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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.

Water Canyon - Lincoln NF, NM

no permit
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Rated  Favorite Wish List NM > Southeast
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Difficulty 2.5 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance One Way 2.7 miles
Trailhead Elevation 9,460 feet
Elevation Gain -860 feet
Accumulated Gain 240 feet
Avg Time One Way 3 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 3.5
Interest Off Trail Hiking & Seasonal Creek
Backpack Yes & Connecting
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
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Preferred   Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep → Early
Seasons   Early Spring to Late Autumn
Sun  5:52am - 5:59pm
0 Alternative
It's Wet!!
by imike

Likely In-Season!
While most folks think of Water Canyon as the drainage area off the south side of the Old Sunspot Hiway Road, there is an entirely different perspective to be experienced. All you have to do is walk down off that roadway and traipse along the bottom of the drainage.

Before there was an Old Sunspot Hiway, slicing around the side of the ridges above the canyon bottom, there was an old logging road dredged along the bottom of the canyon, winding side to side, crisscrossing the stream. It is along this old route where the nicer trek is to be found.

It is odd that even though the newer road is just a short distance away, once you are down along the stream, you do not notice that intrusion. The effective portion of this canyon route starts at the lower end at the intersection with the Willie White Trail; at Telephone Canyon. From there, you wind up and around to Brown Canyon. Past Brown Canyon the drainage narrows into a near gully-like cut, and eventually, the trail comes to a halt at a rocky talus slope coming in from your right. At this point, you follow the trail up through the rocks to the Old Sunspot Hiway Road... but just for a short distance. As you walk along the road you can look immediately to your left and note the intersection of the Brown Canyon loop heading back along the far side of Water Canyon... above the gully cut and around into the trees. To access, cross the stream at the barb wire fence posts...

Continuing up canyon: Moving back into the stream bottom, allowing the hiway to move off and away to your right, you will once again enjoy the lush meadow cut of the canyon bottom... soon to be intersecting Deadman canyon, coming around and in on your left. If you follow Deadman Canyon you can connect directly up with FR 64, or connect to the Brown Deadman Loop (6409)... or, just follow Water Canyon on up, eventually branching away from the power poles (they follow the entire length of this canyon) to your left. This fork will carry you up to an old logging road on your left... or just stay in the canyon bottom and emerge onto FR64 at the top of the drainage.

If you are starting from the upper trailhead, which is nicer, simply head over to the metal bar barrier on your right at the marked 640B barriers... and then drop into the drainage on your left, anytime over the next .2 mile as you walk along this old logging road.

From the bottom, simply start at the Willie White Trailhead on Old Sunspot Hiway (5009)

Great hiking and great mountain biking... with lots of connecting potentials.

This one's a keeper!

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

2012-06-21 imike

    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 Reviews
    Water Canyon - Lincoln NF
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4

    The 64OB right hand logging road wound down and around for only .7 mile... but then allowed an easy sideways descent on down into Deadman Canyon... and another little bit on up Deadman and I was at the intersection with 6409. Since I had already hiked that connecting loop, I turned and headed down canyon, intersecting Water Canyon in less than half a mile.

    My thoughts had been on Cathey Canyon... one of the more prominently labeled on the maps... and the one having the named overlook off Sunspot Hiway at it's upper end... I knew I needed to hike it. I'd glanced down it from the upper roadway... it looked really dull: wide open cow pasture?

    My problem: I did not know where exactly it intersected Water Canyon. As usual... no map on hand... no real planning* to the day. I did know it was close. I headed down canyon checking side drainages on my left. None looked good; eventually I decided I'd have to approach the canyon from above... no way to make a mistake doing that... and, it would have to happen on another day.

    I'd had a slow start on the day... energy was not great. A simple walk up canyon back to the truck was in order. Then, walking around a curve on the Old Sunspot Hiway, I noticed a potential path leading up on to a bench above the canyon bottom that I thought was Cathey. I had not started up the cut earlier because it looked too steep and too overgrown. But... if I could ascend a side bench and walk it around into the canyon, ideally dropping into some of that more open, gentle meadow section... well... I'd score my new canyon hike.

    I got lucky... bench carried me up and around, and a nice Elk trail carried me ever higher. But... the drainage proved not to be Cathey Canyon. It was a side drainage that ridged out... and crossing the ridge I could see a nice meadow canyon beyond.

    Ah! I figured I was there. I walked along the ridge for a ways, then enjoyed yet another Elk hiway down into a most delightful canyon bottom. Closed in... shady... narrower than I imagined it would be. Was this Cathey Canyon? Over the next mile my mind picked off the petals of "...I think it is... and I think it is not"... carrying that indecision all the way to the top of the canyon. As I topped out on the ridge at Sunspot Hiway, I looked across: there was no overlook!

    It was not the right canyon.

    I walked 100' further up the ridge and gazed down into the upper meadows of the very familiar Cathey Canyon. I'd come up the drainage immediately to the north! Interestingly, it was a really nice canyon, far nicer than Cathey.

    I walked up and crossed the road to the Overlook... no longer overlooking anything. Forest Service has allowed the lower section to get so overgrown all you can see are the other cars parked in the parking lot.

