Sunday, January 3, 2016

Around the Organ Mountains

A week of dayhiking in the Organ Mountains east of Las Cruces, New Mexico while visiting family. 

Snow blanketed Las Cruces the day after Christmas.  That didn't stop us from exploring a variety of trails.

Sierra Vista Trail
This 29 mile National Recreation Trail stays low along the foothills of the Organ Mountains.  Several hikes took us along the northernmost part of the trail, from the Vado trailhead north to the Sierra Norte trailhead (off Dripping Springs Road).  While mainly for mountain bikers and horses, this trail offered the most solitude and easy terrain.
Right after the snow, the Sierra Vista Trail was the first we could access.
Fun hiking with my uncle and cousin.
A few days later, Pena Blanca at the southern end of the Organ Mountains, viewed from the Sierra Vista Trail.
Pine Tree Trail
We drove out to the Pine Tree Trail at Aguirre Springs campground the day after the gate opened back up after the snow.  This loop hike climbed around a bowl formed by Anvil and Sotol Creeks.  It was my favorite because of the ponderosa pines.
Starting out on the 4 mile loop of the Pine Tree Trail.
Dad broke trail on the 1000 foot climb into deeper snow.
Only animal tracks up here.
Ponderosa pine trees only grow on the north facing slopes at high elevation.
I can't believe how fast Dad still scrambles up the rocks (he's in his 70's!).
Views across the Tularosa Basin

Baylor Pass Trail
This 6 mile trail is the only developed trail that crosses the crest of the Organ Mountains from east to west.  The views might have been better on a clear day.
Baylor Pass
Bar Canyon
This 3 mile loop in the Soledad Canyon Day Use Area was Mom's favorite-- it was not as steep and went to a waterfall.

Dad climbing up the waterfall.
Overall, the Organ Mountains provided days of interesting hiking.  Over a week and we didn't even get to all defined trails, and there was plenty of off-trail areas for exploring that beckoned.

More information:

Stop by the visitor center at Dripping Springs.

Read Day Hikes and Nature Walks in the Las Cruces - El Paso Area by Greg Magee -this book has directions to all the trailhead, good descriptions, geology and natural history highlights, and topomaps

After hiking near Aguirre Springs, eat at the Moongate Cafe on the drive back to Las Cruces (north side of Hwy 70 west of the Brahman Rd exit).  Don't be fooled by the ugly exterior and old sign.  This is a perfect hiker place - inexpensive, unpretentious, delicious Mexican food with breakfast served all day.  (But only open til 3 PM.)


  1. I've driven past the Organ Mtns a dozen times on my travels. Always intrigued, but never stopped. Will have to put it on the list next time I'm in the area.

    1. The Organ Mtns are so dramatic--worth a stop for sure.

  2. Wow, wish I'd been there for the snow! Ponderosa pines, wistful sigh.....

    1. It was pretty, but I did appreciate our warm nights. :)

  3. Replies
    1. It sure was beautiful! Especially for a place so close to a large city (Las Cruces). Very accessible.