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Ortega Canyon South, NM

no permit
201 2 0
Guide 2 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List NM > Southeast
5 of 5 by 1
Canyons are inherently risky. Flash floods occur without notice on sunny days. Technical skills & surrounding topography knowledge required yet does not eliminate risk.
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Difficulty 4 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance One Way 3.3 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,607 feet
Elevation Gain 2,800 feet
Accumulated Gain 3,100 feet
Avg Time One Way 6 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 13.63
Interest Off Trail Hiking, Seasonal Waterfall & Seasonal Creek
Backpack Connecting Only
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
editedit > ops > dogs to adjust
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
19  2013-12-22
Quarry Canyon
Author imike
author avatar Guides 253
Routes 0
Photos 6,930
Trips 2,467 ( 21,513 miles )
Age 69 Male Gender
Location Cloudcroft, NM
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Apr, Mar, Oct, Nov → Any
Seasons   Early Autumn to Late Spring
Sun  5:46am - 6:11pm
0 Alternative
Oh, So Very Nice!!
by imike

Hidden Gem would be an understatement for this best of Canyon class for Alamogordo drainage hikes. With the mouth of the canyon hidden away among the surrounding housing development (...yes, you will be entering and crossing private property to begin this hike!) there is little indication that this drainage will offer up anything nice.


I was! While not as broad and dramatic as some of the adjacent Marble Canyon drainages, this one compensates with rock... lots of rock. For the most part, you will be hiking on slanted bedrock for all three sections of the canyon, if you take it that far. And, the rock textures are varied and intriquing.

The first section snakes you around and into a narrow defile, terminating in a terraced fall formation. For many this would be the end of the hike, and well worth it if that is all there was. Better option: turn around and return to the first side drainage coming down and in from the north. This is an easily scalable climb that will carry you up to the ridge dividing North and South Ortega Canyons. Follow it along, enjoying the views down into the canyon. The downview of the waterfall is impressive.

Moving above and beyond the waterfall, You will notice a large cavatation off the sidewall on the other side of the canyon. There are some fairly easy downclimbs at this point. Make your way back down and into the floor of the canyon and hike downstream towards the fall. You will encounter yet another smaller waterfall that can be downclimbed on the southern edge. It would not be a bad idea to add a rope into that manuever, just for safeties sake. From there, you can hike further down to the lip of the big waterfall.

Again... this could be the end of your hike for the day... or...

Hike up drainage, enjoying the rock. The canyon soon begins to lose some of the grotto like narrow defile, and opens up, with more and more shrubbery obscuring the route, finally terminating in yet another ledged waterfall. You may exit the canyon on the north side in a variety of places, moving on up into the upper canyon section. I chose to instead enjoy the hike down Ortega Ridge, reviewing the canyon and noting a variety of side drainages worthy of checking out on another day. The upper basin which terminates at the foot of Ortega Peak appears to be overgrown.

An easy alternative for a return loop, if you go all the way up to the top of the canyon, would be to hop onto T119, The "A" trail, following it back down into town.

The place to park for this hike is at the first set of City Water Tanks at the edge of the lower housing development. The canyon really begins next to the upper tanks, but the narrow road is not conducive to good parking and since you will be crossing private property to begin the hike, best to walk the short distance up the road from the lower tanks.

Check out the Triplogs.

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2011-12-06 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 of 19 deeper Triplog Reviews
    Ortega Canyon South
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Great Canyon Loop... hiked the lower section and the Middle Canyon. Enjoyed some inner canyon looping, then exited MJ's Traverse over past the "A" Bluffs and on to the "A" Trail. Enjoyed a brief stopover at the old drilled Gold Mine (top of Quarry Canyon). Everyone declined to venture into the Bluffs Cave... snakes? Better enjoyed on a cooler day... as would be to tag on Leah's Lair. 5.5 Hours of easier paced hiking with frequent rest breaks. Ross, Mary, Darrel, Lewis and Stacey!
    Ortega Canyon South
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    Fourth month of the progressive canyon series was less progressive yet still very appreciated. last minute changes yielded seven hikers for this bit of up down/in out... and the shorter day seemed well enjoyed by everyone. Lisa will hopefully come again... and next time bring along more than a pint of water in a waist pack with no food! I gave her three qts of energy drink to carry her day; she did great! I was in the final stages (I hope!) of my first head cold since 1994... a bit dingy with the low grade fever... but it was a much easier day... on mileage and elevation... and no demanding climbs.

    A good day.

    Next month... back to harder!
    Ortega Canyon South
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    First loop with Alena... drove over from El paso. Big emphasis on fossils today.

    Second loop with Rebecca and her one year old son... Will and his six year old... Lynda, John, Kathryn.

    12 hours door to door for me... so odd... in the summer I was frustrated to not hit 12,000' with that many hours (...16 hours!) and now I log only 3,000'!!

    Terri back tomorrow... start in on real training? The knee seems to be good, but until I stress it with some serious mileage, I will not really know.
    Ortega Canyon South
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Aleana drove over from El Paso... her first time to hike here. Emphasis on photos for her, and looking for more difficult hikes. So, did a sampler loop. She will be back for more.

    Displaced my training day; I need to get back on schedule with that!

