Patricia's New Mexico Various Day Hikes

To the main hiking page

New Mexico

New Mexico Pictures (7 pictures)

  Wheeler Peak
    From Taos, head north on Rt. 64 to SH 150 (about 4 miles)
    and then head east all the way to the Taos Ski Valley.
    Go through the large parking lot (easiest way is go left)
    and park at the top of the lot [note that there are 
    restriction parking signs there, but they only apply for 
    the winter months].  The trail starts in the middle of the
    top side, with an info sign a short ways up to the left 
    and a couple of picnic tables (and the free walk-in 
    camping area) to the right [there is no "Wheeler Peak" 
    sign visible from the parking area, you have to walk up to
    the info sign to see that, yes, you are at the correct 
    There is a vault toilet a little ways up, after the trail
    crosses the dirt road.
    At 13,161 feet, Wheeler Peak is the tallest point in New 
    Mexico.  The wide rocky dirt trail immediately starts 
    heading up.  Where there are horse trail signs, head the
    other way.  The trail is near a creek for a good ways and
    is pretty.  At the signed junction (a mile in), the trail
    heads away from the creek and continues up.  Not too much
    further, the trail joins up with an old dirt road (still
    rocky) and remains that way until the mines.  There is a
    nice resting spot at the Bull-of-the-Woods junction.  
    After taking a right at that junction, another junction 
    is a short ways ahead and bear right at that junction.  
    Again go right at the next junction.  At the T-junction
    a nice spot for a rest), head right (an old mining area 
    is to the left) as the way leaves the dirt road and is 
    back to trail-size.  The trail goes through the trees 
    with a switchback up.  After this area, you are above the
    treeline.  There may be some snow patches, that hopefully
    are not difficult to cross (they weren't for my hike).
    It was windy and nippy for sections during my hike.  The
    trail heads up to the ridge and rounds the mountain.  
    Then it annoying heads down.  And down, dropping back 
    into the trees (yes, that is the trail on the green slope
    on the other side).  After rock-hopping across a creek (a
    pretty resting spot), the trail heads back up and
    eventually goes back out of the trees.  Above the
    treeline the trail switchbacks to the left up to the 
    ridge and then along the ridge towards the green mound
    and then left around the green mound - there is a pretty 
    view down on a blue lake in the valley below.  You can 
    see a peak ahead, but it's not Wheeler (Mt. Walker).  The
    good news is that Wheeler isn't too far ahead of Mt. 
    Walker.  From the signed Mt. Walker peak, the trail takes
    a short down to a saddle - at the saddle is the junction 
    for the way up from Williams Lake, a steep rough trail 
    (the lake looked like a pond and not pretty from above, 
    so I decided to go back the way I came instead of down to
    the lake and not take the lake trail back to the ski 
    area).  From the saddle, head straight.  There is a false
    peak and then after the short rocky up is the true peak.
    There is a plaque and windbreak at Wheeler Peak.
  Trail Length + Elevation:
    8 miles round trip, 3961 feet
    Mountains, trees
  When I did the hike:
    Monday, July 5, 2010
    It is always neat to reach the tallest point in a state
    and this a pretty hike.  Some of the junctions are not
    signed (when in doubt, head right).

