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Howdy Reader,

And my apologies for the lack of updates. I’m on the Continental Divide Trail and through-hiking rather than day hiking. It will be some time before I get back. In the meantime I hope you all find plenty of time to enjoy the mountains of New Mexico!

Marty

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01 Burro Mts from Tyrone Road

Jack’s Peak, Burro Mountain and Feguson Mountain (obscured) in Big Burro Mountains

Overview:

This route follows a green canyon bottom up into the fold between Burro Peak and Ferguson Mountain where it strikes the Continental Divide Trail (CDT). It then takes the CDT south over Burro Peak to the antenna-whiskered heights of Jack’s Peak. The route is one of the suggested alternatives for CDT thru-hikers and is well maintained. It could be a “destination hike” for anyone living in southern New Mexico, particularly in the winter season. For folks living close-by it offers a first-class opportunity to get those hiking legs back in shape as the season nears.

Driving Directions:

If you are coming from the south then drive Interstate-10 to Lordsburg and take one of the exits for Old Route 10/US-70/Motel Drive. If you are coming from the east (Deming or Las Cruces) this is exit 24. If you are coming from the west (Tuscon) this is exit 20A. Turn onto Motel Drive and continue driving into Lordsburg.

  • In Lordsburg look for the “US-70/NM-90 to Silver City” junction. This junction is signed using large green highway signs. Enter onto US-70 west
  • After 2.2 miles turn right onto US-90, signed for Silver City.
  • After 30 miles, just past mile-marker 30, watch for a yellow junction sign labeled “TYRONE RD”.
  • Go left onto Tyrone Thompson Road (signed), which is gravel.
  • After 3.9 miles, where Tyrone Road crosses a sandy wash, turn left into the wash. The drop into the wash is a little rough but it is doable in a sedan if you go slow. As you enter the wash you will find a post signed “4249F”.  Park here.

If you are coming from the north then drive to the intersection of US-180 and NM-90 in Silver City. (Inside the city these roads are named Silver Heights Blvd and N. Hudson St, respectively).

  • Turn south on NM-90/N Hudson St
  • After 12.4 miles, past mile marker 31, turn right onto Tyrone Thompson Road (signed) and proceed as above.

Tyrone road crosses several low points. The correct wash is immediately past the intersection with Forest Road 827 (signed) coming in on your right. A roadside sign saying “Help Prevent Wildfires” is also immediately before the wash.

Trailhead:

02 Camry beside FR 4249F

The mighty Camry parked alongside FR 4249F (Tyrone Road is in background).

The trailhead is just a wide spot on FR 4249F. There are no toilets, trash receptacles or water. It is important to note that you will be parking in a canyon bottom. This may not be good practice in monsoon season. If you look back you will see that Tyrone Road is underpinned by about five large culverts. This tells you that large volumes of water comes down this canyon from time to time. If it is rainy then you will want to pick another destination.

There is a another road that departs from this wash that rises to the west out of the canyon bottom, roughly parallel to Tyrone Road. Don’t follow it, stay on 4249F in the canyon bottom!

Data:

Note: the map shows a short extension, north on the CDT, that takes you to Mud Spring

  • Starting Elevation: 6320 feet
  • Highest Elevation: 8020 feet
  • Net Elevation: 1700 feet
  • Distance:  4.3 miles (one way, without the Mud Spring extension)
  • Maps: Burro Peak, NM quadrangle

Hike Description:

04 Trail departs from 4249F

Point where the Deadman Canyon Trail departs from FR 4249F (left side of photo).

Follow FR 4249F for about 500 feet. The road will pull to the southwest side of the wash (left on ascent) and eventually turn back and cross the canyon bottom. Immediately before this crossing look for a prominent path that stays on the left side of the waterway. This is the main Deadman Canyon trail. The initial mile is a pleasant stroll along side the waterway, with canyon walls rising on either side dominated by ponderosa pines. The trail soon leaps through a semicircle carved into hard rock and begins a long but generally gentle ascent into the Burros.

