Most of Santa Fe National Forest to reopen after rainstorms

·4 min read

Jun. 24—Outdoors enthusiasts will be able to access trails and camping areas that had been closed for weeks due to extreme fire dangers, thanks to early monsoon rains that have drenched forest lands.

Officials will lift fire restrictions Friday on much of the Santa Fe and Carson national forests, and entirely on the Lincoln and Cibola forests.

Rainstorms came as forecast this week without causing the flash floods some had feared would carry ashy sediment down burned hillsides and wash out roads.

The rainy weather — with slow and steady showers, rather than heavy downpours, falling across a still severely drought-stricken state — has dampened trees, shrubs and debris enough to reduce fire hazards in those fuels and prompt federal, state and local agencies to restore public access to trails and campsites in wooded areas.

There also are thousands of personnel in the region still battling the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire, so having crews on hand to snuff out a blaze that might flare up is added security in reopening forests to the public, officials said.

"We're relieved by the early onset of monsoonal flows, not just for decreasing fire danger and activity but also getting people back into the forest," James Duran, the supervisor of Carson National Forest, said in a statement.

"Some areas and limitations will temporarily remain in effect, so we are asking visitors 'know before you go' and check conditions before heading out," he added.

Most of Santa Fe National Forest's 1.6 million acres will be reopened, though some parts with lingering danger from wildfires or their aftermath will remain off-limits.

The lands within the Pecos/Las Vegas Ranger District will remain closed due to ongoing concerns about the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire, which is still burning.

The closed area includes the Pecos Wilderness on the eastern side of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

Those hiking in the Santa Fe ski basin should be mindful of the Sangre de Cristo ridgeline as the divider, forest spokeswoman Julie Anne Overton said. They can go to Nambe Lake, but if they trek to Lake Katherine or Stewart and Spirit lakes, they've gone too far.

If they ascend Santa Fe Baldy or Penitente Peak, they're on the border and should not venture east of there, Overton added.

Hyde Memorial State Park and Santa Fe County trails will reopen Friday in conjunction with the Forest Service lifting restrictions. County trails include Arroyo de la Piedra, Little Tesuque Creek, Rio En Medio and Talaya Hill.

The National Park Service is mostly opening the Valles Caldera National Preserve in the Jemez Mountains, including much of the backcountry.

The lands affected by the Cerro Pelado Fire will stay closed due to public health and safety risks posed by burned, hazardous trees, and the high potential for post-fire flooding, park officials said in a news release. Those include Rabbit Mountain, Scooter Peak and the Coyote Call and Rabbit Ridge trails.

Santa Fe forest land in the Jemez Ranger District near the preserve also will stay closed.

But restrictions will be lifted Friday from Bandelier National Monument. Officials approved reopening the entire park — including the Alcove House — and the adjacent wilderness area and backcountry for hiking and camping.

The public will regain access to most of Carson National Forest.

The Camino Real Ranger District, at the northern end of the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire, will remain fully closed until next week.

This will keep trails closest to Taos unavailable.

Staffers are working to reduce the closure footprint so it mainly encompasses the burn area and places where debris flow and flash flooding can occur, officials said in a statement.

Also, the area around the Midnight Fire, which is 98 percent contained, in the El Rito Ranger District will remain closed.

Other closures that were in effect before the fire restrictions will remain in place. Those include restricted access to Valle Vidal and some roads west of Tres Piedras, due to elk calving.

Cibola National Forest will reopen, except for the Bear Trap Fire area.

Lincoln National Forest, where the destructive McBride Fire blazed, will fully reopen.

"We've had at least 4 inches of rain the last couple of weeks, and more is in the forecast in the next week," said Laura Rabon, the Lincoln forest spokeswoman. "And we're grateful."