Archives for posts with tag: Manzano Mountain Wilderness
01 Mazanos Mountains from NM-55

Morning Manzano Mountains from NM-55

Overview:

The Manzano Mountains are central New Mexico’s unsung treasure. They offer cool Douglas fir forests, broad stretches of montane grassland, a trove of fossil finds, views west across the Estancia Basin and views east across the Albuquerque Basin; deer and raptors are common, bear and elk are present. Given its close proximity to Albuquerque you might think it would be mobbed. In fact, solitude is a Manzano virtue. The Bosque Trail #174 ascends directly to the crest, shaking off any morning chill with brisk efficiency. Turning south, the Crest Trail #181 winds across open grasslands to a junction with Vigil Trail #59. This new trail crosses the crest leading to an off-trail venture to the high point of flat-topped Bosque Peak. To make a loop return to the Crest Trail and explore north towards the base of sheer-sided Mosca Peak and then return along the mellow Cerro Blanco trail #79.

Driving Directions:

  • From the intersection of Interstate-25 (I-25) and I-40, take the ramp for I-40 going east.
  • At the end of the ramp merge onto I-40 east
  • After 14.0 miles take exit 175 for NM-14/NM-333/NM-337 (also signed for Tijeras/Cedar Crest). The ramp will fork, stay to the right for NM-333/NM-337.
  • After 0.5 miles, at a stoplight at the end of the ramp, go straight ahead onto NM-337
  • After 29.2 miles, at a T-intersection, go right onto NM-55 South
  • After 3.2 miles, as you climb a small hill out of the town of Tajique, turn right onto a gravel road. On this date there was no sign naming the road, but there was a prominent sign for the 4th of July Campground/Inlow Youth Camp, both of which are on this road.
  • After 8.4 miles come to the Cerro Blanco Trailhead on the right.

02 Sign on NM-55 before turn onto gravel FR-55FR-55 (the gravel road) is currently in excellent shape for the first 7.0 miles, at which point you pass the entrance to the 4th Of July Campground. Immediately past the entrance there is a sign saying that the road is not fit for passenger cars. On this date there were dozer-tracks on the roadbed so I went ahead. The road is pretty rough but the Camry was able to make it as far as the Cerro Blanco trailhead. Past the trailhead the road gets very rough. It is possible to drive to the Bosque trailhead, but a high-clearance vehicle is recommended.

Google labels this road as “County Road A013/Torreon Tajique Loop Road”, although I did not see any road signs using this nomenclature. There are, however signs at various points along the way identifying the road as “55”. FR-55 is prone to flooding, check with the Mountainair Ranger District if the weather has been particularly wet.

Trailhead:

03 mighty Camry

The mighty Camry at the  lush Cerro Blanco trailhead

The Cerro Blanco Trailhead has parking for two cars and offers a Forest Service information sign. If you peer up the trail you will discover a second sign saying “Cerro Blanco Trail No. 79”. If the parking spaces are taken you might be able to park at a turn-out on the opposite side of the road about 100 feet further along FR-55. Be cautious, however, since that turn-out looked pretty wet on this date. The first part of this loop is a hike of 0.7 miles along the road to get to the Bosque Trailhead. That trailhead has much more parking, along with picnic tables, fire rings, bear-proof trash receptacles and a vault toilet.

Data:

  • Starting Elevation: 7800 feet
  • Highest Point: 9585 feet
  • Net Elevation: 1785 feet
  • Distance: 10.5 miles
  • Maps: USGS Bosque quadrangle. The 1995 version shows the trails mentioned in this guide and is recommended. The 2017 version does not show the trails, which makes it much less useful.

Hike Description:

04 huge aligator juniper with pole

Old aligator juniper (with hiking pole for scale).

From the trailhead walk south along FR-55 to the Bosque trailhead, 0.7 miles. The sign for the trailhead is becoming obscured by brush, but that is more of a problem for drivers than hikers. There is a long entrance drive bordered with picnic tables and fire rings. At the end of the drive is trailhead parking. Go past the trailhead sign and proceed along the well-maintained trail. This forest is dense with tall ponderosa pine. Alongside the trail is a big old alligator juniper, the largest that I’ve seen.

