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Worth the Drive!
If you are looking for a tree shrouded getaway, fully off trail yet readily available and easy to hike, complete with a compliment of higher altitude, this might be the hike for you.
This canyon is hidden on the west side of the lake, just up from the dam.
I use this canyon cut as a shortcut off of the Rim Trail, creating loops back and around to my car parked at either West Side Road or over by Apache Observatory, but you could just as easily park at Sacramento Lake, taking advantage of their large paved parking area, and walk immediately over and up into this great drainage. The walking is easy: a clearly defined elk trail runs the length of the canyon, but even without that track, the bottom is meadow smooth. The grade is gentle. Towards the top you will encounter an old logging track that you could follow to make your own interesting loops connecting around to other adjacent canyons... or, connect with the Rim Trail. Better yet, just spend your time in this canyon; it will not get better!
It is nice to top out, cross the Rim Trail and take in the nice overview of the Tularosa Basin, with White Sands lying far below.
Note: from the parking area for the lake, walk west towards the edge of the paved area, looking for the hikers gate. Move through the opening, down the hill, across the dam to the far side of the Sacramento basin. Turn right and follow the tree line up to the first canyon on your left. Close the wire gate after you enter the canyon bottom!
Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.
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.