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01 Jack's Peak

View past pines to summit of Jack’s Peak

Overview:

The Jack’s Peak Trail is an out-and-back expedition into the Burro Mountains of southern New Mexico that has much to offer. It is easy to access, it is fun to hike, it crosses two significant life zones, it offers a great morning’s exercise (well within the ability of most hikers), and provides views all the way to the the distant mountains of northern Mexico. Jack’s crown of antennae diminishes the Peak’s claim to wilderness, but those of us who carry cell phones into these mountains cannot complain too much about that. Frankly, it seems unlikely that people will travel from Albuquerque or Tuscon just just to hike this particular trail. For folks who live in the Silver City – Las Cruces – Lordsburg area, however, this destination offers a sovereign cure for the perils of cabin fever. 

Driving Directions:

03 kiosk at start of trail

Trailhead kiosk

  • From Silver City, at the junction of US-180 and NM-90 (signed as Silver Heights Blvd and N. Hudson Road within the City), go south on NM-90.
  • After 21.4 miles on NM-90, past a sign saying “Continental Divide Trail”, turn right onto Forest Road 4090-O (turns to gravel).  You’ll find the sign and the turn just past mile marker 22. 
  • After 0.3 miles on FR 4090-O, at the far end of a closed loop in the road, park at the trailhead. The trailhead is marked by a kiosk saying “Jack’s Peak – CDNST Trailhead”

FR 4090-O is rutted. It is perfectly passible in a sedan but a little caution is advised.

If you are driving north on NM-90 out of Lordsburg you will go past mile marker 21 (it’s there, I checked). Then you will drive over a small hill with a sign saying “Continental Divide 6355 feet”. Near the bottom of the hill there is another sign saying “Continental Divide Trail” after which you’ll find the left turn onto 4090-O.

Trailhead:

02 The Mighty Camry at Jack's Pk trailhead

The trailhead is simply a wide spot along FR 4090-O. There are no toilets, water or trash recepticals. Indeed, a sign on the kiosk marking the trailhead pleads with visitors to pack out any garbage they bring in with them. It seems that visitors do pay attention. There was little litter along the trail. The loop at the end of FR 4090-O brings you through a large and very attractive meadow. Even in the chilly month of October it was home to several RVs and campers.

Data:

  • starting elevation: 6380 feet
  • ending elevation: 7960 feet
  • net elevation: 1580 feet
  • distance: 4.2 miles (one way)
  • maps: USGS Burro Peak quadrangle

The CDT no longer runs exactly as shown on the 1999 version of the USGS map. See the GPS route in the map above for more current guidance.

Hike Description:

04 Broad height of land above trailhead

This height of land obscures the view to Jack’s Peak

From the kiosk head north in sandy, juniper-shaded terrain.  Ahead of you is a broad and steep height-of-land that prevents you from seeing the summit of Jack’s Peak. In about a quarter mile the trail comes to the foot of this steep landscape and swings to the west, preferring a long ascending contour rather than a direct assault. Soon, however the land is slashed north-to-south by Whitetail Canyon. Here the trail turns up-canyon, clinging to the upper reaches of the canyon walls. This is Upper Sonoran terrain. The cholla and prickly pear cacti compete with with banana yucca and mountain mahogany. It is surprising to learn, from Julyan’s valuable The Mountains Of New Mexico, that the core of the Burro Mountains is igneous. The fist-sized talus under your feet has the pale coloration and granularity of sandstone. Perhaps these are the remains from the sedimentary layer that suffered the igneous intrusion. 

06 Yellow Cliff

Yellow cliff below the high ridge

Eventually the trail clambers up onto the canyon rim just above a knoll, which makes a good landmark for your return trip. Whitetail Canyon remains on your left while an unnamed drainage falls sharply off on your right,  leaving you atop a rib. Follow this rib as it ascends, “staircase style”, with steep passages over softer rock alternating with relatively level passages on the hard stuff. After four or five of these steps you will note that the trail is heading directly toward a high ridge fronted by yellowish cliff. Pinyon pine becomes more dominant. Suddenly the trail comes to an unexpected gap where the terrain drops steeply into a canyon draining to the east. 

05a (maybe) layer cake

A level stretch before the next riser

Here the trail loses it’s northerly fixation and swings to the northwest. It becomes  a mild up-and-down ramble as the trail skirts around the headwaters of the intervening canyon and eventually swings back north. There is another short pattern of slogging up steep risers and crossing brief shelves. Eventually, at about 2.6 miles from the trailhead, come to the top of the ridge that is fronted by that yellow cliff band. As you arrive you will leave the Upper Sonoran behind and enter the Transition life zone. Juniper and pinyon  give way to Ponderosa Pine. 

