Just Gotta Like Cliffs!
The broad Basin on the east side of Alamogordo has three distinct drainages: to the North, all of the cuts pour down from Beeman Ridge. On the South, the canyons drain the lower reaches of Ortega Peak. In the middle, the Lost Trail canyons and ridges flow down and out.
The long ridge formation that divides the Beeman Ridge flows from the Lost Trail flows forms both Dark Mesa and Dark Mesa Peak.
This cliff topped feature is formed with the Dark Mesa at the lower elevations...with the Dark Mesa Peak standing out well above and further back up into the Basin.
Visible when hiking any of the areas south of the ridge, it juts out with an inviting sense of mystery. The dark cliffs suggest some hiking drama… and challenge? You just want to go up there and see what is happening.
Oddly enough, once there you realize that you’ve been there before...
...or at least very near there.
Mineral Springs Trail(#5579) accesses the ridge top, crossing a pass in the lower section that gives direct connection to the Dark Mesa itself. As that trail winds up and away from the roadbed, and around to the south side of the big hill, away from the Beeman Ridge drainage, all you have to do is turn right when you reach the narrowing cut before the Water Tank. You will soon be walking the edge of the cliffs overlooking the Lost Trail drainages. You will be on top of the Dark Mesa.
Continuing back onto the Mineral Springs Trail, up and past the Springs, you will climb steeply up and over to a second pass… and there, again turn right following a clear use trail up to Dark Mesa Peak.
Neither the Dark Mesa nor the Peak offer more than a few pleasant moments of hiking diversion. The true value in taking the time to enjoy the bit of exploration it takes to reach either may be the overviews they offer of the surrounding areas. From both areas you will have a clear perspective on the many area trails... most of them old Jeep tracks. Those routes and their positions relative to the canyons becomes clear... it makes it well worth the effort to get on top of these cliffs.
The section of the ridge that forms these features lies mostly between 5200' and 5700' elevation. Your real mileage and AEG will depend on what portion of the area you decide to explore.
And then, when you gaze up towards those dark cliffs in the future... you'll no longer wonder.
Note: Mineral Springs Trail loops away from the old jeep bed and winds around the west and south side of the big hill below the water tank and Springs... of late, most hikers are simply following the road bed all the way up, which moves around the north and east sides of the hill. If you approach using that route, simply turn right at the water tank, following the “real” trail down and around to the connecting point.
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.