Moving On: Return to Las Cruces and a Few Days of Hiking
We left Santa Fe just after New Years Day, arriving the same afternoon in Las Cruces where we set up for a 3+ month stay with Mesilla Valley Habitat. Our appearance was a few days before the affiliate would be resuming building however so after some time spent catching up with friends we set out to do some hikes.
The first trail we tackled was the Pine Tree Loop, an easy and beautiful hike that is one of our favorites. The <5 mile route ascends from the grassy plains up the eastern face of the Organ Mountains into a stand of Ponderosas and offers some pretty incredible views of both the mountains and the White Sands Basin for most of the hike. True to form we decided to venture off-trail and ended up ascending a granite canyon located near the apex of the loop; from here we found new vistas and a possible promising route to the base of the Rabbit Ears.
Our next venture brought us to Picacho Peak,a previously-unexplored trail that ascends a lone prominence that overlooks the city from the west. We had toyed with the ideas of doing one of the longer loop trails in the recreation area but as we set out we decided we’d rather not – so we just did the hike to the peak. The 1.5 mile trail ascends steeply feet up the stark, rocky south face of the mountain to a saddle whereupon views of the ranges north of the city are revealed. From here a short climb leads to the peak and 360 degree views.
The final excursion before we started building again was an out and back on a short section of the Sierra Vista Trail, a 29-mile route that follows the base of the Organ Mountains south towards the Franklin Mountain Range located just over the border in Texas. Our walk took us from the trailhead on Soldedad Canyon Road north towards Dripping Springs – albeit with a slight detour to scramble up a protruberance of granite rising from the foothills. After the descent from said protuberance we followed the trail a few miles north, cutting across the grasslands and arroyos of the foothills before turning around and returning the way we came. It was a nice walk, especially on a winter day, but we agreed that we should try one of the more southern segments for some variety next time.
Sounds like you got in some good hiking. The topography looks interesting, but then again, New Mexico always surprises me.
Agreed- New Mexico always surprises! Even at lower elevations in south-central NM there is a lot of grass and pretty vegetation. The granite spires of the Organ Mountains are unique too.
Thank you, Phyllis!