Chama Basin is a spectacular valley surrounded by steep cliffs of volcanic rock and dominated by expansive aspen and virgin spruce-fir forests. The wildlands of Chama Basin are a haven for a great diversity of wildlife and provide calving grounds for a large herd of elk that summers in the basin and on the alpine plateau above.
The Chama River Trail follows the river to the confluence of the West and East Forks. Along the way, it climbs from the riverbed, densely vegetated with cottonwood and alder, to the aspen forests covering the slopes above. Several small streams, which cascade from the steep cliffs above, are crossed. Dry meadows are interspersed within the aspen forest providing beautiful views into the upper basin.
The confluence of the East and West Forks is surrounded by rolling meadows. Waterfalls cascade from the cliffs just above, the most spectacular of which feeds the East Fork. Continuing up the East Fork, the old Orell cabin originally used as a sheep camp, sits on the edge of the bordering forest. Several beaver ponds, supporting trout, will be found a short way upstream, a beautiful spot for an afternoon interlude of fishing.
Although the trail ends near the beaver ponds, more adventurous hikers may continue cross country and join Trail #740 as it follows the West Fork.
Access may be difficult during spring run-off because the Chama River must be forded, once just above the camping area, and again where the trail crosses the river one-half mile above the trailhead. Parking is available at the camping area before the road crosses the Chama River.
Directions from Chama, New Mexico: Approximately 7.0 miles north on Highway 14, take the Chama River Road # 131, to the north. This road passes through private property for 6.0 miles before reaching the Rio Grande National Forest boundary. At the Forest Boundary, take the left fork of the road down to the Chama River Camping Area and continue following the road upstream approximately 2.0 miles. The Chama River Trail begins at the road closure.
April through September .