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liquid snow races for the desert
This lovely little loop hike around Noon Creek in the Pinaleno Mountains makes use of the two lower segments of Round The Mountain Trail #302, with a connection using the Swift Trail highway. Noon Creek, with its numerous cascades and small waterfalls, is the main attraction on this hike. The creek flows almost year-round, but the best time to see it in action is during spring snowmelt.
The hike begins at Round The Mountain Trailhead. Round The Mountain Trail #302 departs next to a corral and heads downhill a short distance to where it crosses Noon Creek. There are a few small cascades here, where the creek flows over ancient metamorphic rock. Five minutes of boulder hopping upstream will bring you to a 20-foot waterfall.
Beyond the creek crossing, the Round The Mountain Trail heads upstream along the north bank and enters oak woodland before climbing atop a low ridge. It now follows the ridge due west up Noon Creek Canyon, gradually gaining elevation and heading towards 10,000-foot Heliograph Peak.
At about 0.9 miles, the Round The Mountain Trail reaches a signed junction with the old Round The Mountain Trail. The old trail comes in from the left, while the new trail turns right. Our hike goes left (south) along the old Round The Mountain Trail.
For the next 0.2 miles, you will need to look carefully for pink flagging in the trees, and cairns, as this section of trail was damaged by the Nuttall Fire. The trail is better defined as it descends to Noon Creek but disappears again in the debris along the creek bottom. Pink flagging leads you downstream a few hundred feet to where the trail reappears on the south bank, next to a low cliff. The creek tumbles over some mini-waterfalls in this area.
After the creek crossing, the old Round The Mountain Trail contours along the south side of the canyon, a little ways above Noon Creek. Distant views down the broad, u-shaped canyon include far-off mountain ranges scattered across the Chihuahuan desert.
At the 1.1 mile point, consider going off trail a short distance to Noon Creek. In this area, the creek flows over exposed bedrock, and there are a few small waterfalls to be found. There are also a couple of small pools, just big enough to soak in. This is a pleasant spot to enjoy what Noon Creek has to offer.
Continuing, the old Round The Mountain Trail curves to the south and passes the junction with the Noon Creek Ridge Trail at 1.6 miles.
The trail comes to an end at 1.75 miles, where it meets the highway at milepost 122.1. Follow the highway downhill now. An 0.6-mile walk will bring you back to your starting point at the Round The Mountain Trailhead.
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.