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Lost Trail Canyon: South Fork, NM

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Rated  Favorite Wish List NM > Southeast
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Canyons are inherently risky. Flash floods occur without notice on sunny days. Technical skills & surrounding topography knowledge required yet does not eliminate risk.
Statistics
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Difficulty 3.5 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance One Way 3.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,612 feet
Elevation Gain 2,100 feet
Accumulated Gain 2,120 feet
Avg Time One Way 4 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 10.56
Interest Off Trail Hiking, Seasonal Waterfall & Seasonal Creek
Backpack No
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
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Preferred   Apr, Mar, Oct, Nov → Early
Seasons   Early Autumn to Late Spring
Sun  5:48am - 6:07pm
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Water
High Hopes!
by imike

This South fork drainage was one of the last canyons in the Alamogordo area that I had scheduled for exploring, and having had various glimpses over and down into the cut from the adjoining ridge, I was hoping for great things. I have been pleasantly surprised time and again with the other area canyons that did not seem to have much potential; this day began with High Hopes!


I guess it is a good thing to have our expectations knocked down now and again.

It was not a bad canyon. If there were no other canyon cuts in the area, and/or the other canyons were not so great, then perhaps I'd have a different feeling about this drainage. It did have some rock slabbing. It had some pleasant falls. There were a couple of challenging climb/scrambles. It did not have any of the towering side canyon rock walls. The vistas were mostly less than. It continually returned to overgrown narrows with too much sidewall gravel. There was nothing overly difficult about the hike; maybe that is part of the problem?

I did note that looping down through it's sister canyon, Lost Trail Canyon, North, that I was once again enjoying that pleasant mix of rock, plants and views in a balance that restored my day. That seemed to be missing over in the south fork.

The hike begins right in town at the city water tank. Dropping into the drainage you walk the first rocky, gravelly mile past the houses on the adjoining ridge to your right. You pass the cut on your right up into Ortega Canyon (...now, that's a nice canyon!) and move up to the slick rock waterfall coming in on your left. This is the real beginning of the South Fork. Up and over the waterfall would carry you up the North Fork. Instead, you turn right and follow the scrubby drainage east. At about 1.5 miles into the hike you will come to a fork. The minor canyon to your left is too overgrown to enjoy going too far up into, but there is a nice breakfast rock shelf about 50 yds up canyon if you want to check it out. Your real path is to the right.

Around 2.5 miles into the hike, the canyon splits once again. The left fork cliffs out shortly after the fork, but it does include a series of nice rock slab shelving to check out. The main canyon moves to the right up a series of boulders and small falls... still overgrown. There is a touch of interesting climbing/scrambling to top out the falls there.

Finally, around 3 miles into the hike, once again the canyon splits with the right fork again providing the better route to the top. This time you will work your way up and around a blocked off dirt/gravel spill over (easy on the left) then confront a 60' cliffed out falls. You can scramble up the right side, or take the more challenging slot cut on the left side; or some combination thereof?

The hike is about over at this point. As you move off above the falls, angle to the left (north) and finally exit the bottom and climb up the low ridge to your left, intersecting the Dry Canyon/Ortega Traverse trail.

From this point you have a very easy and much nicer hike down to Lost Trail, following it to Lost Trail Canyon: North Fork... which you can follow down and right back to your car. Or... follow the Traverse trail south to connect with T119, following that steep route down. It will take you to within .3 mile of where you parked.

So... it was nice enough to do again, but no time soon. Enough time needs to pass to forget that it is not really all it could/should be. If I had hiked this one before I'd discovered all those other... nicer... canyons...??

Oh, well... High Hopes.

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

2010-11-10 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 Reviews
    Lost Trail Canyon: South Fork
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    Interesting Day. Only one hiker signed on (Darrel), which was a bit odd. I have not hiked this area for the last few years; it would be new hiking for most of our group. Darrel had never hiked any of the Basin routes; all new for him. Socked in, 40 degrees, yet felt warm. If we were not walking in light mist we would have been down to tshirts.