05 grassy swale

Swale-like canyon bottom

At 1.4 miles from the trailhead the trail abruptly switchbacks onto the southwest wall (to your left, on ascent) and briskly climbs to the narrow-topped rib that also serves as the canyon rim. The trail follows the rib above the steepening and broken terrain of the canyon bottom then gradually contours below the ridge and back to the canyon bed.  The overall pitch of the terrain eases here. On this date the canyon bottom was covered with lush green grass – not your typical Chihuahuan scene. Indeed, in the middle of this pastoral setting was a tiny stream with several small pools. The quality of the water was poor. Dense algal blooms were found in each pool.

06 Unsigned trail junction, go rt on return

Unsigned trail junction – go right on return!

Above this watery wonderland you will encounter a ranch road that is still very much in use. Turn right and follow it for about 20 feet, watching for a path that departs to the left so as to stay near the canyon bottom. Wind your way through numerous Ponderosa and the occasional alligator juniper. Soon you will come to a trail junction. Study the junction carefully so you will recognize it on return, then turn to your left and head uphill.

20 Sign at Deadman Canyon junction

Sign at junction with CDT

In another 100 feet come to the signed junction with Continental Divide Trail. The sign is a few feet north of the junction proper and is aimed at CDT hikers (see photo). There is no mention of the Deadman Canyon junction that lies adjacent to this sign. At the junction turn south (to your left on ascent) and follow the tread as it traverses the lower flanks of Ferguson Mountain and then begins a steep, well-engineered assault on Burro Peak. The fold of land between Ferguson and Burro is the scene of considerable forest devastation. It may be that years of drought and bark beetle attack have caused this sad loss of old ponderosa pines. At first it may seem odd that this devastation should occur on the north-facing slopes of Burro Peak. Once you get to the south facing side, however, you’ll note that big firs can’t be wiped-out there for the simple reason that there aren’t any.

08 View South from Burro Peak

Jack’s Peak (antennae), Pyramid Peak (small, dark cone, mid picture), Big and Little Hatchet Mountains are on horizon above Pyramid Peak

The trail crosses just below the summit of Burro Peak. It is worth wandering a few feet off the trail to peer over the tops of mountain mahogany thickets and look into the adjacent terrain. The hill region north and west of the main Big Burro peaks look green by desert standards. In contrast, there is little vegetative coloring in the enormous basin comprised of the north end of Animas Valley (which runs between the Peloncillo Mountains on the Arizona border and the Animas Mountains in mid boot-heel) and the north end of the Playas Valley (which runs between the Animas Mountains and the Big Hatchet Mountains).

09 Cholla Cacti

Cholla on south side of Burro Peak

Are you up for a little more hiking? Then continue on the CDT south as it drops down through the cacti, banana yucca, mountain mahogany and scrub oak that occupies the south facing flank of Burro Mountain. No ponderosa here! It is a short descent to the forested saddle connecting to Jack’s Peak but the tread is very rocky and it requires attention. Look back once you get to the saddle because this is cattle country and some of the cattle trails leading off the saddle can be misleading.

10 Jack's Peak trough

Trough below Jack’s Peak Cistern

The tread then makes short work of the ascent to Jack’s peak. The trail switchbacks through ponderosa until you hit a well-maintained road near the summit. If you were to turn left onto the road then you would rise the remaining 100 feet to the the antenna array that has grown on the high point of Jack’s Peak. From the base of these antennae you get long views south to Pyramid Peak (near Lordsburg), the Florida Mountains to the southeast and the Little Hatchet and Big Hatchet ranges in the southern Bootheel. The many dishes up there are presumably sending off microwave communications. It isn’t clear how much of a health risk that may be.  If you scout the area to the right of the trail/road junction you will find a large flat area paved with concrete. A pipe collects the water pooling on the pavement and runs it to the Jack’s Peak Cistern (a corrugated-steel cylinder). Below the cistern there is a concrete trough. On this date there was only an inch or two of water in the trough. It was quite clear. Rest your feet, have a snack and enjoy the shade and cool breezes.  Return the way you came.

Recommendations:

11 Author and Mountain Mahogany on Burro Pk

Author on Burro Peak

I went through less than a liter on a very mild April Day. Bring along extra water because there are going to be periods in which water is hard to find in the Burros.

