Old Red River Pass

Red River, New Mexico (Taos County)
Last Updated: 06/17/2018
5/5 (1 review)
Information
Nearby Trails
Status: Temporary Closure
Difficulty: 2-3
(EASY)
Length: 3.13 miles
Highest Elevation: 9831 feet
Duration: About 37 minutes
Shape of Trail: Connector
Best Direction to Travel: N/A
Nearest Town: Red River
Nearest Town w/ Services: Red River
Official Road Name: FR 488
Management Agency: Carson National Forest / Questa District
District:
Distance:
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Highlights

Highlight: Old Red River Pass

At over a hundred years old, the Old Red River Pass is a trail with some history. This was the only eastern access into the town of Red River until the mid 1960s. Considering the town began to gain popularity as a tourist destination in the 1930s, it is fun to imagine what it was like to travel in the family station wagon down these switchbacks for the annual family vacation. Now the Old Red River Pass is a Forest Road with little maintenance, so high clearance vehicles are required. On the climb up the pass you will encounter spectacular views of the town and the Wheeler Peak wilderness.

Video

Route Information

Technical Rating: (2-3)
(EASY)

Dirt road. Rutted, washes, or gulches. Water crossings up to 6" depth. Passable mud. Grades up to 10 degrees. Small rocks or holes. 4WD recommended but 2WD possible under good conditions and with adequate ground clearance and skill. No width problems for any normal vehicle. Vehicle passing spots frequently available if less than two vehicles wide.

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Description

Seasonal closure 01/01-05/29 The trail begins with 2.5 miles of switchbacks climbing up the pass. After the switchbacks the trail will straighten out to take you to "The Fingers" overlook. "The Fingers" are no longer an approved obstacle but you can loop up and around the fingers to find popular dispersed camping sites. From the overlook the end of the trail is .15 miles to the east, there it connects to 4th of July Canyon trail and continues south. Be aware that during the summer, mountain showers can present new scenic water features, but also dangers as lightning and hail often come with the storms. Plan accordingly and check weather reports to avoid having to wait out a storm at the top of the pass.

Waypoints

1. Trailhead

The trailhead is clearly marked "Forest Access Road 488" "Red River Pass High Clearance Vehicles Only". Immediately you will start climbing in elevation as you start up the trail.

2. Top of Switchbacks (2.46 mi)

Follow the trail around the final switchback and then the trail will straighten as you have reached top of the switchbacks. The final switchback is a wide turn and offers plenty of space to stop for photo opportunities.

3. The Fingers (2.98 mi)

On the uphill side of the trail is "The Fingers". This is no longer an approved obstacle. Signs are often knocked down in front of "The Fingers" but a sign mounted to the electric pole reinforces the policy.

4. End Old Red River Pass (3.13 mi)

Turning to the south will connect to 4th of July Canyon trail. This is the most common continuation of the trail. 4th of July Canyon

Directions to Trailhead

Trailhead Coordinates: 36.691138, -105.387680
Start at the east end of the town of Red River where Hwy 38 and Hwy 578 (main street) meet at a "Y" junction. This is easily identified by a standalone gas station with no convenience store or facilities at the "Y". From the "Y" head southeast on Hwy 578 for 1.1 miles. The parking area and trailhead are on the left hand side, marked by a "Red River Pass" sign. *Temporary Update* “Due to recent heavy rainfall, portions of the steep road have become eroded to the point where it is dangerous to drive on,” said Questa District Ranger Jack Lewis. “It is necessary to close this road to keep the public safe. According to a Forest Service press release, FR 488 is closed from its entrance at State Highway 578 to the top of the pass adjacent to McShan Ranch and Flying Horse Ranch private land boundaries and FR 490. An alternate access to the Old Red River Pass is available through the east side of FR 488 by the Enchanted Forest Cross Country Ski Area near Bobcat Pass. The Forest Service plans to repair the road sometime next year. The temporary road closure is effective Oct. 17, 2017, and will remain in effect until Oct. 31, 2018, or until rescinded. For information regarding the road closure contact the Questa Ranger District at 575-586-0520.

