From desert to sky, see it all in New Mexico mountains
Visitors to the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument near Las Cruces, New Mexico, will get the feel of being on top of the world hiking up trails offering beautiful views.
This angular granite mountain range’s rocky spires stand almost 9,000 feet tall against the Chihuahuan Desert floor. The peaks include the Robledo Mountains, Sierra de las Uvas, Portrillo Mountains and Doña Ana Mountains. Hikers will find narrow canyons mixed with open woodlands. From the desert to the ponderosa pines in the highest elevations, the land offers many opportunities for visitors from photography to horseback riding and mountain biking, camping, hiking and wildlife viewing.
The Portrillo Mountains stand as the most remote section of the Monument. The area is southwest of Las Cruces and known for its volcanic landscape including cinder cones, lava flows and craters. The Doña Ana Mountains is a pedestrian, equestrian and biker’s paradise. Rock climbing routes and even some motorized use areas can take visitors to some of the higher elevations. Bird watching, backpacking, camping, hunting and fishing opportunities are plentiful.
The park was established May 21, 2014, and consists of 496,330 acres. The Dripping Springs Visitors Center on the western edge of the Organ Mountains is open all year, except winter holidays, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Dripping Springs Natural Area is an opportunity for visitors to take a great hike with beautiful views of the Rio Grande River and Mesilla Valley. Trails offer easy to moderate hikes and are scenic with wildlife. The path is gravel, so good closed toes shoes are best. If you can walk two miles at 5,000 feet, you can do this hike. There are shaded benches along the way.
This national monument not only provides a variety of things to do for travelers but also protects prehistoric, historic, geologic and biologic resources. These scientific resources are divided onto the four mountain areas.
Just northwest of Las Cruces, the canyons and Chihuahuan Desert grasslands offer beautiful views. Hikers can find petroglyphs from three Native American cultures and stagecoach and wagon tracks in the grasslands from the Butterfield Stage Station.
The park has 10 wilderness areas including the Prehistoric Trackways National Monument, established in 2009. The idea was to protect and conserve the area, which hosts a deposit of Paleozoic Era fossilized footprint megatrackways within about 5,280 acres. The area has footprints of amphibians, reptiles and insects, as well as plants and petrified wood that date back 280 million years. It is home to one of the most scientifically significant early Permian track sites in the world.
Although there are plenty of hiking, horseback riding and off-roading opportunities on these areas there are no areas, yet, that are developed to see the fossils. They are being preserved for study. Some fossils have been removed and are shown in the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science in Albuquerque. For those interested in viewing the tracks, the Las Cruces Museum of Nature and Science has a 30 foot and a 15 foot trackway on display.
Two other popular trails for a walk or hike are the La Cueva trail, offering a cave to explore, and the Fillmore trail, which has a mine and waterfall.
Make sure to have water, good hiking boots or shoes, binoculars, snacks or a picnic. For information on the monument areas call the Bureau of Land Management at 575-522-1219 or visit blm.gov.
Visit lascrucescvb.org for places to stay, eat and things to do. At this time check before you go to make sure that places are operating and the hours and restrictions that may be in place due to the coronavirus.
Contact CR at CRRaetravel@gmail.com