Steep meadows before the summit of Timber Peak

Overview:

The South Baldy Trail #11 ascends from a darkling canyon bed up to the sunny ridgeline of the Magdalena Mountains. Access is easy and the grade is moderate. The subsequent views from the Timber Peak Trail #70 sweep the region; from the San Juans in southern Colorado to the Black Range in southern New Mexico. Pick a clear day and go! Novice hikers should know that snow sometimes obscures the trail. If you have doubts about your navigation skill then come anyway, bringing a resolute willingness to turn back when the tread becomes doubtful.

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Sheer canyon walls and level wash

Overview:

A feast of iconic western imagery, Potato Canyon proffers sheer canyon walls, gigantic trees, wildlife, a brief slot canyon and easy hiking into the heart of the lonesome Withington Wilderness. In the hike’s uppermost reaches (barely touched in this route description) there is evidence of a recent fire. This route would be a national treasure were it not for the last six miles of the drive. Those miles are hostile. Hikers possessing a high clearance vehicle and a high tolerance for care-filled driving should pack packs and go.

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View from the Cloven Shoulder: Florida Mountains, Cooke Peak and Black Range on horizon

Overview:

This scramble takes you to Sharkstooth Pass, immediately east of Sharkstooth Peak in the Organ Mountains, then down to the saddle separating North Canyon and Bar Canyon. The ascent involves “Organ-eering”, a blood-spill minimizing skillset for scrambling amidst mesquite, prickly pear, shin stabbers, chollo, banana yucca, columnar cacti and ocotillo. This, while bashing through gray oak, Gamble oak and mountain mahogany thickets. Footing will be uncertain, the terrain steep. Organeering is an acquired taste. The route crosses over the boundaries of the Fort Bliss Military Reservation. The authorities there have been quietly tolerant of hiker’s who shave the corners of the reserve. A day-long drumbeat of distant artillery confirmed, utterly, assertions of live ordinance use. Having gone, I’m left feeling that this route edges uncomfortably far into the base.

So why describe it? Two reasons. First, Baldy Peak climbers might need a plausible bug-out route. Second (in the unlikely event of artillery practice being discontinued) this route might one day form part of an official Baldy Peak Trail.

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Peñasco Blanco

Overview:

Roughly 1200 years ago the Ancestral Puebloans raised monumental rock structures along Chaco Wash. This hike follows the Wash past several enormous structures, turns back at the Peñasco Blanco ruin and finishes by ascending a narrow cleft to a pair of the high pueblos. Go! There is no better way of introducing newcomers to hiking in the desert southwest.

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Overview:

This could be the most beautiful hike in New Mexico.

High sediment loads in the San Francisco River can give the water a muddy coloration. Don’t be put off! The hike remains gorgeous.

Stay away if the weather looks stormy. Flash flooding is a real risk.

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View to Chain of Craters from NM-117

Overview:

This backpacking route explores a long chain of small volcanic cinder-cones and finishes with a crossing of the El Malpais (“Bad Country”) National Monument on the the dramatic Zuni-Acoma Trail. It features desert grasslands, juniper and ponderosa forest, cinder cones, lava tubes and the opportunity to dance the Scoria Shuffle. This hike could be done as a loop that includes a 20 mile walk on NM-117 (paved). Most hikers will prefer to set up a shuttle or to hitch-hike the paved section.

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