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This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

Upper Wills Canyon Trail #9278, NM

no permit
11 2 0
Guide 2 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List NM > Southeast
3 of 5 by 2
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Difficulty 2.5 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance One Way 4 miles
Trailhead Elevation 9,447 feet
Elevation Gain -625 feet
Accumulated Gain 324 feet
Avg Time One Way 2 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 5.08
Interest Perennial Creek
Backpack Yes & Connecting
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
3  2012-07-16 FaithLake
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
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Preferred   Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep → Early
Seasons   ALL
Sun  5:51am - 6:00pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
Where Do I Start??
by imike

Likely In-Season!
Rising to nearly 9600', this trail reaches the highest elevations in this portion of the Sacramento Mountains, the highest point being an unnamed peak close by at 9,695 feet. The hike is yet another double track route down through an open meadow area, including a flowing stream in the lower section from Mauldin Springs. The forest service has constructed a new bridge to traverse the stream where Upper Willis Canyon Trail meets Hubbell Canyon Trail ( T9277). The trail terminates at it's junction with the Willis Canyon Trail (T5008) after a downhill hike of just under four miles.

The trail may be accessed directly from Forest Road 64, or from an intersection near the Trailhead for Hubbell Canyon Trail at it's upper end.

Upper Willis Canyon Trail is best used as a leg of a loop, connecting with a variety of possibilities. The area is a good choice for backpacking. The availability of water in the area, and numerous side canyons allow for longer stays and camping off and away from the main trails.

The area is filled with both conifers and aspen trees... nicely green in season, colorful in the fall.

Elk fill the area. Head out early or late in the day and you will encounter numerous herds. Deer and Turkey are common. Black Bears roam the ridges.

This is also an area in steady weekend use by ATV advocates. The trail is open to motorbikes and four wheel off road vehicles. Mountain biking, horse back riding and hiking are also allowed. The softly graded double track is best for the mountain bike. Come during the week and you will probably have the trail all to yourself.

The forest is often closed during fire season: May thru June, depending on conditions. Even if it is open, if you camp during those months be aware of the potential dangers and plan accordingly.

There is good car camping just off of Forest Road 64, and you will be close to the Sunspot Observatory with it's arrays and Visitor Center (complete with snacks and drinks!)

These high canyon trails, with their open, marshy meadows are filled with the remnants of the old railway lines, with rotting trestles and rock bound bed cuts. You can still gather bits of coal left lying around from the train activity.

What I particularly like about the area is that unlike similar meadow hikes over in Colorado, there will not be ten cars at every trail head, nor 20 other hikers out on the trails.

Cattle are free ranged in the area; purify any water used.

The trailhead orientation is the one most easily found, noted as an alternative leg of the trail in the local hiking guide book. If you choose to start at the higher, higher end, begin your hike at the trailhead for Hubbell Canyon Trail, or park at the easier to find point on FR 64, walk in, turn right and follow the trail up to the upper point.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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

2012-06-04 imike
  • Map Willie White
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    Map Willie White

One-Way Notice
This hike is listed as One-Way.

When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
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
Upper Wills Canyon Trail #9278
rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
Forest Rd 64 loops
Sitting at the Overlook... clear, warm day... cool breeze.

To kick off the summer series of hiking, I've outlined a schedule that gets me up the mountain three days each week. Saturday, I pack up then head over to the Habitat for Humanity site to log some hours (yesterday that included 5 hours of grouting tile...700 sq ft!) By noon, I log out and head up the hill pulling along the empty trailer.

Once up on top, I rest for awhile, allowing the sun to drop, then spend a few hours cutting cordwood. I cut and load a cord, this week including a number of rounds in excess of 200#. Combined with the labors at Habitat, it makes for a bit of exercise. It also sets me up for a nice early start on the next day's hike.

I enjoyed a near full moon evening, leaving the rain fly off of the tent to allow a clear view of the sky. I feel the effects of all that work, but ideally the hike will help work the stiffness back out... or not?

I chow down on a huge fritata... 11 eggs, 2 avocados, bell pepper, onion, corn meal, spices and parmesan cheese, all roasted together. That and a banana and a couple of apples the food for the day. I finished off the final bit of casserole around 9pm... read for awhile then go lights out.

Sunrise seems to come a bit slow... but finally I'm up and packed and driving over to the trailhead. I hit the trail before 7am. Early starts up here are not really necessary to avoid the heat, but they really serve to augment the wild animal encounters. I probably should have been an hour earlier.

Within ten minutes a turkey crosses the trail down ahead of me... too fast for a picture.

A few minutes later, camera now ready, I begin to encounter elk... first one... then 6... Then seven more... then another ten in various poses. They all move on across the meadow and up into the trees.

The trail I'm hiking (for the first time) is following the grade of an old railway line... installed for the removal of timber. I finally come across the rotting remains of an old collapsed trestle.

I think I spot a bear moving off way below me in the meadow as I hike the ridge portion of the trail. I'm not certain... some black legs moving off and away.

As I move through a more twisted section, very tree lined, I come upon yet another elk, this one with a small calf. I snap a picture and she stands, staring at me, then when I begin to walk towards her, she moves on around the bend. As I walk up and around the turn, I spot a carcass lying in the middle of the trail... then, I realize it is not a dead body, but the little calf elk, curled up in the middle of the trail... the mom no where in sight.

I walk up to the calf, noting it's breathing... and as I pause to snap a quick picture it looks up at me... but makes no attempts to get up or move away. This is the first time an elk has ever allowed me to get close enough to touch them... I'm not sure if this is part of a normal defensive strategy, like with turkeys, wherein they leave their young behind and try to draw you away...? I don't know. It is nice to list yet another up close and personal wild animal encounter.

It inspires thoughts of the old myths of animals presenting themselves to humans as sacrificial dedications... a willing participation to be the claimed prey.

I have no idea what is really happening in the moment, as in all my other wild animal encounters... they all remain a mystery.

The hike is pleasant but a bit duller after those moments.

I've checked the maps and there are over 50 more of these high elevation, meadow/canyon hikes scattered around the area. I guess I'll try to hike all of them this summer and fall... they make for a good break-in training now, after five months of little or no exercise... and, it will give me 50 more hikes to log and write about. Today was a two trail loop, connected back by Forest Road 64. All of the cordwood cutting this summer is on 64, around the 9000' level. High point today was a bit over 9400'. I logged just under ten miles and around 900' of climbing. The average grade is around 200' per mile... well below my normal 600-1000' per mile training hikes. Those will come later in the year.

It looks as if these meadow trails might make better routes for mountain biking... I'll have to start bringing one of those along on some of the days. Next week I'll haul up the little Acorn trailer and leave it up here for the next month. I will not have to break camp with it on site... just lock the door and head out for the trail.

Three hikes a week... it is a beginning.

Permit $$

Map Drive
FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

To hike
From Cloudcroft, follow state 130, 1.8 miles out to the Sunspot Highway, turn right and follow that road .2 miles past the milepost 13 marker. Turn left on to Forest Road 64, and follow that road 2.6 miles to the signed trail head on your left.
page created by imike on Jun 04 2012 6:22 pm
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