07 Florida Mts from top of yellow ledge

view to the Florida Mountains

At the ridge the trail turns sharply east. Glimpses north thru the pines reveal the antenna-strewn summit that is your destination. Views open up to the southeast, where the Florida Range dominates the horizon. The large bowl to the northwest contains the headwaters for Sawmill Canyon. Reaching point 7651 (shown on the USGS map) the trail finds a narrow ridge that will again allow it to resume its northerly course. This is very pleasant, Ponderosa-shaded terrain. There were deer, cow and horse tracks on the trail, but surprisingly little evidence of bootprints. Scattered along this section of trail is snowy white quartzite – sandstone that has seen some high temperature and pressure.

08 earthern cattle tank

Earthen water tank along the trial

At 3.6 miles from the trailhead come to an earthen water tank. It seemed nearly full on this date, but this is the end of monsoon season and in other times of year the water levels will vary. It is very muddy. You would want a serious pre-filter and filter system before using this water. (In fact, there is a water source just minutes away that often has clear water so you may want to hold off).  Past the tank come to the Jack’s Peak Road, a well maintained gravel road used to service all those antennae. Study this intersection carefully as you’ll want to recognize it on return. Then follow the road uphill. 

10 Mimbres basin and Cookes Peak

View across the Mimbres Basin, east to Cooks Peak

As you near the summit you will find a level stretch where a cabin once stood. All that is left is a foundation and a freestanding chimney. Are you looking for water? Go straight north, past the right-hand side of the chimney, and ascend a small rise. At the top you will find a large rectangular concrete catchment. From the north edge of catchment a pipe runs to a corrugated steel water tank and (below the tank) there is an open concrete trough. The trough currently holds about 6 inches of clear water.  To the north lies the highpoint of the range, Burro PeakFrom the trough return to the road and follow it to the summit. There is some serious looking communications gear here. Take a few fast snaps of the incredible terrain, including the eye-catching Cookes Peak, then get away from all that microwave activity.  Have lunch amidst the pines and return the way you came.

Recommendations:

11 author at chimney

The author, dressed for hunting season

This is a wonderful hike on an autumn day. It might be chilly but it should be doable on most midwinter days. The lower slopes are poorly protected from the sun. It would be best to find another hike on scorching, midsummer days.

Most people will want to carry their own water for this hike. On this date a 700 ml bottle was plenty. On warmer days, of course, you would want much more. Comments on the Guthook app (a phone-based navigation app) report that the concrete trough near the summit was dry at earlier times this year. Try to keep your stays short when stopping near the earthen water tank and the summit trough. Those are both likely to be critical resources for wildlife in the Burros.

I saw a surprising number of cattle along the trail. Give the lack of grass on this hike these cattle may be pretty stressed. Go gently and give them as wide a berth as you can.

I saw a grand total of one lizard on this date. I suspect that the chilly nights of late have encouraged the others to den up.  The challenge poised by our venomous neighbors on the trail may be close to a minimum.

Links:

The 100 Hikes In Silver City site has a brief report on the trail (although not all the way to the summit).

CDT hikers give mention to this part of the CDT: Peter Shaw in 2011 here, Mudbug in 2016 here, and Kate On The Road Less Traveled in 2015 here (scroll down to Day 15). It is hard to do much more than hike, eat and sleep on the trail so these mentions are understandably brief.

 

 

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01 Slot Canyon Skyward.jpg

Skylight in Slot Canyon

Overview:

This short hike takes you south along a wide canyon bottom, diverts unexpectedly into a vegetative veil and enters a magic little excursion west into a slot canyon. Like most slot canyons it makes up for its short length with a twisting path, cool air, mellow tread and dramatic sense of place. If you are near Silver City (in southwest New Mexico) and have a few hours for a stroll on hot day, then this could be the ticket. On rainy days, however, give this hike a pass.

Driving Directions:

FR 88

The turnoff to Forest Road 88 from NM-35. Going north it will be on your left

Warning! I misplaced my notes on the ride and am mostly just quoting Google. The description of Forest Rd 88, however, is accurate.

  • In Silver City, starting at the intersection of NM-90 and US-180 head south on US-180. (At first your actual direction will be due east). In the City NM-90 is signed “N. Hudson St” while US-180 is signed “Silver Heights Blvd”.
  • After 7.5 on US-180 miles turn left onto NM-152
  • After 14.3 miles on NM-152 turn left onto NM-35
  • After 19.5 miles on NM-35, turn left onto Forest Road 88. This intersection is not signed so watch your odometer and look for a gate made up of pipes and chainlink fencing on your left. Beside the gate there is a brown “vertical route marker” indicating that this is  Forest Road 88 (FR-88).
  • After 1.3 miles on FR-88 come to the trailhead next to a decaying corral.

At the start of FR-88 you will have to get out of your car, open the gate, drive through the date, stop and close the gate.