    Heading back up to explore the Cave on Friday; see if there is more to it than initially appears...
    Ortega Canyon South
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    no one signed up for this first of series canyon traversing hikes, so I diverted a couple hours over to re-routing and improving the traversing sections... the really nice augment: connected the section from Ortega South, middle above the lower dryfall, to Jim's Cut.. and across "A" Ridge North and down into Terri's Cut right above the middle falls where Terri's Traverse connects over from the "A" trail. So... now we have a great route that allows easy access across three canyons and all the connecting ridges.

    These "minor" canyons (rising into the 6,000' levels as opposed to 7,000'+ of the major cuts) make for great intermediate level hikes... as does just hiking the big cuts to about that level. Nice to not have to do in/out routes...

    It will be interesting to see just how many different connecting lower loops we can develop from all these lower traverses. Terri is back next month; perhaps start a weekly series based on just that?

    Light rain... but hopefully it will clear by 3pm for the Beginner's Hike over in the Alamo Canyon drainage.
    Ortega Canyon South
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Earlier start was nice.. need to remember to pre-pack to get out the door with momentum. Light rain midday... had to stop and slice off the pants legs (too hot!) "A" trail staying in reasonably good shape; makes me wonder why it was in such poor condition for the last 20 years! I can not see letting it get that bad again.

    Hope to quit driving to trailheads and get back to walking from home like in 2011.
    Ortega Canyon South
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Early start was lessened by too little sleep... I'd planned to log longer hours but I couldn't reach the cached water on Ortega Peak, so I headed back down early. Ran into Jim just above the trailhead; he was just headed out at noon, up into the heat I was happy to be getting out of.

    More sleep... more fluids... longer hours: all goals for JUne?
    Ortega Canyon South
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    The day was planned as a sample hike day, ideally like what I hope to be my every day outing through June. I awoke early, but a bit before 4am it just looked socked in over the mountain... too oppressive to head out. I did odds and ends and hit the trailhead belatedly at 5am. The extra time allowed me to recall that this would be a Memorial Day hike.

    So: Camo pants and shirt... field boots. MRE. 1/2 gallon chocolate milk. 1/2 gallon OJ. 20 oz Prune Juice. Monster Energy drink. Gallon of HOH. Crutch.

    Finding a nice rock slab around 10:30am I reflected on the day. I thought of the uncle I never met... the uncle I was named after. My mom's brother who forever will reside in the bottom of the bay in Hawaii among the ruins of the Arizona. I've lived thrice his short years. I'm not sure what thoughts would serve as a worthy memorial to his sacrifice.

    The Monster drink powered the initial hours of the day...

    The MRE: cheesy egg with veggies, crackers, salsa verde... apple drink. I skipped the scone and apple butter... saved the milk shake. I downed the prune juice waiting for the entree to heat up. I slipped into a pancho when the light drizzle started. I wrote some journal notes.

    I cached the water. I carried the oj back down the hill.

    I'm hiking with a crutch, but as was noted on the last few group outings: my slow is faster than most folks fast. It's still slow and I avoid the steeper section up to Ortega Peak. I log hours. I score AEG. June might be an odd AEG record month for me. You'd think that would come with full and healthy function. I think it may come through the plodding of hours? A month of slow and steady... and long? Maybe.
    Ortega Canyon South
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Terri's Friday group (with no more Terri!) has dwindled down to Cathy! Ross joined in for this group outing with speculation about whether or not to do the second phase of the hike. Cathy had time restraints, so I adjusted the route to include the exceptional lower section and the best of the middle section. Then, I began looking for a possible connecting traverse route to allow for a more varied descent. Low and Behold: it was right there! We were able to catch not only the very best of the middle section dry falls in Ortega South, but all of the best of Jim's Cut! That made for an exceptional loop and the shortened route allows for an easy paced return to the cars in time for their noon bridge games.

    I am moving the Friday outings to 7am starts. Nicely hazy this morning so the heat was not too great of an issue, but folks were seeking out the shady rocks for the rest breaks.

    The new traversing route credits to Cathy... as might this loop in general. Done in reverse it could make an exceptional in/out hike to score the huge dryfall section in Ortega South without having to do the killer Ortega Ridge section.

    lots of hours not to score much AEG... but, exceptional settings!
    Ortega Canyon South
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Not paying attention hiking before sunrise... walked over into the wrong canyon! Provided a good reason to explore options for traversing up and over, finally getting into the right canyon... and heading up Jim's Cut... it was nice!

    Explored more cave options at the Bluffs... then back down to meet Bill... for a trip up Terri's Cut. Today included Terri clearing all the upper Class II climbs! Nice!!!

    Back up exploring the west side caves in the Bluffs... then over to Leah's Lair... full descent with Terri confirming the hot airflow coming out of the lower cave entry. Today there was no wind; something is generating hot air?!!

    Skipped the trail work... home early. Exceptional weather!

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    Paved - Car Okay

    To canyon trip
    From Alamogordo's main drag, White Sands Blvd, proceed East up 10th Street to Scenic Drive. Turn North on Scenic and go to the next main intersection (Note the Funeral Home and large church on your right). Turn East (Thunder Road) and drive through and immediately past the housing development, parking just past and next to the City Water tank on your left. Walk up the road to the mouth of the canyon.
    page created by imike on Dec 06 2011 12:39 pm
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