Bandelier National Park Directions: From Los Alamos, head west on Rt 501 (crossing the bridge) to Rt 4 and then take a left and head west for about 9 miles to the signed Bandelier entrance, on the right. After paying the fee, follow the signs and drive the road to the visitor center. $12 per car or National Parks Pass Trails: Part of the main loop trail is paved. It goes through an old small village - just the foundations visible with about a foot tall sidewalls. The trail goes left and then at a hard right is the first of the steps. At the top of the steps is some small cliff dwelling rooms - a couple of them can be accessed via not too long ladders (you may have to wait in a short line to take a look). The trail goes along the cliff dwellings for a while, with some more steps and there are some neat looking rock formations along the way. After the dwellings, the trail reaches a T-junction - going left goes back to the visitor center and going right heads to the Alcove House, about .5 miles ahead. The way to Alcove House is wide and level. At the bottom of the Alcove House is where the fun begins. It's 150 feet from the canyon floor up to the Alcove House, via 3 long ladders - not for the faint of heart (I would have turned back midway through the 2nd ladder, but had people behind me; after I got back down, my hands were shaking (I am sometimes acrophobic)). Getting to and from Alcove House was more interesting than the "house", a large cliff overhang area. There were a number of holes about 8 feet up on the walls where it is believed that log roofs used to be and they believe that the Alcove House was a ceremonial area. The park service recreated a small ceremonial kiva in the cliff ledge. Trail Length: 1.2 miles main loop about .5 miles extra from main loop to Alcove House Note that there are a number of longer trails in the park. Area: High desert, canyon, ancient Pueblo ruins Picture When I did the hike: Tuesday, July 6, 2010 Recommendation: If you are in Los Alamos, worth a visit, but don't make a trip just for Bandelier (Mesa Verde (cliff dwellings) and Aztec National Monument (ground buildings) have more interesting ruins).
Chaco Canyon Natioanl Historical Park Directions: Rt 550 to the middle of no where (3 miles from of the itty bitty town of Nageezi). Follow the brown the signs for Chaco Canyon, turning south on CR 7900 and go for 5 miles and then turn west (right) on to CR 7950 (again, brown sign for Chaco Canyon). The pavement goes away after 3 miles and it's a long 13 miles further to the park entrance - the road is paved in the park. It is a good dirt road, but a very long, slow-going distance from Rt 550 to the park. Drive into the park and stop at the visitor center (with the neat view of Fajada Butte) and pick up a park map and then drive the one-way loop road to the ruins of some of the many great houses in the canyon. Facilities at the visitor center. $8 per car for a week pass or National Parks Pass Trails: I had always wanted to visit Chaco, but it is so out of the way that I had never visited. I was determined to visit on my trip in 2011 and that meant a sidetrip from my long day drive from Dallas to Silverton, Colorado (which also severely limited the amount of time I could spend in Chaco - the ruins are closed from sunset to sunrise (and I arrived in late afternoon - I thought about staying in the campground, but it was simply too hot and I knew I wouldn't get much sleep with the heat)). There are a number of good information signs about the house near some of the Great Houses. The shorter trails from the road are wide loose dirt. You'll likely start with a short visit to Hungo Pavi (first house along the loop road). [Una Vida is reached via a short trail behind the visitor center and Wijiji is reached via a 1.5 mile trail before the campground turn, the other trails/Great Houses are off the loop road.] That may seem like a neat place, but it is one of the smaller Great Houses. Next up is the stop for Pueblo Bonito (to the left) and Chetro Keti (to the right). I started with Pueblo Bonito and enjoyed walking through those structures and then quick-walked to Chetro Ketl and was really impressed with that very large Great House (a great house is not a simple structure, but many, many rooms and seperate buildings and a number of circular kivas). One of the pictures I took was of the long wall near the canyon wall side of Chetro Keti that gives people looking at my pictures a sense of how long the structure really is. One thing to notice amongst the different structures is the different forms of masonry used - it is described in the park brochure, but you do notice it when looking at the structures. After those two houses is a short drive further for the stop for Pueblo del Arroyo and the start of the longer trail into the canyon. Still interesting, but not as neat as Chetro Ketl. I took the trail .3 miles in to Kin Klesto (another neat Great House - after seeing it in the distance from Pueblo Bonito, I had to visit that one) and then did a little bit of the trail up the canyon wall before turning around and having to head out (out of time) - the trail to the right/behind Kin Kletso is more of a true trail (everything else was fairly level) and does involve a bit of scrambling to get to the top of the mesa, where there is a longer loop trail and another Great House (and probably good views down on the canyon and the ruins in the canyon. Keep in mind that it is desert country and can be very warm in the summer. Trail Length: short to several miles - see the park map Note that you need a free permit to hike some of the trails that are further from the road (there is a permit station near Kin Klesto for the trails past that area - I don't know if there are stations for the Tsin Kletisn loop or Wijiji trail or if you have to get the permit at the visitor center). Area: desert country Pictures When I did the hike: Monday, June 27, 2011 Recommendation: It is so far away from anything, but it is such a neat place. Due to time reasons, I only was allowing myself an hour for Chaco, but it was so neat that I stayed another hour (when I really, really had to leave) and would love to go back and spend more time. Ranks right up there with Mesa Verda as the best ancient pueblo ruins places (and better than Mesa Verda as there is no chains or tours limiting where you can go and what you can see, plus it is not as touristy).