Camping

The trail is in National Forest so dispersed camping would be available but there are no designated camping areas on the trail. Carson National Forest offers 3 campgrounds west of the town of Red River with potable water, they are: Fawn Lakes Junebug Elephant Rock Lodging is available nearby in Red River with hotel rooms or cabin rentals. Multiple RV parks are also available in town.
Camping: Old Red River Pass

Writer Information

Brett Brogdon

Mapping Crew - New Mexico
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My first vehicle was a 1987 Isuzu Trooper, as a sixteen year old that meant mudding behind the local lake. After cracking the transfer case in half I almost traded it for a 1970 El Camino, boy would my life had turned out differently! Instead I went down the rabbit hole of classic Chevrolet Blazers, until one night in Hot Springs, Arkansas I was introduced to rock crawling with Jeeps. As I sat there completely vertical, staring straight up the hood of an old CJ7 at the stars above, I knew I had to have a Jeep. So in the summer of 2001 I found "Goldie" sitting brand new on the local lot, no one wanted her because she was a four cylinder and therefore sat on the lot for a year. She took me all over Arkansas during college, and slowly grew as did my driving skills. When you are working with two (to four) cylinders less than the rest of the guys, it takes a little more gas pedal and finesse. I became a believer in driving my rig, wheeling it hard, which sometimes meant a trail side repair, but then driving it home. That little gold Jeep is still sitting in my garage, and still with a four cylinder engine, it has driven me all over the United States and created excitement for me and spectators for over 16 years now. There have been a few more Jeeps added to the roster, because sometimes you need a spare, but I am a firm believer that knowing your rig and your own skills will take you farther than most people believe. In the summer of 2007 I moved to Telluride, Colorado. My friend needed a caretaker for his cabin for a month while he was working in Alaska, so it seemed like a great opportunity to experience the Rocky Mountains. Unfortunately, his soon to be ex-girlfriend decided she was going to move back into the cabin with her new boyfriend. I was left homeless with all my friends worldly possessions. Lucky for me he was a mountain guide with lots of cool camping gear. My new boss told me it was fairly common in mountain towns to have experiences like that and suggested that I just camp for a week until I could find a new place to live. Well that week turned into five months, as I went to work during the day and returned to my tent at night. I was the first one to make it into the ghost town of Alta that year, winching myself through the snow and pitching my tent next to the building that Nikola Tesla used for his first commercial use of electricity. It was a great summer, just me and my pet wolf experiencing Mother Nature at its finest. "Overlanding" wasn't a common term in the USA at that point, and my gear wasn't very fancy so I guess I was still officially camping, but it did instill a passion that grew into Overland Expedition Specialists LLC. Maybe some day there will be a new phrase to describe it, but I think we can be both Rock Crawlers and Overlanders. If you are out there exploring, call yourself anything you want, just remember to always Tread Lightly!

Community

Questions & Answers (1)

Q: First awesome review of the trail. Second, what is the weather like in late October? Still potentially passable? Or snowed in?
–cynicalrider (09/08/2017)
A: Thanks for the review! Generally, we say Halloween is most often our first real snow, it just seems to ruin the kids fun. But most of the time the snow doesn't start staying on the ground until later in November. The last few years temperatures haven't cooperated with ski resorts making snow until early November. Depending on how late in October, the Aspen trees might still be displaying colors which is always a nice time to trail ride in Red River!
–Brett Brogdon (09/08/2017)

Trail Reviews (3)

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Old Red River Pass is still closed for maintenance at this time. We are working with the Forest Service to try and provide volunteer help to speed the process but at this time they are reporting it could be Fall 2018 before the trail may be reopened.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Closed
Offroaded on:
The Forest Service has issued a temporary but long term closure from October 2017 until October 31,2018. “Due to recent heavy rainfall, portions of the steep road have become eroded to the point where it is dangerous to drive on,” said Questa District Ranger Jack Lewis. “It is necessary to close this road to keep the public safe. According to a Forest Service press release, FR 488 is closed from its entrance at State Highway 578 to the top of the pass adjacent to McShan Ranch and Flying Horse Ranch private land boundaries and FR 490. An alternate access to the Old Red River Pass is available through the east side of FR 488 by the Enchanted Forest Cross Country Ski Area near Bobcat Pass. The Forest Service plans to repair the road sometime next year. The temporary road closure is effective Oct. 17, 2017, and will remain in effect until Oct. 31, 2018, or until rescinded. For information regarding the road closure contact the Questa Ranger District at 575-586-0520.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Closed
Offroaded on:
The Forest Service has issued a temporary but extended closure from October 2017 until October 31,2018. “Due to recent heavy rainfall, portions of the steep road have become eroded to the point where it is dangerous to drive on,” said Questa District Ranger Jack Lewis. “It is necessary to close this road to keep the public safe. According to a Forest Service press release, FR 488 is closed from its entrance at State Highway 578 to the top of the pass adjacent to McShan Ranch and Flying Horse Ranch private land boundaries and FR 490. An alternate access to the Old Red River Pass is available through the east side of FR 488 by the Enchanted Forest Cross Country Ski Area near Bobcat Pass. The Forest Service plans to repair the road sometime next year. The temporary road closure is effective Oct. 17, 2017, and will remain in effect until Oct. 31, 2018, or until rescinded. For information regarding the road closure contact the Questa Ranger District at 575-586-0520.