With warmer temperatures and flowers in bloom, spring is one of the best times of the year to get active outdoors. And what better way to exercise while experiencing nature than hitting the trail? Southern New Mexico and West Texas offer a wide range of hiking trails from which to choose that feature varying terrain and diverse plant and animal life. From historical landmarks to sweeping scenic views, here are six popular regional trails you don’t want to miss.
Dragonfly Loop Trail | Gila National Forest
Fittingly named the Dragonfly Loop Trail, this destination offers the chance to discover Native American petroglyphs and, during the right months, enjoy the company of dragonflies. Located in the Gila National Forest, this trail is a 3.6-mile loop on the edge of the Fort Bayard Trail System. Along with breathtaking scenery, hikers will see rock carvings of humans, animals, and of course, a dragonfly. The petroglyphs can be found about two miles from the trailhead. The trail doesn’t include any challenging climbs or descents, making it perfect for beginners and families with young children.
The Dragonfly Loop Trail is located about three miles east of Silver City on the north side of U.S. Highway 180. When visiting the trail, be sure to respect the ancient cultural artifacts. Do not touch the petroglyphs, as this can damage the rock art, and never attempt to remove or deface the rock art.
Amenities: restrooms, parking, accessible
Info: 575-388-8201, website
El Paso Tin Mines Trail | Franklin Mountains State Park
For a unique historical experience, visit the El Paso Tin Mines Trail in Franklin Mountains State Park in El Paso, Texas. This is an easy hike, but it is 6.6 miles round trip. Be sure to bring plenty of water and wear a hat and sunscreen, as there isn’t any shade until you reach the mines. On the trail, you’ll enjoy wildflowers and stunning geological features. The abandoned mines are the remnants of a short-lived tin-mining operation founded in the early 1900s.
“It was the only tin-mining operation in the continental U.S.,” said Park Superintendent Cesar Mendez. “It turned out not to be very profitable.” As you approach the abandoned site, you’ll see large metal coverings of the mines to the right of Mundy’s Gap. A walkway with guard rails leads to the entrance. Bring a flashlight if you want to get a good look at the mines. Start the hike from Chuck Heinrich Memorial Park, located at 11055 Loma del Norte Dr. An archway at the park marks the trail.
Amenities: restrooms and parking at Chuck Heinrich Memorial Park
Info: 915-444-9100, website
Baylor Pass National Recreation Trail | Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument
Baylor Pass National Recreation Trail is a beautiful hike in the Organ Mountains–Desert Peaks National Monument in Las Cruces. The trail is six miles one way and has two access points. The east trailhead is located at the Aguirre Spring Recreation Area, and the west trailhead is located just off Baylor Canyon Road. Visitors can park their vehicle at one end and hike back at any point, or coordinate with others to have a vehicle at either end of the trail.
Baylor Pass is named after Confederate General John Baylor who traveled the pass in 1861 to capture Union troops at San Augustin Spring. The trail is a steady incline to the pass, with expansive views of Baylor Canyon and the Rio Grande Valley. Hikers can expect more desert vegetation on the west side of the mountains than the east.
“It is an awesome, challenging hike not far from town,” said Las Cruces resident David Baake. “When you reach the saddle, you have great views in both directions.”
Amenities: parking on east and west side; restrooms and campsites at Aguirre Spring Recreation Area
Info: 575-525-4300, website
Hydra Trail | City of Rocks State Park
The Hydra Trail is a 3.25-mile loop encircling City of Rocks State Park located between Silver City and Deming. The park is famous for its large, sculpted rock formations, some rising 40 feet high. The rocks were slowly formed over millions of years through erosion caused by an enormous volcanic eruption.
When hiking the Hydra Trail, visitors can get a good look at the rock formations and experience the park’s unique landscape. The trail is perfect for those who want to go on a leisurely hike. The path is flat, wide, and well maintained, and there are options to extend the hike and take in the views.
“It has about three different spurs off it,” said Jesse Mendoza, park technician specialist. “One spot has an observation point, which offers a good view of the surrounding area . . . It also spurs off at our desert botanical garden and to the Table Mountain Trail, which is about 500 feet higher in elevation, so you get some great views up there also.”
Along the way, hikers will encounter two restrooms, water stops, and three benches. The trail has no shade, so stay hydrated and wear appropriate sun protection.
Amenities: restrooms, showers, campsites, picnic areas, parking, accessible, visitor center, observatory
Info: 575-536-2800, website
Dune Life Nature Trail | White Sands National Park
You stroll through one of the world’s great natural wonders when you hike the Dune Life Nature Trail at White Sands National Park, 13 miles west of Alamogordo. This 1.6-mile trail is located just a couple miles from the visitor center and perfect for younger hikers.
Hikers will follow the blue trail markers with a club symbol to stay on the path, which includes 14 trailside signs that feature Katie the Kit Fox, the Dune Life Nature Trail mascot.
“It’s one of the easier hiking trails inside the dunes, so it’s good for the whole family,” said Chief of Interpretation Kelly Carroll. “Although it’s not accessible and does have a few challenging dunes you have to walk up, it’s definitely not a very strenuous trail.”
The Dune Life Nature Trail is an ecotone where “the desert scrub community and the gypsum sand dunes meet and form one of the most diverse ecosystems in the park,” according to the park website.
Visitors are urged to drink plenty of water and protect their skin from the sun, as there is no shade in the park. If you lose sight of the trail markers, turn around so you don’t end up losing your way.
Amenities: restrooms, primitive backcountry camping, picnic areas, parking, visitor center
Info: 575-479-6124, website
Cloud-climbing Trestle Trail | Lincoln National Forest
Located in Lincoln National Forest near Cloudcroft, the Cloud-climbing Trestle Trail allows hikers to experience a piece of railroad history while taking in scenic views. The trail (2.2 miles round trip) leads to two large historic wooden railroad trestles. These trestles are two of the most impressive bridges of the Alamogordo and Sacramento Mountain Railway, built in the early 20th century.
The railroad, comprising 58 wooden trestles, was used to transport lumber harvested in the Sacramento Mountains. People in nearby desert cities also used the railroad as a means of escaping the summer heat, turning the Village of Cloudcroft into the small resort community it is today. The trail begins just south of the Trestle Recreation Area in Cloudcroft and ends at the southern viewing area for the Mexican Canyon Trestle.
Amenities: water, restrooms, picnic sites at Trestle Recreation Area
Info: 575-682-2551, website
Written and photography by Alexia Severson
Additional photos courtesy.
Originally published Neighbors magazine.
Posted by LasCruces.com