This is a short hike down a memorable canyon. It is a great way for someone who is new to canyoneering to get familiar with (easy) terrain. The trail is reported to be rarely visited. It is just a part of a height of land that lies immediate to the west of the Robledo Mountains, north of Las Cruces.
- From Las Cruces, head west on I-10 to exit 132.
- At end of ramp turn right on Crawford Road.
- Almost immediately (100 yards/90 m) turn left on Frontage Road, going west.
- After 3.4 miles (5.5 km) turn right onto CR C009 (there is big sign overhanging the road saying Corralitos Ranch). Generally CR C009 goes north but just before the next turn it bends towards the west.
- After 3.1 miles (5.0 km) turn right onto CR C007, going north. This turn is adjacent to the ranch.
- After 3.6 miles (5.8 km), stay on the paved road as it goes through a sharp turn to left. (There is a dirt road that jogs slightly to the right before continuing straight ahead). At this turn the paved road becomes CR-D012. On this date, there were no signs about the change in road number, just two black and yellow striped caution signs. D012 goes north-westerly at first, but then bends back to the north.
- After 3.8 miles (6.1 km) the road goes over a small ridge and there is a fork where both roads are paved – stay to right to stay on CR-D012. (The fork is the closest point that D012 comes to a clearly visible microwave tower, which was well lighted in the early morning darkness).
- After 10.9 miles (17.5 km) past the fork, turn off paved CR-D012 onto a jeep track and park. Check your tires. My driver side wheel was going flat.
A few things should be said about the drive. First, until the trailhead it is all on paved roads. Second, in many places the road is signed “Dip”. At each of these points the roadbed drops sharply into washes on a concrete pad meant to discourage water damage to the road. After the recent rains, the water was fairly deep in some of these dips and my wheels “churned” in the mud that had accumulated. So you may have a judgement call to make. Don’t come to a complete stop because you don’t want to stall in the mud, but blasting through could be a mistake as well. About a half mile before the trailhead the water had run onto the surface of the road and carried a large number of stones, some of them pretty large, onto the road. It was necessary to pull the car over and kick the rocks aside.
If you go past the trailhead you will come to a cattle guard in about 100 feet (30 m), after which the road makes a fairly wide swing to the left and begins climbing steeply, with several switchbacks, towards the ridge above. About 0.8 miles (1.3 km) past the cattle guard, the road is fenced closed with a sign saying “private property”. Google shows that the road continues up to the ridge, where it terminates in a property containing a 50-foot (17 m) diameter white sphere, twin communication towers, and several buildings that are all well-fenced.
On the map, below, the trailhead is at the southern end of the marked trail. The confluence of Valles Canyon and Broad Canyon is at the north end. This is NOT a GPS based outline, but just a trace of the jeep road and the canyon bottom done on the basis of Google satellite imagery.
County Road D012 goes nearly straight north until you get within a few miles of the trailhead, when it enters a wash and begins to gain some elevation. After gaining about 500 feet it reaches a high point and drops down into a small hanging valley. The trailhead is at the far end of the valley. On the left the most noticeable feature is a hill in the shape of a truncated cone, with the road traversing the foot of the hill. On the right (a short distance away) is a long, low ridge. That ridge leads to Valles Canyon. On the road you will find two concrete “Dip” constructions that are only about 50 feet apart (15 meters), the trailhead is a jeep road on the right, just past the second “Dip”.
From the trail head to the junction of Valles Canyon and Broad Canyon is about 2.8 miles (4.5 km). The net change in altitude is only 400 feet (120 m).
The trail follows the jeep road as it follows the waterway. You go through an opening in the fences and follow the road as it crosses several small stream beds and meets up with the low ridge that is on your right hand. Initially a set of hills starts to close up on the left, but within a mile (1.6 km) the terrain opens up into a wider bowl. At the far end of the bowl a significant wash comes in from the right and you encounter first a stock pond and then the ruins of an old windmill and water tank. Shortly after the ruins the road turns left and heads up and out of the canyon. Stay low and follow the canyon as it gets a bit deeper and darker. There is one point where a waterfall creates a slight problem (the falls themselves were dry today, but there was a substantial pool across the canyon floor at its base). It could be treated as a small rock climbing problem, or you can find a clear footpath that rises up and contours around the falls on the left-hand slope of the canyon. Otherwise it is a very mellow hike.
Wildlife included a few lizards, a garter snake, what may have been a buzzard cruising the thermals above the canyon, and several cattle grazing in the open part of the canyon.
It rained considerably in the 36 hours prior to the time I started this hike, so it is likely that most days will be much dryer than described here. It was extremely pretty with the water, however, and would be worth keeping for a post-rainstorm day.