If you run short of water then you might want to hike the extra quarter mile from the signed junction with the CDT north to Mud Spring. The spring is currently full and it seems to have a reputation for being as reliable as any water source in the Burros.

If there is no water in Deadman’s Canyon, Mud Spring, or Jack’s Peak Cistern then there is one further possibility. If you follow the maintenance road from Jack’s Peak downhill for about a half mile you will come to a junction where the CDT leaves the road to your left (watch for a wall-like cairn). Follow the trail about 30 feet and you should come to an in-ground (dirt) tank. Every time I’ve seen it the water has looked foul – but if it is an emergency…

I wore “ballistic gaiters” against the threat of thorn bushes and cacti, thinking that this trail might be somewhat abandoned. Instead, the tread proved to be in excellent shape. The few thorny segments are very short and it was easy to deal with them.

Remember that your car is parked in a wash. If the weather turns wet then you should turn too.

There seems to be another Deadman’s Canyon in the Sacramento Mountains over by Alamogordo, NM. This other canyon gets a lot of attention at the HikeArizona site. Don’t confuse the two!

Links:

KateOnTheRoadLessTraveled has a post in which she describes a portion of the CDT hike down from Burro Peak through Deadman’s Canyon. (Scroll down to Day 15). Interestingly, on an early May day she found quite a bit of water in the canyon, more than I found. This was in 2015, which was still a pretty severe drought year for most of New Mexico.

SheRaHikes also makes mention of the water in Deadman’s Canyon. (Scroll down to “Day 8”). Evidently the water in April of 2015 was low and murky, so it looks like Kate may simply have been lucky with the rain patterns.

A large majority of the search results I got for looking for Deadman’s Canyon has to do with fluorite minerals. Evidently this is quite a hotspot for rock hounds.

 

Snow on the Big Burro Mountains

Overview:

This route is a pleasant morning’s stroll into the Big Burro Mountains. The trail takes you from an easily accessed trailhead across ponderosa strewn slopes and across sunny meadows. There are views from the Big Burro Mountains across the northern end of the Mimbres Basin to the Cobre Mountains. This would be a great place for introducing newcomers to the backcountry.

Note that the CDT braids out in the Big Burro Mountains. This particular “strand” lies on the CDT route that takes you from the Big Burro Mountains all the way up to US-180, about 12 miles west of Silver City.

Driving Directions:

03 Note the Q!

Note the “Q”

If you are coming from the south then drive Interstate Highway 10 to Lordsburg and take the exit for NM-90 north towards Silver City.

  • After mile-marker 30 on NM-90 watch for a yellow junction sign labeled “TYRONE RD”.
  • Go left onto Tyrone Thompson Road (signed), which is gravel.
  • After 7.4 miles, where the road briefly levels, look for Forest Road 4248Q on your right and park in the tiny turnout there. The “Q” is important! There are quite a few alphabetic variations of FR-4248 departing from the Tyrone Road.

If you are coming from the north then drive to the intersection of US-180 and NM-90 in Silver City. (Inside the city these roads are named Silver Heights Blvd and N. Hudson St, respectively).

  • Turn south on NM-90/N Hudson St
  • After 12.4 miles, past mile marker 31, turn right onto Tyrone Thompson Road and proceed as above.

Tyrone Road has two slightly ambiguous forks. The first is at 5.8 miles and has a brown forest service sign pointing left for “Burro Mountain Homestead “. Go left. The second fork is at 6.5 miles and has a commercial sign saying “Burro Mountain Homestead” (no arrow). Go right.

Trailhead:

Burro Pk trailhead

The Mighty Camry, at intersection of Tyrone and4248Q

There is parking for just one car at junction with FR 4248Q. There is a marginal widening of the roadway about 50 feet further and a second forest road entrance about 250 feet beyond that (on the left of Tyrone Road). The problem is that the road grader has left tall banks of gravel at the road edges, so you will need either a high clearance vehicle or a good shovel to park safely in those two alternative spots.