Sugarite Canyon State Park Directions: From Raton, take I25 to Rt 72 (next exit north of Hwy 87). Head east on 72 about 5 miles to Rt 526. Go north on Rt 526 about 5 miles to Sugarite Canyon State Park. Park at the visitor center. $3. Trails: A short paved trail loops behind the visitor center with some info signs and an old mine car. Halfway through the loop, a trail branches off and crossed the small river. On the other side of the river is a longer loop (wide trail) through the old townsite. A number of foundations are visible and there are a few info signs describing what the buildings were. About halfway through that loop, a trail branches up and it's about 3/4 mile of uneventful hiking (and a bit of an up) to an old mine - the mine itself is very blah as it is sealed (and wasn't more than a large hole to begin with), but the dynamite storage building is along the trail and still standing. Trail Length: About a mile Area: Hills, woods, old coal mining town (foundations, only Post Office (now visitor center) still standing) When I did the hike: Monday, August 4, 2008 Recommendation: No.
El Malpais volcano area Directions: Free. Trails: Area: Picture When I did the hike: November 1995 Recommendation: short, but had fun [pulled from an old letter: Saturday, I decided to delay my trip to Albuquerque until later in the afternoon and take the scenic drive along rt 53. I drove past a small dirt road that had a sign for El Malpais stuff, so I made a u-turn and took the road to see what it was. I spent about and hour roaming around Junction Cave and the double sinks.] [from a different letter: There was a small section of a partially collapsed lava tube that I had fun climbing down into, again having lied to my feet. I hiked the mile long path and saw the double sink holes and the bat cave (no bats, though).]
Carlsbad Caverns National Park Directions: Hwy 180/62 to the Carlsbad Caverns turnoff (Whites City, about 20 miles southwest of Carlsbad). Take Route 7 to the large parking area at the end. Flush toilets at visitor center. Have to enter visitor center to get a ticket that includes a time for the start of your hike into the cave. $6 or National Parks Pass for self guided tour - includes Natural Entrance and Big Room. $8 Kings Palace tour (set times, ranger guided) [park pass does not cover this fee] Trails: After taking the short walk from the visitor center to the Bat Flight Amphitheater, the paved trail enters the cave and switchbacks down, down, down into the caverns. Note that the temperature in the cavern will be about 56 degrees, no matter what the temperature is outside. The lighted trail goes by the bat cave area (200 feet down). After a little bit, the trail switchbacks down again and you start encountering many of the neat stalactite, stalagmite, soda straws, columns, and other cave formations. Also look for unmarked bits of old trail (wooden rails and steps) for old routes of the cave. After a mile of walking and heading down, the trail intersects with the Big Room trail [note: you can only go down the Natural Entrance route]. Take a right and it is a vast loop through the massive chamber with many more neat cave formations. The Big Room is mostly level and a good chunk of it is wheelchair accessible. At the end of the loop, head right and a short ways ahead is the lunchroom, restrooms, and elevator back to the visitors center. If you don't have time to do both routes (which would be a crying shame), just do the Big Room (taking the elevator down). I was in the first group entering the cave for the day as was soon ahead of everyone and the extra quiet and peacefulness added to my enjoyment of the cavern. Trail Length: 1 mile, 750 feet down Natural entrance route 1 mile loop, mostly level Big room route 1 miles Kings Palace Tour (Ranger guided only) Area: Massive cavern with neat cave features. When I did the hike: Monday, October 29, 2007 Recommendation: Absolutely. Caves don't get much neater and easily accessible than this one.
White Sands National Monument Directions: Hwy 70/82 to White Sands National Monument - about 20 miles southwest of Alamogordo and 40 miles northeast of Las Cruces. $ or park pass. $3 per person for a 7 day pass or National Parks Pass Trails: There is actually a real trail in the park, but good luck finding it. The Dunes Drive heads for 8 miles into the dunes with various pulloff spots along the way and a large loop at the end. I kept looking for the trail start area and eventually gave up and just got out of my car and started walking amongst the sand dunes (which is what most people do). After wandering up and down the dunes for a bit (making a short loop and keeping in mind where exactly my car was), I did see markers for the trail (sticks in the sand), but didn't follow it (my tolerance for sand dunes, even neat ones, is pretty short). Back in the car, I did see the trail start, about 3 stops further from where I stopped - it was in the central-west portion of the loop instead of the northwest portion of the loop (like it looks like on the map) - the dunes do shift, so they could change the trail occassionally. I made a couple more stops for short dune hikes before heading out - I spent about 1 1/2 hours there. Keep in mind that it is desert country - you don't want to go in the summer. Trail Length: 4.6 mile loop Alkali Flat Trail Area: White sand dunes. Picture When I did the hike: Monday, October 29, 2007 Recommendation: Interesting and neat place to visit once. Sand dunes aren't really my thing (but I was glad I did visit once). And, yes, the sands really are a true white. The sand is smooth and the best way to hike/walk it is barefoot.

Patricia Bender Not affiliated with or representing anyone besides myself