06 flat-topped Bosque

Bosque Peak from Bosque Trail

At 1.4 miles from the trailhead the tread bolts upwards. The occasional, half-hearted switchback will ease the burden on your thighs, but this is chiefly a rib-top rocket shot meant to put a hiker on the crest. In theory this trail should immediately convert into a gully, but it seems to have received a strikingly high level of trail maintenance. Water bars have been installed all along the trail. At two places on the ascent there are signs directing you off the “old” track and onto a new segment, presumably to allow the brush to over-run and restore the old track’s deepening tread.

06 obvious tread through the trees

Obvious tread through the trees

The 1995 USGS quadrangle shows the trail departing the rib-top and crossing the waterway that lies south of the rib. This departure occurred at about 2.2 miles from the Cerro Blanco trailhead, almost exactly at the point where the second sign directs you to the north, away from that departure. I spoke with Janet, Erik and Jill just above this point. They were returning because the trail above had become uncomfortably sketchy as it reaches into the high meadows. Either we all missed the route across the southern drainage or the trail has been re-routed.

07 Fire ring before Crest Trail junction

Fire ring at meadow’s edge, just before Crest Trail junction

Indeed, at 2.6 miles the trail enters subalpine terrain where the trees thin, small meadows appear and trail finding becomes a challenge. There are cairns of the small, informal, and contradictory sort. Given a choice it is usually better to favor a southerly route over a northerly route (i.e. stay to your left on ascent). The trail becomes much more evident where it leaves the ledgy meadows and re-enters forest. At 2.8 miles come to a wide and seemingly untracked meadow. Follow its edge in the clockwise direction until you pas a fire ring made of rock. Then, 100 feet past the ring, come to the intersection with the Crest Trail. The junction is unsigned but marked with one of the world’s least impressive cairns. Enjoy the meadows. Here you’ll find views of Guadalupe and Mosca Peaks, the impressive steep-sided mountains that dominate the northern section of the Manzanos. Study, too, the fractured limestone at your feet. In places it is thick with fossilized shells.

08 distant Sandias, Guadalupe, Mosca and distant Ortega Mts

Montane Grasslands, Sandia Mts, Guadalupe Peak, Mosca Peak and distant Ortega Mts

Turn south (left on ascent) to follow the Crest Trail. This is a part of the Grand Enchantment Trail, a network of trails that leads from Albuquerque to Phoenix, Arizona. As with the Bosque Trail, the tread is most obvious where it penetrates the trees. At 3.0 miles however, you will walk out onto the montane grassland that dominates much of the crest. Navigation becomes a matter of steering from cairn to cairn. Fortunately these are serious cairns, raised high enough to be seen above the tall grasses. An incredible amount of stoop labor has gone into making this trail.

09 Vigil trail and Crest Trail junction

Junction with Vigil Trail (note exposed soil, mid-picture)

At 3.8 miles come to the junction with the Vigil Trail. This junction is obscure.  Watch for a point where the Crest trail passes through mixed trees and meadow and then comes to a squared trail-post in open grassland. Curiously, the post is not at the junction but rather 50 feet or so north of the junction. Traverse that distance south, keeping your eyes peeled for a short section of disturbed ground that looks as if water has cut into the soil. That “cut” is the start of the Vigil trail. The Crest trail does continue south from this junction, in the form of grass-thatched wishful thinking. It can make you doubt your junction judgement.

 

10 Albuquerque Basin from Bosque Peak

Albuquerque Basin from Bosque Peak

Follow the Vigil trail as it disappears and reappears in a journey west across the very top of the crest. At 4.1 miles the Vigil trail makes a sharp right-turn and runs through the aspen and thorn-tree forest that adorns the top of Bosque Peak. Go off-trail and continue hiking west on a gradually rising grassland. Coming to the cliff that marks the western edge of the Manzano Crest.  Technically the high point is a few feet above your head and shrouded in thorn bush. My best efforts to penetrate that thicket were unproductive, but if you find a path please leave a comment! You may prefer to pull up next to the lonesome pine that adorns this cliff top, seat yourself comfortably in its shade and have lunch while examining the Ladron and Magdelana ranges.

11 Guadelupe & Mosca Peaks, Ortega Mts

Guadalupe Peak and Mosca Peak

To return, head back along the Vigil trail and then the Crest Trail, following it all the way to the junction with the Bosque Trail. If the weather is looking doubtful then the Bosque Trail is your best option. If you’d prefer a loop hike then stay on the Crest Trail as it continues north. You will soon discover that those treads you considered “faint” on ascent are actually bold examples of the trail maker’s art. In comparison, the trail north of the Bosque junction is a true wallflower – indistinguishable from the competing game trails. Fortunately, you need only stay close to the crest to be approximately on track. Mosca and Guadalupe peaks, the steep sided twins of the northern Manzanos, serve as a beacon before you. The occasional huge cairn is there to confirm your navigation.

