USDA Forest Service
1 hour, 43 minutes
Developed campgrounds. Interpretive trails and hiking trails. Fishing ponds.
While there are several local outdoor 'gems' in the Raton area, the Valle Vidal Unit has the distinction of being recognized as one of the most special places in all of New Mexico. The Valle Vidal is known for wildlife especially trout, outdoor adventure, history, and unspoiled scenery.
In 1982 the land was donated to the people of the United States by the Penzoil Corporation. The area is managed by the USDA Department of Agriculture and is now part of the Carson National Forest. In 2006 President Bush signed into law the Valle Vidal Protection Act, saving the Unit from natural gas drilling and preserving it in a natural state for future generations.
Treks from the nearby Philmont Scout Ranch venture into the Valle Vidal to experience off-trail navigation. The Scouts follow a No-Trace ethic while in the area and perform service and conservation projects for the Forest Service.
The Valle Vidal could be broken down into the eastern and western sides, each side having a different history, a different geology, and a different experience. The eastern side is characterized by sedimentary sandstone outcrops, flat grassy valleys and meadows, a history of logging and ranching, and an ecozone consisting primarily of ponderosa pine forests. The western side is higher in elevation, steeper, an uplifted geology, covered with aspen / spruce / fir forests, and with a history of gold mining. The eastern and western halves are separated by a tall mountain ridge, including Little Costilla Peak that rises to 12,584'.
Hiking Opportunities: Many! There is a short interpretive trail at the Ring Place Homestead. The area is transected by old logging roads, mining roads, ranch roads, and a railroad grade, all of which are good for hiking. Off-trail hiking is very rewarding in the Valle Vidal, provided a reasonable amount of map-and-compass navigation skills.
Paddling Opportunities: Boating is permitted in Shuree Pond, but boats with motors are not allowed, making it ideal for a small canoe or kayak.
Camping Opportunities: Multiple developed campgrounds with latrines and fire rings. No-Trace backcountry camping is allowed; roadside 'camping' is not.
Official USDA Forest Service web page: Link
Local photography website: Link