Like many other areas on the Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF), the 6.7-mile Rio en Medio Trail #163 about 14 miles north of downtown Santa Fe has surged in popularity as people seek relief from quarantine by taking to the woods. The problem is that access to the trailhead is a single-lane county road that crosses private property, and parking is very limited.
And residents of the village that shares its name with the trail are fed up. Rio en Medio community members report to SFNF and Santa Fe County officials that some visitors are behaving badly – leaving trash on private property and along the trail, damaging the historic acequia, parking illegally on the roadway and in the fire lane, trespassing on private property, and even urinating and defecating on residential property and within 100 feet of the river, which is the community’s primary water source.
“The Rio en Medio Trail follows a beautiful mountain stream that passes by a cascading waterfall,” Española District Ranger Sandy Hurlocker said. “We understand why hikers love this trail, perhaps almost too much, but we also understand the community’s frustrations. It is up to everyone to recreate responsibly and respect both private property and public lands.”
The SFNF is working with Santa Fe County and community residents on a solution to the problem, including the possibility of closing the trail at least temporarily and finding alternative parking options. In the interim, visitors should not block residents’ driveways, park on the shoulder or block other vehicles in the designated parking area, which can only accommodate three to four vehicles. Hikers with dogs should keep them on leash so they pose no threat to other visitors, residents or livestock.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the SFNF continues to assess the best way to serve the public. Please recreate responsibly by following all federal guidelines and state public health orders, including social distancing and limits on groups size. Be safe and plan ahead to reduce unnecessary exposure and impacts on emergency personnel. Stay up to date by checking the SFNF website and following the forest on Facebook and Twitter.