As legend says, from autumn Ute celebrations during the 1780’s, came the name and event called “Angel Fire.” Early on the first morning of the ceremonials, three young braves who had been on a hunting trip returned to the camp with news of a strange glow at the tip of the peak named Agua Fria. Thus, part of the legend which led to the name of this area. Today, Angel Fire Resort features eighty ski runs, ranging from gentle groomed cruisers to challenging hike-only steeps. With three terrain parks, four gladed tree skiing areas, tubing hill and a full ski and snowboard school,…..yada, yada, yada. That’s in winter. In summer, it turns into a giant bike park and, according to their web site, the largest in the Rockies. It has been voted park best in the southwest (by one group) for three years in a row. What they don’t tell you is that it also has one of the best hiking trails around (but no money to be made from hikers). Nicely groomed, separate from all downhill bike traffic, and beautiful from the top, this one is worth a trip from Taos to do. Insider tip: since so few people actually hike to the top, the staff don’t even bother to check before allowing people to take the lift ride down. As a staff member told me, they don’t even have a way to take your money at the top.
The hiking trail doesn’t have a name, but shares the uphill only Enlightenment Cross Country Ski Route for about ¾ of the way. Check out the map
The start of the hiking trail is not well marked, but park just past the lower lift station and walk up hill. Most of the cars will belong to bikers taking the short coast down to the lift station to ride sans aerobic difficulty up the mountain. Go up from the parking lot and look for an obvious opening. There is a sign after a bit confirming that you are indeed on the hiking trail.
This is one of the nicest trails I’ve been on; think a paved sidewalk covered with grass or soft dirt. All the downed trees and debris have been removed. It’s well marked where any interaction with biking downhillers could occur. The slope is steep at a few spots, but never feels hard. However, at 10,000+ feet, it will seem hard, so take it at your pace.
Until you reach the point where the hiking trail separates from the “Enlightenment Trail”, all you see is excellent wooded terrain, and occasionally hear the bikers to your right discourse on their way down. After the departure, the trail narrows and becomes much steeper. Near the top, you encounter the lower end of the zipline routes, and cross the upper end of the canyon to turn right. This part of the trail leads to the top, emerging at the upper end of the long zipline.