register help

Mule Peak, NM

no permit
0 0 2
Guide 0 Triplogs  2 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List NM > Southeast
0 of 5 by 0
Canyons are inherently risky. Flash floods occur without notice on sunny days. Technical skills & surrounding topography knowledge required yet does not eliminate risk.
HAZ reminds you to respect the ruins. Please read the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 & Ruins Etiquette
clicktap icons for details
Difficulty 4 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance One Way 7 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,612 feet
Elevation Gain 3,528 feet
Accumulated Gain 3,612 feet
Avg Time One Way 4-5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 19.04
Interest Off Trail Hiking, Ruins, Seasonal Waterfall, Seasonal Creek & Peak
Backpack Possible - Not Popular
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
editedit > ops > dogs to adjust
Post the 1st photoset!
Author imike
author avatar Guides 253
Routes 0
Photos 6,930
Trips 2,467 map ( 21,513 miles )
Age 69 Male Gender
Location Cloudcroft, NM
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
Expand Map
Preferred   Feb, Mar, Oct, Nov → Early
Seasons   Late Autumn to Early Spring
Sun  5:48am - 6:07pm
0 Alternative
Paved Road Peak Bagging!
by imike

Mule Peak is the highest point along this area of the frontal range, and is more typically visited by simply riding your ATV up FR 90A from West Side road. This route uses the more difficult, and much more fun approach from the valley up Mule Canyon drainage, traversing on to Burleson Ridge, connecting with an old Jeep track on top of the ridge then enjoying a nice upper meadow shortcut connection to the old paved road to the peak.

The peak houses the ruined remains of an old Observatory complex... with the run down and abandoned buildings of the living quarters, work spaces, and the interesting telescope building, complete with sliding track roof. The telescope left in the building strongly resembles the unit from the movie "Alien"... wherein there is a seat for one person that straddles the large telescope. Sort of an eerie site.

The paved road accessed this complex from FR 90A, and also looped out to the far end of the ridge line. It is that portion that is reached from the meadowed traverse. You may skip the meadow cut and simply continue to wind your way around the south and east side of the mountain; it all leads up to the top.

This hike begins following the Mule Canyon drainage, initially a very easy hike with great towering Buttes and ridges and interesting rock strata. After the first few miles, the hike begins to pose ever greater challenges as you get closer and closer to the large waterfall blockage around 3.6 miles in. At the waterfall you will have the option to traverse up and around on either side with a very steep scramble... or, if you're skilled enough, the falls are probably climbable.

Once past the falls enjoy a very nice section of more intimate canyon, finishing up with a grotto like enclosure and a final easy climb out. Once above this point you hike for a short distance into a very open basin. You want to begin looking to your right... your goal is to exit the canyon bottom and make your way up to the ridge line to the south.

Do not wait too long to make your exit. If you reach the slab bottomed section of the canyon with the steep walls on the left (complete with a bit of cactus hanging gardens) then you've gone too far. There are some small falls (3-5 feet) that make for an ideal place to exit the bottom and move back to your right... winding both south and west toward the ridge. Paths through the hillside scrub oak open up nicely. You'll soon find yourself on the ridge and connecting with the old double track. Follow it to your left towards the obvious high point ridge.

As you make your way around the south side of the mountain, you have the option to follow the road the entire way, or take the more pleasant up meadow shortcut to the top. Look for the obvious drainage cut and meadow as you work your way below the ridge cliffs, and turn to your left enjoying this tree covered route. Enjoy the surprise of cresting out on to a paved road! Turn right and follow the road up to the old observatory.

Return by the same route... you do not want to make the mistake of dropping down into the upper portions of Mule Canyon. It is nasty overgrown with briars... not a good thing. Enjoy the open course of the roadway and easy traverse back down into the canyon just above the grotto.

You may want to consider bringing along a rope to rappel down the waterfall. It will save you a nasty scramble descent (it is really worse going down than it was to go up).

Give yourself an early start for this longer, more challenging day. Or, arrange a shuttle out on FR90/FR90A. You could have a car awaiting you at the Observatory if you wanted to!

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your canyon trip to support this local community.

2010-03-19 imike
    WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

    Most recent Triplog Review
    Mule Peak
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Mule Peak
    11:13pm... finally got to eat the last of my trail sandwich. Would have been really nice to sit on a rock and enjoy that 6-8 hours ago. Instead, about then I was getting really focused on moving, and not stopping for food or water, or anything.

