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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.

Three Rivers Trail #44, NM

125 4 1
Guide 4 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List NM > Southeast
5 of 5 by 1
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance One Way 4.9 miles
Trailhead Elevation 6,436 feet
Elevation Gain 3,400 feet
Accumulated Gain 3,450 feet
Avg Time One Way 3.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 16.4
Interest Perennial Waterfall, Perennial Creek & Peak
Backpack Yes
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
13  2018-12-15 nobert15
42  2014-05-05
Three Rivers to Lookout Mountain 11580'
60  2013-10-04
Three Rivers to Lookout Mountain 11580'
10  2013-04-27
White Horse Hill 10255'
Author Jim_H
author avatar Guides 55
Routes 44
Photos 7,651
Trips 1,608 map ( 9,661 miles )
Age 40 Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Sep, May, Aug, Jul → 9 AM
Seasons   Late Winter to Early Winter
Sun  5:45am - 6:13pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
Finest of the Tularosa Basin
by Jim_H

Likely In-Season!
For as dry and alkaline as the Tularosa Basin is, the Sierra Blanca Mountains are a cool moist oasis. Volcanic in origin and nearly 12,000' (3 feet over 12,000 feet depending on your source) at their highest point, they are more alpine than desert and a stark contrast to the desert below. The Three Rivers Trail is probably the nicest trail to access the Sierra Blanca, and possibly the finest in the entire Lincoln National Forest trail system. You hike next to flowing water for nearly the entire length of the trail, and when you leave the water behind it is because you are climbing up to the Crest trail and through some very scenic sub-alpine grasslands.

The trail begins at the end of Three Rivers Road just beyond the regular campground. Passing by the group campground, you cross the creek and start up hill through some oak and juniper and then come back to hiking along the creek itself. Initially in ponderosa pine, you pick up Douglas-Fir and White Fir pretty quickly. Higher up, some of these trees are very impressive in size. The forest cover affords a great deal of shade. That and the smell of mixed conifers on a warm spring day is one of the great pleasures of this hike. Numerous creek crossing further in provide spots to filter water if you don't want to carry, and while there is the risk of the creek drying out, locals inform me that it never does.

Some of the more interesting highlights are water falls, or sections of water cascading over the exposed rock in the lower half, and the grassy slopes as you approach the Crest Trail. Wildlife is reports to abound in this area, and I saw a bear on my first hike here. It must have been use to people, as it could not have cared less about me after looking at me.

If you take this trail to it's end at the crest trail, but had no plans to continue on, you can rest at the saddle and enjoy some pretty remarkable views, or round out the hike with a short trip to the northwest and Whitehorse Hill, which is 10,255'. You can take the Crest trail to Ski Apache, or make other loops using some other local trails.

Please note that trail stats reflect the new guideline of one way statistics for a "trail". If you choose to connect to other trails, your hike will vary accordingly and your data should reflect this. If you choose to hike a round trip Whitehorse Hill Hike (my logical hike to a peak using this trail) it is about 12 & 1/2 miles and 3,800' round trip. Other options in the area exist.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2013-05-21 Jim_H

    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
    Three Rivers Trail #44
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Three Rivers to Lookout Mountain 11580'
    Of the three long hikes I did last Autumn, this was the one I did not repeat and I wanted to do again. It was a wait, but it was worth it, despite the high winds up high. It was also my first time at high altitude (>10,000') since my last hike here in early October. This was also a good fitness test hike for Santa Fe Baldy, which I hope to hike next week.

    The lower parts are always enjoyable with the flowing water, the smells of the pine and the bird calls in spring. After I left US 54 I saw and heard no one for the entire time I was out, until I got back to 54. This might be a beautiful area, but it is lonely.

    Higher up the smells transition to Doug and White Fir, and then Spruce and Elk, or their feces; hard to tell as they go hand in hand. I spotted several Elk, both in the upper end of the canyon and well below me in the same area as last fall. Evidence of herbivory is everywhere. I also saw what must have been a fox, not coyote, judging by it's tail, posture and huge ears, trotting across the ridge near the ski resort.

    It was cold and windy on top, but the views were pretty good. I never planned on Sierra Blanca today, but the south views would not have been that great anyway, as there was dust from the basin hazing things out. Lots of snow still on Blanca, and you can really see just how rocky that peak is, despite trees nearly to the summit on the NE aspect. If it were not so windy here, it might be covered in trees.