12 Small bear guarding cairn

Small bear by meadow’s edge (click to enlarge)

Soar along the crest in the company of eagles – these raptors are hoping that you’ll scare up some game. On this date there were muddy spots with elk track, although the animals themselves were not to be found. The trail is so seldom used that it can disappear in brush thickets, be a bit careful as you push through since some of the brush includes thorny mesquite. The tread generally stays a little below the crest on the east side. At 6.6 miles come to the unsigned intersection with the Yellowstone trail #60. If you get diverted onto this trail you’ll find yourself dropping into the west side canyons. Turn back and rediscover the Crest trail.

13 trail departs downhill to left of center rock

Crest Trail departs the crest top to the right of the large center bolder.

At 7.8 miles contour around the east side of two steep-sided knolls then enter onto a short knife’s-edge section of the crest. It is close to here that you depart from the crest top. You will need to keep a sharp eye out for the departure point since an informal but obvious tread extends past the junction atop the crest. Take the steep switchbacks down to about 8800 feet until, at 7.8 miles from the trailhead, you come to a signed and obvious intersection with the Cerro Blanco trail. Follow the Cerro Blanco as it makes a leisurely and well-shaded northerly descent. Pass a junction with the Albuquerque Trail at 9.2 miles. Eventually the tread returns you to the Cerro Blanco trailhead, having brought you a total of 10.5 miles.

Recommendations:

One of the distinguishing features of this trail is the tenuous nature of its trail bed. If you want to challenge some young hikers with advanced trail finding problems, this is the place to take them.

It may be wise to carry bear bells or to keep up a lively discussion while bush-bashing along the northern part of this loop.

13 Monique and Michael on Albuquerque Trail

Monique and Michael, enjoying the Albuquerque Trail

Although the temperatures only got into the low 80s along the crest I still burned through 2.5 liters of water. I should have carried 4 liters. I did not find any water sources along the route. The sun is a serious piece of business at 9,000 feet. Sunscreen will make your day much easier.

Start at daybreak and finish early during monsoon season. You don’t want to find a thunderstorm barreling towards you as you cross over the Manzanos crest.  This crest does have some forested sections, but it would still be a pretty poor locale for waiting out a storm.

Links:

The Albuquerque Senior Centers’ Hiking Group has a short but remarkably detailed report on this loop. The report makes mention of a deep cave, a log cabin ruin, a mountain-top cemetery and a plane wreck to explore. Additionally, this 2015 report mentions a narrow trail leading between the Cerro Blanco trailhead and the Bosque trailhead, which would eliminate the road walk.

SummitPost has a summary, including driving directions and season suggestions for summiting Bosque Peak.

There is a brief description at the GeoCaching website, but the comments section is particularly interesting. As noted there, this is not t-shirt and shorts terrain. Also, hikes in the Manzanos do require strong situational awareness. Getting lost can happen.

The cabin mentioned in the ASCHG report apparently belonged to the Rea family. A family history of this mountain clan can be found here (pdf).

 

 

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Overview:

Manzano Peak from US 60 at dawn

Manzano Peak from US 60 at dawn

The Manzano Mountains (manzano is Spanish for “apple tree”) form a range on the eastern side of the vast Albuquerque Basin. Manzano Peak is the highest point in this range. This route report describes an ascent from Pine Shadow Campground on trail T170A. Labeled as “Pine Shadow Trail” on USGS maps, but as “the Grand Enchantment Trail” on Google maps, the trail reaches towards the summit. After summitting you can follow the ridge north on Manzano Creek Trail (T170), descend to the east on Kayser Mill Trail (T80), traverse south on the Cottonwood Trail (T79) and return to the trailhead with a brief walk along Forest Road 422.

Heartburn in an aligator juniper. I'm guessing that a burning tree fell into this tree fork but failed to ignite the juniper.

