Hiking in New Mexico – 3 unforgettable trips to take

Hiking in New Mexico | White Sands

I came across a recent blog post by a fellow Southwest hiking adventurer named Ayssa about hiking in New Mexico and 3 trips in particular you can take that are located near Las Cruces New Mexico that, according to the writer (and yours truly), are unforgettable.

Quite often, outdoor enthusiasts often overlook hiking in New Mexico, especially the Las cruces area, due to very high winds. However, if your travel is outside of the Spring months (April through June) you’ll find the weather very mild and enjoyable, save for the heat in the summer months.

Alyssa, a self-described restless spirit with a rather odd obsession for Gnomes, describes her time hiking in New Mexico and the Las Cruces area with her husband and new pup “monkey,” as anywhere from mysterious and magical to cartoonish and surreal.

Hiking in New Mexico – Three unforgettable southwest hikes: Kilbourne Hole, White Sands and Organ Mountains.

Kilbourne Hole– Kilbourne Hole Volcanic Crater is a National Natural Landmark and is operated by the Bereau of Land Management. Referred to as a Maar – A deep depression or pit that was caused by a volcanic explosion that emits little to no volcanic material other than volcanic gas – Kilbourne Hole is just shy of 2 miles long, a mile across, and several hundreds of feet deep. The Hole is encrusted with what are referred to as Volcanic bombs: dull black to brown xenoliths that when broken open reveal a sparkling and rather stunning interior of green and yellow glass granules.

The area surrounding the Hole is quite desolate and and travel can take a bit of time to get there due to the some rather intense offered trails. A 4-wheel drive is highly recommended for this trip. However, upon arrival, visitors are greeting with the yellow and green gems mentioned above sparkling in the sun. The area is open to the public and as long as you are able to make the trek out and back there are no laws regarding removing any of the stones or olivine gems from the area, so be sure to grab some for your own collection.

There are no facilities available so be sure to bring plenty of drinking water with you.


White Sands National Monument – Hiking the vast and desolate white sands landscape of New Mexico offers up a rather unique experience for first-time visitors. The gypsum-formed sand dunes, that are surprisingly cool even in the peak summer months, creates a surreal and mysterious experience unlike any other. Large wave-like dunes fill the almost 275 miles of dessert creating the largest gypsum dune filed in the world. The National Monument preserves a large portion of these dunes.

If you are looking for a thrill, you can rent (or bring your own) “sandboards” and sleds to take a ride down the soft, sandy dunes. Other activities include: Camping, Bicycling, Driving Dunes Drive, Hiking, Photography, Picnicking, and more. The visitor center and gift shop has plenty of fun souvenirs for family & friends.

A must see hiking trail is the Alkali Flat Trail. Just under five miles, this trail can prove a bit strenuous, even for experienced hikers, due to the soft sand and steep dunes, but the payoff is worth it. Approximately halfway through hikers will find themselves in the Alkali Flat, a dry lake bed of Lake Otero filling the bottom of the Tularos Basin.

As mentioned above, the winds can be pretty intense during the Spring months creating low visibility and the potential threat of getting lost so it’s best to avoid this hike during these months if you can. Should you find yourself in the midst of ta sand storm, the path is marked with little white and orange posts.

As with Kilbourne Hole, there are no facilities available. Summer months can reach in excess of 100 degrees Fahrenheit so be sure to bring plenty of drinking water with you. It might be good to have goggles or wide-frame sunglasses on hand in case the wind does pick up.

hiking-in-new-mexico-white-sands2Hiking in New Mexico | White Sands

Organ Mountains and the Baylor Pass Trail – Decorated with thousand of Native American Petroglyphs and pictographs, this newly established National Monument is a Southwest destination every hiker should experience at least once. Home to such notable history as The Butterfield Stagecoach Trail, Billy the Kid’s Outlaw Rock and Geronimo’s Cave, these wild lands of the Chiuahuan Desert are a crown jewel of the southern Rockies.

The trailhead hike Alyssa and her family traveled provided a steady, moderately long hike to the mountain base decorated with wildflowers and shrubs that helped keep their mind off of the increasing temperature as the day progressed. Her puppy “Monkey” proved herself quite resilient along this trail, including a tussle with a local spider.

Hiking in New Mexico | Las Cruces | Organ MountainHiking in New Mexico | Las Cruces | Organ Mountain

To see some additional pictures, including those of her puppy “monkey” having the time of her life, be sure to head over to her blog and read more about her adventures : http://alyssavnature.com/2016/05/25/unforgettable-hiking-trips-near-las-cruces-southwest-road-trip-series/

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About the Author
Mitch Stevens has been leading hiking and backpacking outings throughout the southwest for over ten years. As a Sierra Club hiking leader, writer and photographer, he has promoted the enjoyment and conservation of our remaining wild lands. Born and raised in New York City, Mitch came to discover the great outdoors and fall in love with Arizona’s special places. Through his countless trips across the state and region, Mitch made it his mission to encourage fellow hikers and enthusiasts to protect the beauty of the desert. Now, he continues to embrace his fascination with the desert beauty by creating and leading multigenerational tours throughout the southwest. His experience coupled with his passion for the great outdoors make him a unique tour guide and outings leader.

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