE
(Turn by turn directions)