Pueblo Canyon


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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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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View to North Baldy (second from left) from the North Baldy Trail


Topping out at 10,673 feet the Magdalena Range offers a variety of life zones, cool canyon bottoms, a sunny crest, views across the immensity of mid-state New Mexico and even an astronomical observatory – providing much to contemplate. All of this (except for the observatory) is on display in this long, lasso-shaped trek.

The word “long” is the operational superlative. The hike covers 20 miles with a summed-ascent of 6,800 feet. Through-hikers may not be impressed, but most folks will want some training-up before making the attempt.

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Cold Spring Canyon wall in morning sunshine
Typical Wall in Cold Spring Canyon


This hike up into the wild east side of the San Mateo Mountains produces conflict. On one hand, the initial stroll up Cold Spring Canyon (Trail #87) feasts on vast canyon walls and towering pines, while the cardio-slog up to Teepee Ridge (Trail #81) buffs your fitness to a fine finish. On the other hand, the drive on Forest Road 332 could beat a sedan to death. The suspension systems of high clearance vehicles absorb a material battering. This venture encompasses the implacably harsh and the strikingly beautiful. 

This report only extends only to where Trail #81 reaches Teepee Ridge. The original goal was to follow the ridge up to Teepee Peak and see if the Vic’s Peak fire (of 2020) burned onto to the east side. Sadly, the fire damage was obvious even when seen from far below. 

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shows the highpoint of the hike
South Baldy summit block seen from the Magdalena Crest

This loop route climbs east in Copper Canyon, bops north on the Copper Canyon Spur Trail, traverses south on the crest of the Magdalena Mountains, bags South Baldy, and plummets down Water Canyon. Access is easy, the views are fantastic, the route is well shaded and the trails are in good shape.

A caveat: there is some road walking. It begins at the trailhead with a two mile stroll on FR 235 and ambulates the Water Canyon Campground roads for a mile to the Copper Canyon trailhead. This, the dullest part of the hike, is over quickly. The second road walk descends FR 235 from South Baldy for 1.3 miles to the South Baldy Trail departure. The views on the second stretch are great.

This is a terrific workout. Grab those boots and go!

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