|Guide||♦||27 Triplogs||1 Topic|
Sacramento Mountain Rim Walk
LINCOLN NATIONAL FOREST
The Sacramento Mountains district of the Lincoln National Forest is located in the Southeast section of New Mexico between the Tularosa Basin to the west and the Pecos River Basin to the East. Cloudcroft is the largest town along Highway 82 at the crest of the mountains. Up between 8 and 9000 feet, this is a perfect summer getaway or an excellent area for winter sports. The forests are composed of Douglas Fir, Ponderosa pine, Aspen, and Oak. There is a wide range of wildlife, including Deer, Elk, and Bear. Cloudcroft is a popular recreational site for many kinds of activities, including camping and hiking. There are over 100 miles of hiking trails within 30 miles of Cloudcroft, many of which are along old logging roads, railroad grades, and existing old trails. Views from the ridges of the Sacramento Mountains over the Tularosa Basin are superb, assuming the weather conditions permit.
RIM TRAIL #T105
The Rim Trail #T105 north end is near Cloudcroft, and its south end 32 miles later is along the Sunspot Highway/Sacramento Canyon Road (NM6563). This is a multi-use trail and allows bikes and motorcycles. Since it does not include wilderness areas, pets are allowed. Sections of the route are along actual trails and other sections along old jeep, logging roads, or railroad grades. This trail traverses the Sacramento ridge, and therefore views over the Tularosa Basin are at many points along the trail. The first approximately 14 miles are designated a National Recreational Trail under the 1968 National Trails System Act. The Sunspot Observatory is about 19 miles in and has spectacular views over the Tularosa Basin and the White Sands. The observatory used for solar research is open to the public but check the website for hours. Even if not going on a tour, the nearby grounds have some great viewpoints. The trail continues along the ridge another 14 miles and ends at a nondescript location along the Sacramento Canyon Road (NM6563) along the Sacramento River. From the start near Cloudcroft to the end, the elevation drop is almost 1200 feet, but the AEG is close to 5400 feet. Besides being a long scenic trail, the Crest Trail #T105 can be used as a connector trail to the half dozen or so trails heading down the western slopes of the Sacramento Mountains. There are also many connecting points to the trail along the Sunspot Highway, so one does not have to start at either end. This trail is listed as a 3.5 in difficulty, but if done in short sections, it could be considered a 2.
The Rim Trail #T105 northern trailhead is along the Sunspot Highway at the Slide Group Campground 0.1 miles from the Junction with the Cox Canyon Highway (130). Parking is along the highway, not the Campground, or there is a fee. The first 3 miles is along a wide easy to follow trail that drops about 300 feet as it traverses the upper reaches of Haynes Canyon. One section of this trail where it heads directly west along a long switchback has great views over Haynes Canyon and White Sands in the Tularosa Basin. The Trail climbs up 600 feet to a ridge that separates the Haynes Canyon watershed from the Nelson Canyon watershed. On this ridge (4.7 miles), the trail crosses over FR636, and at 5.8 miles, the trail begins to parallel the Sunspot Highway. This is a good access spot along the trail; the dirt Forest road FR636 can be used for parking. This is Rim Trail Parking 3, which is 3.2 miles in on the Sunspot Highway.
The trail is fairly level along the upper reaches of Nelson Canyon, gaining then drops 100 feet. At about 6.7 miles in is Nelson Vista, there is a faint trail that leads to the vista. From Nelson Vista, a trail leads to the Sunspot Highway, which is about 0.2 miles away and is a good spot to catch the trail, although it is not listed as one of the Rim Trail Parking areas. At 7.5 miles in is a trail junction with a sign indicating that the Rim Trail Parking 4 is 0.25 miles. This parking area is 4.5 miles in on the Sunspot highway. The trail now makes a 400-foot climb and crosses over Sawmill Canyon, Tributary of Nelson Canyon, and then FR634 at 9.2 miles. Once past FR634, the trail enters the Karr Canyon watershed crosses Karr Canyon Road at 10.5 miles and a half-mile later Alamo Peak Road and Rim Trail Parking 5. Alamo Peak Road is 6.2 miles along the Sunspot Highway. I preferred the Karr Canyon Road for trail access. In this section of trail from FR636, Rim Trail Parking 3 to Rim Trail Parking 5 Alamo Peak Road, there are some great views of Sierra Blanca Peak to the north near Ruidoso. Views over the Tularosa Basin are all along this section of trail when not obscured by trees. This is about the third-way point along the trail at 11 miles in.
The next section of trail from Alamo Peak Road to just past Sunspot Observatory is about 10 miles long. The trail follows right along the rim, so the views over Tularosa Basin are good. The trail is set back from the Sunspot Highway, so access points are limited until near Catheys Vista, 12.4 miles in on the Sunspot Highway. This section of trail crosses over two major watersheds, the Alamo and Andres Canyons. There are 4 trails that head down the west side of the rim to the West Side Road FS90 along this section. About 20 miles in along the Rim Trail is the Sunspot Observatory, the highest point along the trail at about 9600 feet, and multiple viewpoints over the Tularosa Basin and White Sands. This section has a bit more AEG because it goes up and down about 500 feet twice. It is also probably the most scenic as it travels through some pretty dense old-growth forest of Douglas Fir Trees. If planning a loop hike from Catheys Vista to the Sunspot Observatory, it is worth taking the Cathey Canyon Trail #T105A on the return.
The final section from Apache Point Road near the Sunspot Observatory to the end of the Rim Trail #T105 along the Sacramento Canyon Road NM6563 (Sunspot Highway) is 11 miles. The trail starts a 1500 foot descent over the next 11 miles crossing over 7 peaks that each requires a 2 to 3 hundred foot climb. A good portion of this trail is along old logging roads or jeep trails and can be a bit rocky. As with the other sections, the views over the Tularosa Basin are great, assuming the weather conditions are right. This trail is set back a bit from the Sunspot Highway, so access points are limited. Other than the Apache Peak Road at the Observatory and the end of the trail at 22 miles along the Sacramento Canyon Road, the only other access point is the West Side Road FS90 at 21 miles in along the Sacramento Canyon Road NM6563. From the West Side Road, FR90 access to the Rim Trail can be done via the Moonshine Trail T90V.
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.
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.