    Decided to cross over into Lost Trail South after showing the Indian Wells... used the old deadend road, then followed a low ridge around and into the canyon proper... interesting rock! As always, the canyon was great. Lots of bedrock walking. We passed a number of north side spurs. I was looking to hike up and around, connecting with Lost Trail or Mineral Springs Trail for a shorter days loop. Finally, turned up and in... and after starting to climb, it did not feel familiar. Turns out we were in a cut I'd never routed... and it was good! Steep yet medium level effort occupied us for our ascent to the top of the Ridge. Great views of the upper canyons from the ridge high point. There was a small cut, bedrock bottomed, heading off and down towards a large north spur. We decided to check out for an exit option, fully expecting such a small defile to run out with overgrowth. Around each twist, the bedrock continued... and got ever better. In the end, it ran all the way down and out... possibly the easiest walkway I'd ever encountered. I wondered how I'd never noticed it from the bottom...? Once down it became obvious... it flowed into the lower spur as a low shelf... it did not look like the mouth of a cut. Who knew!?

    We were at the site of some old diggings across on the north side of the large spur... option was to descend back into Lost Trail South... or... ascend to Lost Trail. Checking out the old mines and assorted exceptional loose rocks, we wound up and around and were soon on the trail. By that time I'd decided to stage a RockHound Hike for this loop... rock was good. Little did we know; the best was yet to come!

    Looping around and down, at the prominent rock outcropping on the descending ledges, we entered Crinoid Heaven! I scored 50# of crinoid samples and could easily have lapped up 100's of pounds... quality fossils everywhere! I could not recall what name I might have given this point years ago... it is now Crinoid Point. Additionally, our new spur cut out of Lost Trail south: Darrel's Ledges. The Ridge High Point: Darrel's Point. Our descending bedrock cut is Darrel's Stroll. The overall loop: Darrel's Wrap!

    Darrel is very happy to have signed on for this day's interesting exploratory!
    Lost Trail Canyon: South Fork
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Finally hiked to the top of this exceptional Cut... far better than I would have ever imagined in the main fork. Earlier hikes always exited one of the side cuts... well worth it to stick to the main canyon and climb out the northern upper fork... right where Lost Trail starts (Ortega/Dry Traverse). Exited out Lost Trail...

    ...second in series of hiking from house... adds nice 5-9 miles to the day! Ross and Will along for this semi-exploratory route.
    Lost Trail Canyon: South Fork
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Big midweek turnout for the meetup hike, with a new hiker, so we altered the route... did a selection of ins and out and ups and downs... then, split the group and did a nice exploratory up Lost Trail Canyon N1. It was nice... and, we finally scored a Crinoid that included more than just the trunk section. Been looking for that.

    On top of the project work blended into the last months of the year... just got Jury Duty!! here it is for 90 days!!! I'm on till the end of the year. I'm not certain when I can increase the hiking to get back to a training level... may be after the first of the year??
    Lost Trail Canyon: South Fork
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Will and Ross out for exercise... we redirected our efforts up into the Lost Trail drainage... rains making the pooling in Ortega Canyons too much? We closed out up to Lost Trail using a north spur... lead up to a very nice dryfall formation with interesting strata... descended Lost Trail... then around on the road/trails.
    Lost Trail Canyon: South Fork
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    nice loop with Ross... then 2nd hit looking for some other hikers... did not find them.

    Ortega North is just a great canyon, and he exit loop using Ortega Ridge North above the huge dryfall was nice. We hiked the lower bench overlooking Lost Trail canyon south... and began wondering about the potentials up in that cut... oddly enough I have no memory beyond the lower dryfall... so: Wednesday: re-exploratory!

    Dead Air Day!!!!
    Lost Trail Canyon: South Fork
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Linking up the loop I walked today made me realize I need to add in a couple more descriptions to cover some of the route.

    Well... glitched my right knee.

    Thought I could walk it out, but no... so, I can hike, at less than one mile per hour, unless it involves any uphill; then I slow down.

    Guess the next week will prove interesting. Oddly enough, just yesterday I plugged a couple of mountain biking days each week into the Meetup.com Calendar of events. Migt need to add a few more?