Scorched fork in an aligator juniper

Fire has given this route a split personality. The ascent on the “Grand Enchantment Trail” really is enchanting and fire damage takes but a nibble out of the enchantment. The descent on the Kayser Mill and Cottonwood trails is more sobering. The path drops through bleak and dark roasted terrain. On the shallow slopes near the base there is so much burned debris that picking out the tread is nearly impossible. It would be easy to get lost. Movement across the debris is physically demanding and slow. Researchers studying forest recovery processes may want to use this return route. Nearly everyone else will want to return to the trailhead on the Pine Shadow Trail.

Driving Directions:

  • From University Avenue in Las Cruces, enter I-25 going north
  • After 173.1 miles, take exit 175 for US-60 E.
  • At the end of the ramp stay right and merge onto US-60E
  • After 25.3 miles, turn left (north) onto Forest Road 422
  • After 9.9 miles, go left into the Pine Shadows Campground (signed)

Forest Road 422 is a gravel road and currently in very good shape.

Trailhead:

The mighty Camry in the Pine Shadows Campground, with false summit above.

The mighty Camry in the Pine Shadows Campground, with false summit above.

The trailhead is a large parking area off of FR 422. A sign for the turnoff is posted on FR 422. There are picnic tables and fire grates. A pit toilet is nearby, across the forest road from the campground entrance. There you will also find bear-proof trash receptacles. (The top of the receptacles are latched. You have to push your fingers in under the handle to trip the latch mechanism).

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Data:

Light blue traces the Pine Shadow Trail/Grand Enchantment Trail (T170A). Dark red traces the summit trail. Black traces Manzano Creek Trail (T170). Dark blue traces Kayser Mill Trail (T80). Yellow tries to capture as much as possible of the path taken in lieu of the Cottonwood Trail (T79). Light red shows the return on FR 422.

  • Starting Elevation: 7200 feet
  • High Elevation: 10,098 feet
  • Net Gain: 2898 feet
  • Distance: 12.4 miles
  • Maps: USGS Manzano Peak quadrangle

Hike Description:

05 Manzano Peak

View of Manzano Peak from FR 422

Follow T170A as it leaves the trailhead, seeming to aim for the craggy and cliff-faced canyon that lies above. Your shot at canyoneering is lost at 200 yards, where the trail crosses the canyon bed and ascends briskly towards the canyon rim. From there the trail begins a broad swing across the fall line of a rib descending from the main ridge. Looking south you can see highlands that make up the end of the Manzano Mountains. It is plateau-like terrain with the southern-most end dipping to the floor of the Albuquerque Basin.

False summit above the forested rib.

False summit above the forested rib.

Threading small stands of juniper and pinyon, the trail suddenly stops switchbacking and sidehills to the northwest, then to the west, and finally north to gain a shoulder on the rib. Views open to a false summit, its face strewn with numerous downed trees – evidence of past fires. The rocks underfoot include snowy chunks of what may be marble. (Some metamorphic rock is said to exist in the Sandia-Manzano mountains). It is markedly different from the rocks  found along the trails of the southern mountains.

Broad gulch, with numerous snags, south of the false summit.

Broad chute, with numerous snags, south of the false summit.

The trail laterals across an open basin and appears destined to enter a vividly green hanging valley to the south. Before you can get there the trail swings around a rib, reverses back to the north and enters a broad chute populated with scorched poles. A substantial forest of tall ponderosa has been lost to flames. Some secondary growth has taken place. In places the floor is dense with brush, often thorny. The trail does an excellent job of rising into this declivity while staying above the brush. Eventually it darts across the bottom of this steep vale to the far side and starts to descend. It is here that the trail first becomes sketchy. Burned trees have an eerie tendency to fall lengthwise along the trail. The blackened branches slow progress and obscure the tread. Perhaps the blockage makes it impractical to bring horses past this point, which would contribute to the tread’s decline.

Marble cairn along side of ridge line trail

Marble cairn along the side of ridge line trail

After about 100 yards of descent the trail finds a notch and climbs up onto a shelf that protected its plant life from the fire. Breathe a sigh of relief to have that destruction behind you and begin a long ridge ramble towards Manzano Peak. Douglas fir becomes increasingly common as the alligator juniper and pinion pine begin to fade away. Those snowy white rocks become increasing common as the trail contours wide to the west, strikes a rib top and snaps back east to approach a false summit. It is easy to scramble to that false summit in the hope that you are arriving at the true summit. Uneasy, though, when you look a mile to the north to where the true summit floats high above you.