Data:

  • start elevation: 6740
  • end elevation: 7560
  • net elevation: 850 feet
  • maps: Burro Peak, NM quadrangle

Hike Description:

04 Meadows and mountains

Meadows below Ferguson Peak

From FR 4248Q continue up Tyrone Road to where the CDT crosses the road. Turn south (to your left) to enter onto the trail. The initial two miles is an easy ramble on a generally obvious tread. The trail winds through stands of ponderosa, crosses the occasional grassy meadow and concerns itself chiefly with dropping into and rising out of the numerous small waterways that furrow the flanks of the Big Burro Mountains. This terrain is still under the influence of the Chihuahuan desert, with much prickly pear, cholla and even a few small columnar cacti poking out along the flanks of the tread, while alligator juniper and pinyon pine compete for the skyward reaches.

05A Mud Spring

Mud Spring (there is a trough below the spring)

The trail goes almost due south towards Burro Peak, crossing a woods road at mile 1.1. Generally the tread is very clear, and where ambiguities arise there are cairns and (occasionally) the rounded triangle emblem used to signify the CDT. Watch these, as the trail builders have often placed these at the end of switchbacks, particularly where you might wander off the trail onto watercourses that have strikingly trail-like features. At 1.6 miles the trail reaches the base of the northern most peak, Ferguson Mountain. The tread swings to the east and begins a gradual rising ascent along the northeastern flank of the mountain. At 2.1 miles you will note a profusion of tracks leading downhill. There, just 30 feet below the trail, is Mud Spring. On this date Mud Spring was full and the trough below the spring had a thickening skein of ice.

07 Trail junction (looking back)

Signed junction (click to enlarge)

Ponderosa begins to dominate the terrain. On this date snow dusted the forest floor. A chilly February wind can make you very glad to have a jacket with you. At 2.7 miles from the trailhead come to a junction (signed) with another “braid” in the network of trails that is the CDT. It may be that the departing trail heads down Deadman Canyon to an intersection with Tyrone Thompson Road, offering another approach to the Big Burro Mountains. (This seems very likely from the maps, but I have not as yet checked it out).

08 Burro Peaks & distant mts in Gila NF

View from turnaround point back to Ferguson Peak.

Continue on the main CDT trail as it turns south and enters the dale separating Mt Ferguson from Burro Peak. Here some sort of localized disaster has struck the ponderosa population – there are a few acres of logs flattened higgelty-piggelty. It may be some combination of drought and beetle stress plus a strong microburst laid these trees low. Fortunately the trail builders have been out in force, and the tread threads the maze without the need for high stepping. On this date I managed a few of the switchbacks above the dale, trying to get to Burro Peak. At 2.8 miles from the car I hit my turnaround time – just as views were opening up to Mt Ferguson and out across the sere Mimbres Valley. Was that snow up on the distant Black Mountains? I couldn’t be sure, but it seems likely given the local dusting. I turned back but you may be more fortunate. Burro Peak lies just above! Beyond that lies the siren call of Jack’s Peak with its stunning (if antennae-laced) views of the basin and range domains to the south. Happy hiking!

Recommendations:

Get all your non-hiking friends together and go! They may complain about blisters, fatigue or appointments but this is a sure cure for the mid winter blues.

These peaks are pretty far south and they are not very high. Still, bring warm clothing. The winds can be cutting.

Mud Spring looked clean but it is clearly visited by all sorts of creatures and a filtering system is going to be useful. I’m not certain how reliable this water will be later in the season, so even though one liter should be enough for one person, you might want to bring two.

Links:

The Continental Divide Trail Coalition recommends an 8-mile traverse of the range with a shuttle setup.

As mentioned above, there is a second trail leading from Tyrone Road to Burro Peak that joins the trail described here. There is an entry at SummitPost that I believe describes this alternative route.

The post at Southern New Mexico Explorer also indicates that the side road off of Tyrone Road, “shortly after the Gila National Forest sign” is the Deadman Canyon approach into the Burro Mountains. Take note – he describes the summit of Burro Peak as forested and with limited views. Also, he describes a nearly-70 degree day for which short sleeve shirts were perfectly adapted.

 

This site includes GIS data that describe the hiking routes. There have been a couple recent requests for instructions on how to download this data and now there is a semi-reasonable (that is, not simple) response. Instructions for downloading the data can be found here.

The data is not professionally vetted nor is it even double-checked. Use it at your own risk. Comments describing problems with the data are gratefully accepted. Please be careful up there!