No fee. Located about 20 miles west of Las Cruces, the area offers a variety of trails for hiking and biking, with several managed trails for OHV use. Aden Crater, in the northern part of the field, originated with a succession of lava flows that issued from a single vent, building up a shield cone over time. Volcanic “spatter” – droplets of molten rock – erupted next, forming a rim around the crater. Molten rock flows returned, issuing from the vent to become trapped by the spatter rim as a “lake” of lava. Small explosive eruptions became Aden Crater’s dying gasp, and as the last of the lava drained away down the vent, the immediately surrounding surface collapsed, leaving a large pit within the crater.
In the 1960s, investigators exploring a fumarole – a vent through which gasses escaped – discovered the desiccated remains of a giant ground sloth. It had lived near the end of the last Ice Age, roughly 11,000 years ago, during the same time that nomads hunted big game in the area. Somehow, the sloth had fallen into the vent to its death. The Lava Flow is also reputed to have been home to various outlaws and others on the run who sought its rugged shelter.
From Interstate 10 exit 127 (Corralitos Road) take the southern frontage road west bound for approximately 1.5 miles. Continue straight onto the dirt road (the paved road will curve south) for approximately 4.2 miles. The entrance to the staging area is on the left just beyond the cattle guard.
Aguirre Spring Campground is located 21 miles east of Las Cruces. The fees are $3/day for day use. $3/night to camp. $25 reservation fee for the two group campsites. Take U.S. 70 for 14 miles east of the I-25/U.S. 70 interchange in Las Cruces, then turn south on the Aguirre Spring Road (1.1 miles after San Augustine Pass) for six miles. At mile 4 the road becomes a one-way loop and climbs steeply.
Pine Tree Trail is a 4.2 mile loop trail, usually low traffic. This trail is a bit more taxing than dripping springs…call it moderate. The wild flowers and foliage is beautiful, an oasis in the desert. When it rains or there is snow melt, the spontaneous waterfalls at Aguirre Springs are beautiful. Dogs are allowed.
Bosque Trail Riverwalk
This 11.9 mile trail follows the Rio Grande Bosque from New Mexico to Texas, the starting point of a trail that is being developed along the Rio Grande statewide. Trail can be accessed south of Washington St. (near Anthony) and Racetrack Dr. (Sunland Park).
Doña Ana Mountains
No fee. These are the premier mountain biking trails in the Las Cruces area, with miles and miles of trails ranging from beginner or even kid friendly to quite challenging and rocky terrain for experts. Located about 5 miles north of Las Cruces, there are several trails, 15 miles of mountain biking trails and 7 miles of horseback trails (which are not signed as well as the other trails). The southern trails are recommended for beginners as they are reasonably lengthy and not as technical as opposed to the northern trails which are shorter but more technical. It is also the home of the Horny Toad Hustle, a autumn MTB race, and usually the best attended in the state (sponsored by Outdoor Adventures, of course).
Take I-25 north to the Doña Ana exit, go east and turn left on Del Rey, turn at the next right (Calle Las Lomas). Turn left on La Reina, then turn right onto Desert Wind. Go east for about 1.4 miles and go through the cattle guard. On a primitive dirt road, go for another 1/2 mile. The trailhead is just past the power line.
Drippings Springs | Map
$3/day. $25 reservation for group picnic site. The Dripping Springs Natural Area is located 10 miles east of Las Cruces. Take University Avenue/Dripping Springs Road east to the end from Exit 1 on Interstate 25. There are almost 5 miles of easy hiking trails, including the Dripping Springs Trail, which features desert scrub and low elevation pinon-juniper and oak woodlands, the ruins of the Van Patten Mountain Camp, and Boyd’s tuberculosis sanitarium.
Dripping Springs Trail intersects with the Crawford Trail at the ¾ mile mark. Stay on the right fork for Dripping Springs Trail. At about 1.3 miles there is another fork. Take the right branch and a right at the next junction as well. The old Boyd Sanitarium is about 0.1 miles.
When looking at the dining hall, look for the rock stairway on the left side. Follow the stairway up and left to the waterfall above the area. Return on the same path to the prior junction and take a right to the remains of the Van Patten Mountain Camp. After exploring the camp, continue around the loop back to the main trail and the visitor’s center (or hike the other loops).
La Cueva Trail has a spur that goes to the Hermit’s cave, an Italian gentleman that took up residence for a couple of years at the end of the 1860s. It didn’t end well for him. He was murdered, found with a knife through his back. The La Cueva Trail has another spur that goes into a dead end canyon with a nice waterfall that creates a tiny desert oasis.
The entire area also boasts excellent wildlife viewing opportunities, which includes deer, rabbits, rattlesnakes and very large spiders (tarantulas). I saw four of the latter on my last visit…different varieties.
No fee. Kilbourne Hole is part of the Portillo volcanic field, stretching across portions of New Mexico and Chihuahua, located about 47 miles south of Las Cruces in a desert basin between the Potrillo Mountains and the Rio Grande. Created between 24,000 and 80,000 years ago, the crater formed when magma heated groundwater to forceful pressures, creating a steam explosion. This type of shallow crater is called a maar, and other examples can be found in Patagonia, Auckland, and the Seward Peninsula in Alaska. A second, smaller maar, Hunt’s Hole, is located two miles south of Kilbourne.
Due to its unique nature and resemblance to craters on the moon and Mars, astronauts from Apollo programs 12 through 17 visited Kilbourne Hole as part of their geology field exercises. Today, the U.S. Air Forces uses it for training and scientific purposes and the U.S. Border Patrol conducts helicopter training operations around and inside the crater. Congress designated Kilbourne Hole a National Natural Landmark in 1975.