View of true summit from  a small col just north of the false summit

View of true summit from a small col just north of the false summit

That mile is easily traversed on a fading tread that was emplaced by an inspired trail team. it climbs gently, takes every opportunity to change ridge-side so that you get glimpses north and west into the Albuquerque Basin and then views south and east into the Estancia Basin. The ridge is too densely forested for broad views, but the glimpses can be spectacular. The footing is excellent even where the tread disappears. In no time at all you enter a large meadow on the southwest side of Manzano Peak. The trail does not go directly to the peak. Instead, it contours below the peak on the west side. This is the realm of large Douglas firs.Those who learned to hike in the Cascade Mountains will feel right at home. Eventually you come to the ridge on the north side of the summit. There you will find a signed side trail that leads you to the top.

Summit sign. The summit register is in a mailbox at the base of this sign.

Summit sign. The summit register is in a mailbox at the base of this sign.

The summit is half forested and views to the north are blocked. Other hikers have reported spectacular views to Ladron Peak in the southwest and to the Capitan Mountains in the southeast. I can’t say, since the weather was deteriorating on this visit. There was a disconcerting amount of haze to the west, suggesting that rain might be on the way. It seemed like a good time to snap one or two photos and get off of the high ridges. Most people will want to return the way that they came. Here, however, I’ll describe the northerly loop.

Open meadows in a saddle along Manzano Mountains ridge. T80 leaves to the right.

Open meadows in a saddle along Manzano Mountains ridge. T80 leaves to the right.

Descend the summit trail back to T170 and continue north. Long stretches of the tread are disappearing under grasses and forest duff. The trail stays near the ridge top, so if you find yourself off trail then return along the ridge to the last clear tread and scout for faint depressions in the soil. There is supposed to be a junction with the Monte Largo Trail soon after leaving the summit block. I never found it and assume that the Monte Largo Trail is even fainter than trail T170.

At about half a mile after leaving the summit trail come to a wide and grassy saddle in the ridge. At the mid-point you will find two signs that have been blown over. The carved letters are starting to weather away, making the signs difficult to read. Close inspection will prove you are at the junction of T170 running north-to-south and the Kayser Mill Trail (T80), descending to the east. The large meadow is overgrown and innocent of tread in any direction. Look downhill to the east and you will discover several cairns near the edge of the meadow. Those mark your way.

Burn debris piled five feet high on trail.

Burn debris piled five feet high across the trail.

After leaving the meadow the trail becomes much easier to pick out. It descends at the mellowest possible rate, forming a long traverse beneath a side-peak east of the main ridge line. In many places the trail shows sign of recent and careful maintenance. In other places the tread is pressed by avid vegetative growth. There is a one species of dark, smooth-barked thorn bush that you quickly learn to watch for. After a long tour to the east the trail makes a sharp turn back to the west and begins losing altitude in a wide drainage. This part of the hike is still in heavy vegetation. It crosses a boulder field where a trail crew once did heroic work in smoothing the way, perhaps to make the trail easier for horses. Rise out of this drainage, (now heading a little east of south) and enter a burn zone.

View from Kayser Mill Trail down burned slopes.

View from Kayser Mill Trail down burned slopes.

At first it isn’t bad. In its highest reaches the fire touched only narrow swaths of trees. The descent to the southeast is a long one, however, marching all the way to a point directly east of Manzano Peak. As the tread gets lower the damaged swaths get wider and the groves of unburned trees get narrower. Fallen trees lie in tangled piles, forcing the hiker to use a high-stepping stride. In many places the trail is completely blocked and there is no choice but to divert around. Charcoal seems to cover everything. There are a few green plants coming back, but their numbers are small. It may be that the fire was hot enough to kill seeds unless they were buried very deeply. Thorn bushes seem to have fared best, and they are not kind to backpacks, cotton shirts or exposed skin. It was great to see a fat turkey up here, clearly some creatures find these burns to be very agreeable. Eventually you reach a deep gully that comes down from the Manzano summit. This fold in the terrain seems to have fended off the fire. The path winds past living trees as it descends this waterway.

13 typical view on the alleuvial fan

View through snags on the alluvial fan at the base of Manzano Peak.

The trail enters a huge alluvial fan at the base of the mountain. On these gentle slopes the fire was particularly devastating. Hundreds of snags have fallen for every standing pole . Where once there was dense forest you can sometimes see for half a mile or more. But you can’t see the ground. Burned bark, burned roots and innumerable burned limbs and trunks are heaped everywhere. It proved impossible to stay on the trail. As an alternative, head downhill. The maps show that Forest Road 422 fronts this part of the range.