    Seven progressive months without a hitch... then... boom.

    Interesting.

    Not the 7,000' AEG day I had in mind! :(
    Lost Trail Canyon: South Fork
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    The Wednesday double turned into a triple!

    Shared the peak hike with Terri and Brenda... then we looped back out (Terri and Bill) to enjoy the Marble Canyon...Quarry Canyon route to the top of the Marble Bluffs. From there, up to the old Gold Mine on the "A" Trail where we split up... I headed up to re-stage my trail tools and log some trail work hours... they headed down hill to close out their day earlier. Great weather! Nice routes. Trail getting better; nearly have it up to the "A" trail Bluffs.
    Lost Trail Canyon: South Fork
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Exploratory Monday
    Awake, then up around 3am... supposed to be Marble Madness Monday, but last week's Marble foibles were a bit more than I was in the mood for this morning... so, on the "A" at 5am... 43 degrees and shorts/T shirt felt ideal... though it was pitch dark out!

    After a nice warmup into a stiff headwind, I decided to explore the canyon I'd spotted yesterday: up Lost Trail Canyon South... it looked nice and simple. It was... but good, and that lead me on up to complete the ridge it was bisecting: Ortega Ridge North!

    I found myself criss-crossing the ridge time and again... great views down into Ortega North, siting the overly impressive dry fall formations I've hiked so many times... then back to check out the upper regions of Lost Trail Canyon South... which I may not have yet hiked?

    It was great! I have a new favorite Ridge Hike!!

    Eventually, up and on top of our Fraggle Rock... and I figured I should just keep it a Ridge Day, so on up to the Horse Ridge/Ortega Traverse... and on to Ortega Peak.

    I met up with Jim near the bottom of the "A"... was going to loop back up for more training, but knee felt a bit glitchy.

    All in all... a good day.

    Once again getting way behind on writing up Descriptions: Fissure-Leah's Lair, "A" Trail Survey, Michal's Traverse, Horse Ridge-Ortega Traverse, Ortega Ridge-North, Tub Rock Cut, and Six other canyons over in the Marble Drainage!

    To Hike or to Write... that is the question... :(
    Lost Trail Canyon: South Fork
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Saturday Training loop
    Drove over an hour early for this posted hike... and Brenda showed up right after I arrived! We enjoyed an interesting loop, including the mud and snow over in Dry Canyon. Ortega Peak nice... weather great... nice interlude with a small herd of elk on the north side of Hershberger Peak (Brenda thought she heard water running... I stopped and noted it was Elk passing below us through the snow... and sure enough, they soon emerged, rounding into the ridge/canyon at the top of Marble Canyon North.

    We stopped at the Fissure for awhile (likely longer down time than I noted) then took an end of day break at the old Gold Mine.

    These progressive Saturday training hits are about to step up into all day affairs with starts in the dark... oh, well!
    Lost Trail Canyon: South Fork
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Exploratory up Lost Trail Canyon, south fork... not what I was hoping for! It was overgrown, and lacked consistent bedrock to enjoy walking on. There was some. It also lacked nice towering sidewalls... lots of dirt sided cuts. But, it needed to be done. It was very nice once back over and coming down the North Fork... even though it was down more in the flats, there was a great blend of rock slab, vista, plant accents and nice falls to scramble around on. Just a couple of canyons left to check out in the Alamo area... but, there are still ridges to hike, and then I'll begin drifting out of town to the south...

    Permit $$
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    Directions
    Map Drive
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    Road
    Paved - Car Okay

    To canyon trip
    From Alamogordo's main drag (White Sands blvd) follow 10th street east to Scenic Drive. Turn north (left) on Scenic and follow it to Thunder Road, (Funeral Home and large Church on corners). Turn east (right) on Thunder Rd and follow it to the large city water tank on your left. Park next to tank and walk over and into drainage north side of tanks. If you want to avoid the steep bank walkdown, walk 10 yds east and loop around the trees, into drainage. Head up drainage past all the homes... past the canyon immediately north of homes (Ortega).
    page created by imike on Nov 10 2010 4:19 pm
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