East Fork Trail and Santa Fe National Forest
I was very excited to spend a couple days hiking in the Santa Fe National Forest though we didn’t have any specific hiking agendas. I had been craving mountain hiking but when we left Utah in mid-May there had still been snow in our mountains above 8,000 feet and a whole lot of mud in the elevations just below making for some not-as-enjoyable hikes. Santa Fe National Forests arid mountains, located at a lower latitutde, were already snow-free, dry, and begging for exploration. The arid, open ponderosa forest turned out to be a delight to walk in, and was punctuated by some unique rock formations and stunning overlooks as well as some other gems, detailed below.
We decided to hike the 20+ mile East Fork Trail – though we broke it up – which begins in lower scrub oak forest at Battleship Rock following the East Fork of the Jemez River before ascending a thousand feet or so into the ponderosas. On the way to the stunning 70 foot Jemez Falls it even passes a warm spring, which we noticed a few groups of people availed themselves of. After the falls the trail climbs a bit more but mostly levels out on the ridge above the river canyon for 4 or 5 miles; this section includes a spur trail down to “The Box,” a narrows that we waded through in order to view the series of 3 waterfalls. Photos don’t do this section justice. We climbed above the falls and along the canyon rim for awhile before turning back and rejoining the trail. The ascent then gradually continues into aspen forest – just budding at the time of our hike – and small meadows dotted with dandelions before dropping back down to the last section of the trail.
Perhaps about 2 miles, this eastern segment is the most popular as many people do a day hike from the Las Conchas Trailhead. Here the path rejoins the river as it meanders through a lush green meadow sandwiched between basalt canyon walls and fir trees. It’s absolutely gorgeous and no part of you will be able to reconcile the reality of this section with the fact that you are in New Mexico.
Finally, we made a few other stops driving through the national forest, the most interesting of which was the Soda Dam, a dam created by the outflow of calcium carbonate from the hot springs upstream. I couldn’t get good shot of it since the sun was directly behind it, but hopefully the detail shots illustrate some of the interesting forms. We also stopped to explore some meadows full of dandelions.