Updated: Apr 23, 2021
Jemez Mountains in General – most of the western Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) opened in this period, so Jemez Mountain fishing, camping, hiking and drives are all available – some exceptions being Fenton Lake, vehicle access to the Valles Caldera, and Bandelier campgrounds. Forest roads are (mostly) open and all SFNF trails are open. We are in a drought and Stage II fire restrictions (no campfires, smoking, etc.) apply throughout the forest. Stream levels are low and wildlife are stressed by the heat and dryness. Despite this the forest remains beautiful and ready for adventure! Please don’t risk any campfires and pack out what you pack in – littering is done by idiots – don’t be one!
Fishing – In general the fishing opportunities are nearly wide open. No stocking to date but the wild trout are still biting. JA advises the careful and quick release of all brown and cutthroat trout until the Pandemic and fire danger are over. Also as the weather warms fishing is better in the morning. Some recent highlights/ notes:
Rio de Las Vacas – water is very low. Downstream of the Girl Scout Camp the fishing ranges from marginal to none. On the FR 20 stretch above it’s not much better. Rain in the San Pedro Parks could help, but this fishery is effectively kaput until fall without lots of summer/monsoon rain. Backpack fishing in the San Pedro Parks should hold at least through July.
East Fork – Las Conchas Fishing Access should fish well through July, albeit low with spooky fish. Fishing the East Fork on the VCNP will be sketchy without significant rain. The stretch above Battleship is low like the rest, but it has well oxygenated water and lots of canyon shade – this will probably be the best East Fork fishing through summer.
Main Jemez River – is still fishing well but expect summer doldrums to slow things down by late July. I’d stay with #14 - #16 dry flies, be sure to include some caddis patterns. I have not seen a lot of hopper action, but others have reported doing well with sizes #10 - #12.
Rio San Antonio – has been fishing been well above NM 126 and below La Cueva (Dark Canyon) for browns. I did well with dry-dropper rigs but had to keep my droppers to 6 inches or less because of low water. Elk Hair Caddis and Missing Link dries in #14 with #16 with Hare’s Ear unweighted nymphs kept me busy both mornings I fished – go early in this hot weather.
Rio Cebolla – has been stoked above Fenton Lake, best access is FR 378 off NM 126. I haven’t fished this section this month but would recommend nymph or dry-dropper rigs – stockers don’t look up for a while. The Rio Grande Cutthroat area above the hatchery is open. Drive to the gate, walk 2 miles (in one of the prettiest canyons ever) and start fishing at the pond. Midge nymphs just under the surface are a good start in the pond. The stream fishing above the pond is all dry fly – I usually fish #14 - #16 attractors – presentation is everything here.
Rio Guadalupe – fished well in late June and should continue to fish well if we get a strong monsoon season. Water is low – be quiet and stealthy. Both times I fished it I focused on dry flies, but where you can do it a short nymph dropper (5 – 6 inches) will help. My last rip I had 3 fish in the 12” – 13” range – one a rainbow. Fish early for success as the weather warms.
Fenton Lake remains closed.
San Gregorio Lake has not been stocked.
Bandelier National Monument started opening access on June 8. Fishing for Rio Grande Cutthroats in Frijoles Canyon should be good after the Corona Virus closure.
Pecos River (yes, I leave the Jemez now and again) fished well for wild browns the week of 6 July. Water was low but hatches plentiful – caddis, midges, aquatic moths, and a few mayflies coming off - and fish rising. Humpies and Missing Links worked well with short (unweighted) droppers.
Valles Caldera National Preserve (VCNP) – no backcountry vehicle permits are being issued at this time, so fishing is effectively out unless you want to hike to the streams. The East Fork is a reasonable walk but has fished poorly recently. The San Antonio should be fishing well, but it is a 5+ mile hike. Check at Visitor Center.
Hiking – Much of the forest has opened, with the biggest exception being Fenton Lake State Park. There are still lots of people on the trails, but the opening of the forest has spread folks out quite a bit, relieving most of the crowding issues. In keeping with NM guidelines please wear a mask and keep personal distancing.
E. Fork Tr. #137 – Las Conchas Rec Area is open and crowded except on weekdays in early AM. It’s still a great short hike. The trail above Battleship is open, and the Jemez Falls section and Falls Trail are open.
Forest hot springs (e.g. Spence, McCauley, San Antonio) are now open.
Lower Jemez – Access areas below Jemez Springs are open now and provide some hiking and recreational wading opportunities.
Bandelier Nat’l Monument – Frijoles Canyon opened Monday July 13. The Main Loop trail has been redone and renamed Pueblo Loop Trail – no matter what it’s called it’s still the best ruins trail in New Mexico. I was unable to find out whether St. Peters Dome Lookout Road (FR 142) to the Dome Wilderness is open (neither the Monument nor the Jemez Ranger Station had any info on this on 7/14/20).
Valles Caldera - no backcountry vehicle permits are being issued at this time, but visitors can drive to the Visitor Center and walk into the park. The Coyote Call Trails across from the Valle Grande in the VCNP are open.
A Tip – when you see a cross country skiing sign in the forest (e.g. on NM 4 near the FR 10 intersection) it’s generally a great summer hiking trail!
Camping – All Santa Fe Nat’l Forest (SFNF) campgrounds are open. Some SFNF campgrounds (e.g. San Antonio) require reservations, it’s always a good idea to check recreation.gov before you go. Dispersed (dry) camping and backpacking are generally available (but no backpacking in the Dome or Bandelier wilderness areas yet).
Santa Fe Nat’l Forest – All SFNF campgrounds are now open, but Fenton Lake State Park remains closed.
Bandelier Wilderness - FR 289 is open, and day hikes are allowed. (no backpacking). All Bandelier Campgrounds remain closed.
San Pedro Parks Wilderness – are open for backpacking, fishing, & horses.
Dispersed camping areas along FR 378, FR 144, FR 100, FR 20, FR 36, FR 10 & FR 99 are open (note addition of FR 36 & FR 10).
Drives – Most of the great Jemez drives are now available with the lifting of many Covid 19 restrictions. Some classic drives that are beautiful at this time of year include:
NM 290/FR 10 – now entirely open – great drive. Photo right shows FR 10 as it enters the SFNF.
NM 126 – open from La Cueva to Cuba – don’t go if it’s wet – mud will be very deep.
FR 20 and FR 533 - are open.
NM 96 – is open from Gallina to Abiquiu Dam. Some side roads may be closed – look for signs.
FR 289 – is open (day hikes only) but is always a gamble in wet weather.
As always have a great day in the Jemez Mountains – you deserve it!