    Travel time was about the same as last time, but I started at 1125. Got back to my car at 805. It took me almost 5 hours to reach the top, but 15 minutes less than 4 to get down. Might have been faster, except my Altras are totally worn out.
    Three Rivers Trail #44
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Three Rivers to Lookout Mountain 11580'
    I thought this was going to be longer in mileage, but I am happy with the elevation gain. I trust the GPS, and the map elevation readings, but it didn't feel like close to 6,000'. I trust it.

    I started at 10 of 11 this morning. Even with the shutdown, I was able to park at the trailhead, as had numerous other vehicles. Wind was up slightly, but not too bad. I enjoyed the smell of the pines and the running water. It took longer than I thought it would to make the crest trail, close to 3 hours, but a lot of the elevation gain is made on this section.

    Rounding on to the Crest Trail and exposed to the wind, the hiking was harder, but not due to the trail. I encountered a flowing spring on the ridge, which is incredible given how high up it is. Flowing to a gallon+ per minute, I say.

    Much of the views from the Crest were destroyed by the Little Bear Fire in 2012, but it is still very scenic. The grass is lush, and some erosion has roughed things up a bit, but overall it is in good shape. Had it not been for the wind, and the grass and herbaceous vegetation bothering my legs and getting in to my shoes, this was my favorite stretch of trail. Well, except for the end.

    When you reach trail # 78, most of the hike is done, and in reality the real hike is up to this point. This may be the nicest of the hike. It has a Kendrick Mountain (Flagstaff) feel to it. The spruce is very nice, and the grass short and shady, for the most part. Very nice to walk on. Reaching the ski lift marks just about the end, and then it is a short hike up to the 11,580' summit, with a round wind break and views. I summited at 15:35.

    On this day, I started too late to do Sierra Blanca, and the wind was nasty enough that I wouldn't have wanted to summit. Views were pretty good, and dust wasn't up much at all. Up from Monday's flawless sky, but not bad considering.

    Hiking down went a lot faster than I thought. Then again, the hike was 3 miles shorter than I originally expected. I was down in 3 hours 38 minutes, total. Nothing impressive, but I thought I would be out later.
    Three Rivers Trail #44
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Finally... a decent day on the trail! Lungs a problem during the first hour, so Tim and Yubao went on ahead... I knew I did not want to drift above 10,000'... so did a loop around, some off trail... then down Dry Canyon. It was good... pulse up into the 150's... maybe I can train back up? Of course, I am now way out of shape!
    Three Rivers Trail #44
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    White Horse Hill 10255'
    A really nice trail in an area I'll have to spend more time. Hiked to the top of White Horse Hill using trail #44. I think this is preferable to Sierra Blanca, as I can access it from the valley, it isn't 20+ miles RT, and the hill is seldom visited. I think Blanca in summer sees a few visitors. Also, the hill is milder/ warmer. Good views all the same.

    I can't say enough positive about this trail and area. I even ran into a pretty big bear. It didn't seem to mind me, even after looking at me while I whistled at it. It ran away, which was good. It was my first sighting since Yellowstone in 2010, but really my first sighting since 2008 in Colorado. This was the closest I've ever come, 25 feet at most.

    Time spent on the trail went fast, but was really, really enjoyable. Lots of birds, and the mixed conifer forest smelled great. Reminded me a little of the Dry Lake Hills, but the river was flowing. Flowing water is something you don't see here very often. The river was really washed out, probably from the big run-off 3 years ago. It would be nice to see that thing roaring in a big snow melt. Perhaps 2014 will be a bumper winter?

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

    To hike
    From Las Cruces, NM, take I-25 from it's birth and split from I-10 and drive north briefly to US 70. Take US 70 east to Alamogordo and continue through Alamogordo on US 54/ 70 after US 70 is joined by US 54 coming in from El Paso, TX. Follow US 54/70 to the town of Tularosa and take the left exit or turn, continuing on 54 north after it splits from US 70, which proceeds up to Mescalero, NM. Drive on US 54 for just under 18 miles. As you approach the obvious volcanic hills to the east of the road, look for the sign for the Three Rivers Campground and Petroglyphs. Turn east onto the Three Rivers Road, also known as FR 579, and follow this road which turns to dirt and continues to it's end at the trailhead.
    page created by joebartels on May 21 2013 4:28 pm
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