Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Circle Trail at Hyde Memorial State Park

(Photo taken with iPhone)

Hike Difficulty: Moderate
Hiking Distance (Round Trip): 3.91 miles
Time (Round Trip): 2-3 hours
Elevation: 8,398 feet to 9.399 feet

With so many incredible and longer hikes starting in the Santa Fe Ski Basin, I'm guessing Circle Trail in Hyde Memorial State Park often gets overlooked. We didn't see another person on this entire hike. Also, it costs $5 to park, while it's free to park in the Ski Basin. However, I never feel bad about paying money to hike, because I can't think of a way I'd rather spend my money than to keeping state parks alive. And this hike was absolutely wonderful and worth every penny!

Circle Trail is a loop and a little under 4 miles long. Parking can be found right before you get to the Visitor Center on Hyde Park Road (which Artist Road turns into) or right after and both small parking areas have self-pay stations. The trailhead is right across the road from the Visitor Center and has a very clear map of the trails in the park. Along the trail, everything is really well marked. You cannot get lost on this trail. Keep your eyes open for "Circle Trail" signs and you are good to go. 

The first mile of the trail climbs steadily up, from 8,398 feet to 9,399 ft. It was definitely a strenuous climb, but the footing is easy and we kind of got into a rhythm. We also always take plenty of breaks on our hikes, so we can take in the views and so I can take plenty of pictures of the wildflowers. I've been very impressed with the assortment of wildflowers in the Santa Fe area during my time here in August. I am getting equally excited about my time here in late September/early October when I hear the Aspen trees are going to blow my mind! 

An historic ski tow rope building can be seen on the slope opposite the one we climbed up. 

 Love these little ones but don't know what they are. Maybe Scarlet Gilia? 

Fleabane (I think?)

 Jemez Mountains in the distance

Anyway, back to the hike. After the first mile, it's all basically down hill. But the views continue to be amazing. The trees smell incredible. The footing is soft. We completed this hike during the mid-afternoon, which we knew was risky given the consistent afternoon thunderstorms we've encountered here. However, for the majority of this hike the sun was beaming through the trees and I just felt that this is what life is about! 

 If we had done this hike earlier in the day, this would have been the perfect spot for lunch!

 Clearly someone else was inspired by this hike. Introducing the new form of prancercise: prancerhiking!

About 2 miles into the hike, it started to sprinkle while still sunny. Then it started to rain harder, but the sun persisted and it was simply magical! Still no thunder, so we weren't worried (plus, we were pretty far down from the top of the trail at this point, so didn't feel unsafe). The rain was cold and so refreshing. Some people might have been disappointed with the rain, but it just added to my enjoyment of the hike. The smell of the rain on the trees and the trail. Seeing the rain falling in the distance, shimmering from the sun shining through it. Driving back out of the rain to Santa Fe, where the rain never fell. It was a terrific way to spend a couple hours, rain and shine! 

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