View of rib leading to Osha Peak

Overview:

The Osha Peak Trail is a classic ramble in midstate New Mexico. This out-and-back trail initially runs along the west side of the Manzanos National Forest and then turns abruptly east, barreling up a rib to reach the crest. Along the way you traverse Upper Sonoran (juniper), Transition (ponderosa) and Canadian (Douglas fir) life zones. It is a short walk along the crest to the summit of Osha Peak. Views extend west over the Rio Grande Valley to Ladron Peak and Mt Taylor. Looking east will reveal the enormous dry sweep of the Estancia Basin and the Chupadera Mesa

The down side? The six mile road that brings you to the trailhead is in truly horrible shape. A high clearance vehicle (and full daylight) is currently necessary. 

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Lower Frijoles Canyon

Overview:

Frijoles Canyon is where the gorges get gorgeous; half hike and half secular sacrament. The tread is obvious and the navigation straightforward. Are you new to exploing the high country in New Mexico? This hike was made for you.

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Polvadera Peak (summit is on right)

Overview:

This is a short and steep desert ramble near Socorro, New Mexico. Access is easy if you have a high clearance vehicle. A tall-walled canyon begins the scramble. The steep mountainside accompanies you from lower to upper Sonoran life zones and from the summit a loop can be formed by descending on a trail and two-track back to the trailhead. Find a sunny winter morning and go!

Note on the route – a navigation error sent me barreling into a side-cut in the lower canyon. It was almost slot-like in places and quite attractive, but most hikers will want to study the map (below) and avoid those “bonus miles”.

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Pueblo Canyon

Overview:

The canyon is beautiful. The driving is easy. The solitude is tremendous. Against this, weigh the driving distance, the difficulty of staying on trail and the presence of skittish cattle on this waterway. Experienced hikers – shoulder your packs and go!

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View from Mesa Trail: Timber Peak (left), South Baldy (center) and North Baldy (right).

This 9-mile, figure-8 trail offers a splendidly shaded workout in the Magdalena Mountains. Going counter-clockwise, the lower loop ascends a canyon to reach the mesa top. There you can either stroll up a connector onto the mesa-top loop or you could just descend the lower loop (for a shorter day). Either way, the return path bounces down between vertical cliff bands – a workout! Go if you are introducing a newcomer to New Mexico’s mountains, training while the crest lies under snow, or simply need to stretch out your legs.

There are at least five unsigned trail junctions, do bring maps.

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Overview:

San Gregorio Reservoir (extreme right) and Nacimeinto Peak

HIke to a high-country pond on a new and splendidly engineered portion of the Continental Divide Trail (CDT). Streams rush, deer abound, pines tower and the views amaze.

Never worry about being lonesome. Forest Road 70 brings travelers to a campground near the reservoir. On most weekends you will finish the last half mile in the company of fishermen, youth groups, CDT thru-hikers and more. 

Some peaks in New Mexico are “sky islands”, whereas the San Pedro Mountains offers a “sky subcontinent”. There is so much to see – it can be wrenching to return after just one day’s exploration!

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