    The day started early, drove over in the dark and hiked cross desert to the mouth of the canyon. Getting light just as I dropped down and into the drainage from the old cattle/mine works (now a shooting gallery for the locals). I was impressed with the canyon... open and far vistas with huge towering buttes... morning light was not ideal to capture the moments in pics, but it was great for being there. The canyon stayed beginner easy for the first few miles, and for the first time on these exploratory hikes I was following someone else's footprints. That was a first. Then there came a point where it was no longer easy... it was still really nice, and perhaps even better, but no longer a place for a beginner hiker to be. And all footprints faded away.

    About then, I came across a bear carcass... looks as if passed away over the last month... had crawled up under a ledge in the drainage.

    The bouldering demands became ever harder in the last 1.3 miles leading up to the big waterfall ledge... but fun and interesting. I did not linger at the falls, but scrambled up and around it on the south side, then enjoyed the next half mile of narrows before the basin opened up wide. When I'd first reviewed this drainage on a map, it appeared that I'd be able to follow it from this point another two or three miles then walk out on the south side, and over to FR 90A, to follow that back up the ridge to Mule Peak. For some reason, instead of following that original plan I exited the canyon bottom and moved immediately up and onto the ridge, heading for an old jeep route that was showing on the GPS unit. It was an easy climb out, and sure enough, the double track was right where is was supposed to be...

    I followed that route until it started to loop around to the south side of Mule Peak, and instead of following that looping route, once again headed off cross country up a meadowed draw. Climbing out on top of that I was very surprised to discover an old Paved road! I turned towards the peak reflecting on why pavement (asphalt)... and soon discovered: an old and abandoned observatory installation. There were some run down living quarters, work rooms, and a large building with it's roof built on tracks such that the entire roof could slide off and back, opening up the upper levels of the building... which housed a contraption that looked to be straight out of "Alien". It had a seat towards the rear wherein someone would straddle a multi- tubed device, which I have to assume was some type of telescope.

    Now, though the scientists are long gone, I think there are still active antennae installations up there.

    So far, this peak hike had been diverse, entertaining... and really fairly easy.

    Instead of heading back down canyon the way I came up, I now decided instead to track further down ridge and enter the drainage like I had originally planned, creating a lasso loop.

    Very bad idea.

    Initially, the side canyon was just too densely blocked to drop over the edge. Finally, I was able to descend, but it turned into a descent to hell. The drainage this far up was just a steep defile... a rocky ravine... and, filled with snow! There was no safe footing... so the progress was way too slow. I finally exited the ravine on the other side just for safeties sake, only to discover that ridge filled with dense oak scrub... and thorny things. The next few hours were all about thorny things, and amazingly slow progress. The slow progress is where the not getting to eat came into play. As I projected ahead, time wise, I realized that I could get caught in the canyon after sunset. Now, moving through that lower mile might not be so bad, but scrambling down and around that 100' water fall feature in the dark would not be fun... and, that 1.3 miles below the falls had numerous down climbing areas that I would have some trouble with in full daylight. After dark... no way. So, for those remaining afternoon hours I simply kept moving. The sun did set before I made it out, but I was in the lower canyon, below all the hard bouldering. There was enough glow to make my way down and out, and only the couple of miles of desert back to the truck were in the pitch black.

    Now I know. A great hike up to the waterfall. A nice peak hike if the upper portion of the canyon is avoided. No real reason to go above the falls unless you are doing the peak (unless you brought along some rope and plan to make coming down the falls easy!) That upper canyon... sort of glad I did it, just to know, but I'll never go through there again... unless there is some compelling need to recreate the feel of visiting a hell dimension.

    So... finally getting to eat my sandwich here after 11pm...

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    High Clearance possible when dry

    To canyon trip
    From the small development of ORO VISTA, follow Hamilton Road to Solano Drive, turning to your left (east). Follow to the end of the road and turn right on San Pedro. Turn left (east) off of San Pedro on to Simon Lane, following it to it's end at Old El Paso Hwy. Here turn to your left (north) and follow this rough dirt track to the 2nd major turn to the east. Follow that route to the mouth of the canyon.
    page created by imike on Mar 19 2010 1:16 pm
    $17 3L Hydration Bladder
    help comment issue

    end of page marker