Before striking the road, however, you might come to a clear trail heading south. It can be startling to see such order amidst this ruin. Perhaps it was merely a fluke of the forest fire. In no more than a quarter-mile the tread disappears beneath the remains of burned woodland. The tread does, however, bring you to within a half mile of the burn’s edge. It is a half mile of very slow hiking, zigzagging constantly to avoid the worst debris piles. Even then, it is often hard to find a place big enough to accommodate your foot in the direction you want to go. Your return to the unburned woods will be a huge advantage. There, find a deep gully and follow it in easy hiking conditions. It will return you to Forest Road 422. Go right and follow the road downhill to return to Pine Shadows Campground.

Recommendations:

14 Author, Albuquerque Basin, distant haze

Author approaching Manzano summit (Albuquerque basin and distant storm in background).

The burns that complicate this route will heal. The surrounding forests and high terrain might even become safer for it. For the moment, however, the stark descent on T80 and the uncertain traverse on T79 can not be recommended for most parties. Hikers will generally want to hike the Pine Shadow Trail up to the summit and return by the same route.

Not-so-mighty Camry, undergoing repairs along side US 60. It can be tricky pulling off the road for photos!

Not-so-mighty Camry, undergoing tire repairs along side US 60. It can be tricky pulling off the road for photos!

In the summit register there are messages from people who have recently climbed to Manzano Peak from the Ox Canyon trailhead. It might be worthwhile to drive further north on FR 422 and see if the terrain surrounding Ox Canyon is unburned. If it is, you could set up a car-shuttle starting at Pine Shadow and ending at OK canyon. It would not be feasible as a loop unless you enjoy long road hikes.

A look back at the Manzano Mountains from US 60. Stormy up there.

Evening view of the Manzano Mountains from US 60. It looked stormy up there.

Those who are interested in seeing the damage in this part of the range will want to wait for a wind-free day. (Unsurprisingly for an April day, a breeze blew continuously on this hike). The creaking of snags makes for uneasy background music. I was surprised by how chilly it was. Of course, a windy spring day spent at 10,000 feet has the potential to be cold. On breaks the first thing I reached for was my jacket.

The trailhead is only an hour from Albuquerque and I expected  to see other people. There were no other cars at the trailhead in either the morning or the afternoon. There were no other hikers on the trails and no horse riders. I saw a grand total of two other vehicles on FR 422. Given the overgrown nature of the trail, you can expect to find solitude in the springtime Manzanos.

Maps are great. Out in the middle of the those trackless burns you can get your position based on the surrounding terrain. A GPS has similar virtues (I had both). It is the map, however that gives you the clearest big-picture view. Besides, your location is too important to trust to electronics. A busted screens or dying batteries can be vexatious.

Links:

If you are driving to Manzano Peak from the north then it is common to use Forest Road 253. A comment in the Summit Post indicates that this road is closed in the winter. The same may be true of winter driving on road 422 from the south, although the only gate that I can recall on 422 was beyond (north of) the Shadow Pines Campground.

The National Forest Service generally has information on road closures and fire alerts. The Manzano Mountains are part of the huge Cibola National Forest/National Grassland (patches of which extend across Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico). The Manzano range is part of the Mountain Air ranger district – phone numbers are provided. I checked after returning from the hike and did not find any comment on the status of T80 or T79, which is a little surprising.

The Grand Enchantment Trail (GET) is a route joining many smaller trails into a network that extends from Phoenix, AZ to Albuquerque. See a summary of the different segments at Simblissity. In a similar vein, the trail T170 does more than just take you to Manzano summit. According to Trails.Com it stretches 44 miles along the Manzano Mountains.

Jean Robertson points out in a 2010 post that the trailhead has corrals and a watering tank – features that I did not notice on this trip. They may be off to a side. On the other hand, a large amount of recent effort has gone into restoring the riparian terrain immediately adjacent to the campground. It may be that the tank and corrals have been removed to encourage faster regrowth of the wetlands. Check with the rangers before bringing your animals. (There was a little horse sign along the trail, but so little that it suggested that the trail is not been much used by horsemen).

Voyageur, writing a year ago, has a brief post about Manzano Mountains. He, too, notes that in places along the upper ridge line there is a tendency for the trail to disappear.