The trail features brief up and down sections as it follows basalt cliffs along the crater rim. Sandy portions of the trail require endurance and perseverance; the loop feels longer than the eight miles. With no shade, no water, no facilities, no cell phone reception, and the entire area typically all to yourself, this is a desert hike.
From Interstate 25, take the Vado Exit (10 miles south of Las Cruces) and NM 227 west 3 miles to NM 28. Take NM28 south (left) 2 miles to Dona Ana County Road (CR) B008. Take CR B008 west (right) 11 miles to Dona Ana CR B004 and turn south (left). Drive 6½ miles to railroad tracks, turn left, cross railroad, turn west (right) on Dona Ana CR A017. Drive for 7 miles to Dona Ana CR A011, turn west (right), and proceed 8 miles to Kilbourne Hole. It is on the right, past the big tan dirt bank.
No fee. The park is located on the Rio Grande near Las Cruces. 1.5 miles from historic Mesilla. Visitors have many opportunities to view wildlife in natural surroundings while strolling one of the self-guided nature trails. Enjoy a fun ranger-led tour!
No fee. Located just 7 miles west of Downtown Las Cruces, Picacho Peak is a 4959-foot high volcanic peak, composed of rhyolite (mostly quartz and feldspar) that solidified at the surface approximately 35 million years ago. The recreation area has over 15 miles of mountain biking, hiking, and equestrian trails. Picacho Peak Via Box Canyon Loop Trail is a 5.5 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Dona Ana, New Mexico that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, birding, and horses and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.
After approximately 1 mile on Picacho Hills Drive, veer to the left onto Barcelona Ridge Road. Travel approximately 1 mile to Anthem Road and turn right. Follow Anthem Road approximately 1 mile to Loop Road and turn right. Loop Road turns into dirt. Approximately 0.9 mile turn right and follow to the Picacho Mountain Recreation Area.
Robledo Mountains “SST Trail”
No fee. For something more challenging, there is the “SST” trail. This area is open to off-road vehicle use (rock crawling; extreme four-wheel drive trails), hiking and mountain biking. The trails are dominated by enormous rocks, making the terrain extraordinarily challenging for riders. The extreme OHV trails require specialized vehicles, with locking differentials, winches, and expert drivers. Vehicle damage is not uncommon on these very difficult OHV trails. The area also includes the “SST” mountain bike trail, which is open only to non-motorized uses. It also is an extremely technical trail — traversing challenging rocky terrain, steep canyons, and mountain-top ridges — and requires expert riding skills.
The Robledo Mountains OHV Area and SST Trail is located about 4 miles north of Las Cruces. Take Valley Drive (U.S. 85) north to Shalem Colony Trail, go west on Shalem Colony Trail across the Rio Grande, turn right on Rocky Acres Trail, and take the first left off the wide dirt road. You will see signs for extreme four-wheel drive trails south of the main road; trails north of that road have been closed. The main road goes west toward a rock mine; take the left fork in the arroyo bottom, climb the hill, and go right up the canyon bottom to find the mountain bike trail and additional extreme four-wheel drive routes.
Sierra Vista Trail
No fee. For more experienced hikers, the Sierra Vista Trail runs along the edge of the Organ mountains, with beautiful views of the mountains and the Rio Grande Valley. It eventually connects with the Franklin Mountain State Park.
There are several trail heads. One is along the Soledad Canyon Road. From Exit 1 on Interstate 25, take University Avenue/Dripping Springs Road east for about 4.5 miles, then turn south on the Soledad Canyon Road. That road will turn east in a mile; follow it until you come to a parking area on your right. You can also access the Mossman Arroyo Road trailhead by exiting Interstate 10 at the Mesquite exit. Other trailheads can be reached by taking the Vado Exit off Interstate 10, and NM 404 at Anthony Gap.
Soledad Canyon/Bar Canyon Waterfall
No fee. The trail at Soledad Canyon is every bit as beautiful as those at Dripping Spring, but this trail tends to be less populated. Soledad Canyon Loop is a 3.3-mile loop trail located 10 miles east of Las Cruces. The trails are primarily used for hiking, trail running, horses, and mountain biking. From Exit 1 on Interstate 25, take University Avenue/Dripping Springs Road east for about 4.5 miles, then turn south on the Soledad Canyon Road. That road will turn east in a mile; follow it all the way to the end. It is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.
To get to the waterfall, stay to the right when the trail branches, then follow the trail counter-clockwise. Approximately 1.5 miles in there is a junction where the trail divides. You can follow the loop to the left, or continue straight ahead to the old rock house and the waterfall. At just over a half a mile there is an old rock house. Continue on the trail to the waterfall. It will head to the right, up a small hill, then left into a narrow dead-end canyon. The waterfall is all the way at the back. To finish the loop, return to the junction where the trail divided. Turn right. Follow the trail back to the parking area.
Tortugas “A” Mountain
No fee. This trail is readily accessible, located 3 miles east of New Mexico State University. There are two trails that circle around the mountain for hiking or mountain biking. One of the trails leads to the top, which provides a spectacular view of the city, sunrise or sunset. Fairly easy hike, though there is a climb. Mountain biking the trail would be more challenging.
Take I-25 north or south to the University exit (Exit 1) in Las Cruces. Turn east on University Avenue and follow it until A Mountain is directly to your right. Once you reach the north side of the mountain, there are two areas where cars can be parked, the most popular being the second one as you go east.