    Well, now I could at least hike down Cathey and discover where it really did intersect with Water Canyon! Oddly enough, it turned out to be at the official trailhead for Old Sunspot Hiway Trail... directly across from Deadman Canyon. I'd seen the opening, filled with power lines and an old road I thought went up to the gravel pits above... nope... the ugly road cut going up and away was Cathey Canyon. It is ugly... now filled with pile after pile of cut trees and shrubs.

    I could now do a nice write up warning folks away from Cathey Canyon... and suggest they try to find the little hidden gem of a canyon I accidentally enjoyed.

    I walked up the south fork of Water Canyon, back to my car. I drove over to the fire tower lookout (Closed) and prowled around looking for my next little hiking potential. Instead I found a very nice, pleasantly hidden alcove to bring the little Acorn Trailer up for the next month. I'll set up a permanent camp, adjacent to the cordwood cutting area... and enjoy a more relaxed pattern for the coming month or so. I plan to be up here three or four nights weekly. Though it only takes 15 minutes to setup and take down camp with the tent, the idea of having the trailer during the wetter monsoon weeks has appeal. It also makes it nicer when friends drop over to share some hikes. The spot is deeply shaded and not too far off road.

    Home Away from Home for the next set of hiking days...

    *on that issue of planning: my idea of effective planning is to have given some thought to where I might begin hiking... and maybe thought about what direction I might head. I do not think to carry along a map... I do not bother to study a map or hike description prior to the hike. I like to hike, so it is enough to just have a beginning point to engage... and let the rest fall where it might... since I hike solo, this process does not endanger or even inconvenience anyone else. It does likely mean there will come a time when I give over to accident or age, and no one will have the slightest idea where to look for the body... and that is fine, too. I don't think I'd be any good at changing. Maybe a Spot device in 2014?
    Water Canyon - Lincoln NF
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Birds, Bees, Butterflies, Bear and Bull Elk!

    Exceptionally nice to have the cool morning air, but even if it were warmer out, the cut of the trail would have kept me walking in deep shade. Winding around the western edge of the ridges is ideal morning routing. On one of the earlier curves I came in sight of the rear end of an elk... grazing with his head down and away from me. I walked softly to within about 20 yds, then turned on the camera. The buzz caused him to lift his head and turn towards me... big rack of antlers! Hopefully, I got that full face shot. (Can't tell on my camera until later; view screen has not worked since that fall down the waterfall last year!)

    More curves... more elk... lots of bull elk. They'd move on aways, then bugle or honk a complaint.

    I moved around the old logging road track, splitting off and down towards Water Canyon... the idea to traverse around to Telephone Canyon if all went well.

    It did!

    At the far end of the lower leg of 6411, where the road bed deadended, the elk trails began. I followed them down and around into the lower section of Telephone Canyon, dropping bench to bench and finally into the lower meadow area, intersecting Willie White Trail just as it began it's trek up Telephone. The Elk did good! In many respects, their trails were nicer than those official tracks maintained by the Forest Service!

    One down, I decided to hike up Water Canyon. The official route is 5009, the Old Sunspot Hiway... but, the canyon bottom had long ago held a logging road, and it promised a more interesting route than the open, exposed old hiway. I was not 100 yds into the up canyon walk when I sited a potential side canyon trail. I am constantly on the lookout for these old cuts; they tend to lead to very interesting mini-adventures.

    I stopped and started to eyeball the trail line up the side of the opposite hill. At the first bunch of brushes obscuring the thin trail I noted the observer was being observed. A Black Bear was tucked in behind the shrubbery watching me. I watched him back. He watched, me watched, we watched. After a time I broke the stalemate with some idle chatter, assuring him I was headed up Water Canyon... and I apologized for interrupting his drinking interlude. He ambled on up trail, away from me. I did the same from him. I need to go back and check out that trail, sans bear.

    I was two hours into my hiking day as I worked my way up along the little stream that irrigates most of the length of the canyon. It was interesting. The hot air rising on the ridges was causing a down draft of cold air, hitting face on as I worked my way up the drainage. It was cooler than it had been at 5am!

    To hike Water Canyon on those lower trail as opposed to the upper road cut is an entirely different experience. It is the way to do this canyon.

    The bird life... the flowers... the butterflies... the soft gurgle of water. I found myself stopping, sitting and soaking in the moments. I thought about the issue of solo hiking, and could not imagine not getting to enjoy these moments... and pondered just how much non-solo hiking was a reasonable balance...?

    I passed Brown Canyon then Deadman Canyon... both reasonable alternatives for looping back to the car, but I wanted to check out the alternative southern fork of the upper Water Canyon. If there was a way to avoid the upper section, directly adjacent to the old hiway it would be nice. I got lucky... the south cut was an open meadow leading right up to one of the old logging roads... a greatly improved access to this wet canyon area.

    All in all... a very nice morning outing. Now, it any of the pictures will have turned out....?

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

    To hike
    From Cloudcroft, take state road 130 out of town 1.8 miles, to the Sunspot Hiway (6563) and follow it to milepost 13, turning left onto Forest Road 64. Follow this road just a short distance (.3 mile?) and look for the metal swing pole barriers on your left... marked 640B... park here... take off down the barricaded road on the far right. Drop into the drainage to the left of that old road within the next .2 mile.
    page created by imike on Jun 21 2012 11:47 am
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