FR-88 is in somewhat rough shape. Drivers with high suspension vehicles will have no problem. The mighty Camry, however, had to go very slowly . Even then it was often necessary to stop and kick the larger rocks off the road’s prominent crown. At approximately 0.3 miles the road crosses over an 20-foot (7 meters) embankment that extends across the canyon. The embankment is steep on both sides. The ascent to the top of the embankment is not a problem. On descent, however, you’ll be flying blind (unless you are on a motor cycle) since your hood will block all sight lines to the road. You will probably want to stop at the top and check that the road is still there!

Trailhead:

03 Water hazards on road past trailhead

Water hazard on road just past the trailhead.

The trailhead is just a wide spot where FR-88 intersects with FR-4078T (on older maps this is identified as FR-4202S) and FR-4078R. An aged corral marks this intersection. In another 100 feet the road drops into the river bed and generally stays there. High clearance vehicles should not have a problem with the river bed but sedans should be parked at the intersection.  There are no services at this trailhead.

Data:

  • starting elevation: 6240 feet
  • ending elevation: 6480 feet
  • net elevation: 240 feet
  • distance: 1 mile (one way, without continuing up Skates)
  • maps: North Star Mesa, Allie Canyon and Twin Sisters USGS quadrangles

The departure from NM-35 onto FR-88 is shown on North Star Mesa quadrangle, the departure from the bottom of Skates Canyon into the slot is shown on Allie Canyon quadrangle, and the upper reaches of the hike into the slot canyon is on Twin Sisters quadrangle.

Description:

 

04 Tent Rock in Skates Canyon

The tent rock is on the left while the departure point is via the stream bed coming out of the trees on the right.

From the trailhead continue along the road as it heads south on the canyon floor. In about 100 yards the roadbed enters the streambed, which contains some pretty large rocks. It is something to watch for if you’re driving rather than hiking. On this date, just past the end of a monsoon, there was water in the canyon bottom. It is a pleasure to see, given that about a third of the state is experiencing extreme drought or worse.

 

05 wind and water sculpture

Water sculpture

Skates Canyon has relatively low and vegetated walls while the bottom is broad and sandy. As you near the half-mile point keep your eyes open for a “tent rock” that adorns the west canyon wall. The main canyon swings sharply to the left (to the east) at the foot of this structure but you want to study the vegetation just to the right of this rock. Find a way past the greenery and enter a much narrower canyon with water sculpted rock walls. The bed of the canyon narrows quickly and as the canyon narrows the walls steepen.

 

07 View up slot canyon

Steep walls

True vertical walls arrive in less than 200 feet. At first the walls are still low enough to admit considerable light, so you may find yourself pushing through vegetation for another 100 feet or so. The walls are conglomerate, with reassuringly hard cement holding the entire mass together. (This is in marked contrast to the loose rubble that characterizes the walls in the Robledo slot canyon).  At this time of year short stretches of running water arose from and disappeared into the sandy stream bed.

 

07 views vertical

The view vertical

As the walls rise higher the canyon floor darkens and cools; vegetation disappears. The walking is generally pretty easy, save where water occupies the the breadth of the floor. The slot meanders continuously, making it hard to track your exact position. Navigation is not a problem, however, since your only real options are (1) forward or (2) backward. There is a four foot high waterfall about a quarter mile up the canyon. There is a large log pinned to the southern wall, which makes the climb over the falls quite easy.

08 Waterfall and webbing

Waterfall, webbing and pole (for scale)

In contrast, a second waterfall at 0.5 miles up the slot is something of a challenge. It rises 10 to 12 feet and has overhangs that make the ascent problematic. Currently there is water coming over the falls to add a slippery quality to the issue. Most visitors will want to turn around here. There is a battered length of green webbing draped down the falls. It is not recommended that you trust your well-being to this cordage. I chose to climb the falls (experiencing occasional regrets) without my pack and used the webbing to drag my pack up after I got on top.

Above the falls the walls are much lower and soon begin to lean back. In less than 500 feet, about a mile from the trailhead, the vegetation becomes vexatious. If you’ve left your machete at home you may find that it is time to turn back.

On return to the bottom of the main canyon I chose to turn south (right on descent) and follow the canyon bottom (see the map, above). It is a very pleasant ramble on cool September day but not especially wild. Judging from the tracks on the canyon floor there must be occasions when ATVers congregate here. This “extra” leg to the south is perfectly pleasant but does not have a particularly striking quality.

Recommendations:

Pick another destination if there is rain in the forecast. The logs along the canyon bottom are evidence that the water flows can be violent on occasion.

That said, the gentle flow of water in the canyon bottom on this date was a very welcome sight. It is not, however, guaranteed. You will want to bring your own drinking water. A liter was more than sufficient on this cool day.

I suspect that the canyon bottom can be icy in the winter time. It may be best to reserve this for the warmer months.

Links:

Doug Scott has a great website that provides a great introduction to New Mexico’s slot canyons (and waterfalls), including this one.

Southern New Mexico Explorer has some great photos of a canyon termed “Mossy Slot Canyon” off of Skates Canyon. I’m not 100% certain that it is the same canyon as described here, but many of the photos look familiar.

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!