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Cave Canyon, NM

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Rated  Favorite Wish List NM > Southeast
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Difficulty 3.5 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance Round Trip 1.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,815 feet
Elevation Gain 980 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,050 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 2 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 6.75
Interest Off Trail Hiking
Backpack Possible - Not Popular
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
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Preferred   Mar, Nov, Oct, Apr → Any
Seasons   ALL
Sun  5:48am - 6:07pm
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Enter At Your Own Risk!
by imike

If you are taking in the sites as you start up Alamo Canyon Trail (t104) it is hard not to notice and begin to wonder about the dark slot high up in the cliffs to the north. It appears to be an opening cut out of the rock face with a narrow trench falling away below.


It is.

The approach appears to be a terrible bushwhack up a narrow defile, with unclimbable cliffs below the cave.

It is not.

If you make the entry into the first side canyon heading up towards those cliffs (less than .2 miles from the trail head parking) you will think you are in for a less than fun push through overgrown shrub and cacti…

…crossing the old Alamo city water pipe, rusting away across the cut, you push past a few odd shrubs… and then… a trail!

Cutting to the right up the side of the wash, a very nice trail carries you up and on to the bench that divides the two drainages that comprise Cave Canyon.

You could hike up the bottom of that second drainage, but with this very nice trail access there is no reason to make that more difficult effort. Stay with the trail up to the saddle. At the saddle, hike over and look down into the lower portions of Pock Rock Canyon. Then, follow any of a dozen game grazing paths up to the bottom of the canyon slot.

You will note a large chock rock at the mouth of the slot… it blocks your passage. Simply move around to your right to access the next level up, moving up the eastern cut. Once to the base of the cliffs immediately above, move back into the slot to your left. From there it is a steep scramble up to the cave. It may be a bit overgrown.

Once at the cave… at present there is a six foot high ledge, overhanging, that has to be scaled to enter.

Note the sign painted on the cave wall, complete with skull and crossbones: “Enter Here At Your Own Risk”… take heed: beyond this point may lie monsters.

This is not really a canyoneering hike, yet its steep grade (averages 1400’ per mile!) and the nature of the upper section makes it more like moving through that more difficult setting. If you go high on this hike take care.

The eastern drainage continues on up a few hundred feet higher than the cave level… providing access to The Mesa and possibly a connecting loop over to Pock Rock Canyon.

This shorter outing gives you a great workout and impressive vista views. It is worth the effort.

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

2013-11-16 imike
    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 of 14 deeper Triplog Reviews
    Cave Canyon
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    following up on a lead... and checking out a long planned route, my first day back out doing an exploratory hike yielded both a new cave and a successful ascent up through the cliffs to Alamo Ridge. The west portion of the Dark Cliffs also showed positive promise for a north side canyon route up to the Picnics. All the time lost to jury duty and a busted foot has created some minor issues, but it was a good day out!

    Side spurs n4, n5, n6 finally resolved... now need to check the cave up below the Roundup Cliffs... and the full canyons: Alamo Gap... Blind Cut. Way down on the list: the slot up at the top of N5? Too much to do!
    Cave Canyon
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    finally... made it above the lower dryfalls!

    Ross and I headed up the west cut, and ascended the nice climbing section to below the dark cliffs... or at least he did. Just below the upper lip I failed to make the lateral move across and up... odd in that I've used this section to teach and practice climbing for years. On this day. a no go. Not sure if it relates to the fall I took a few days ago that messed up my balance, or just a bad acro day for me? After some additional dumb moves I finally made it up and we proceeded to the top of the lower cliffs.

    The walk around their edge was beyond nice... we could gaze over the lips of the three primary falls and look out and across the high vistas above the Alamo Canyon drainage. All good.

    We could not spot any access up and through the next layer of cliffs. The west dryfall was our target. I'd looked at that upper canyon from the Roundup Grounds and thought I'd spotted nice bedrock. We like bedrock... but with no direct and safe climb it looked as if we'd check out the cuts to the east then decide how to make our way up to the next level.

    Same situation on the second Picnic Falls... cliffs blocking the next level pourover. Again, great rim lip views.

    The hike around the top of the cliffs to the third big Falls proved really short; never realized they were clustered so closely together. We walked the top of the dark cliffs and found no good up/down spot...

    ...but, we got lucky in the canyon cut above the East Fall...the cliffs turned and became the west side towering sides to the canyon. We were not immediately blocked. We headed up the cut.

    I did not have high expectations for this canyon. I expected the good stuff to be over in the west cuts. Upper Picnic is composed of the three main branches, each with a dramatic lower Dryfall... and each then splitting and re-splitting as it makes its way up the south side of the Mesa-Hershberger Ridge. The plan for this day was to get up and around the top of most of the cuts to figure out what was really up there and if any of them were good. The initial hike to the top of the lower falls was good... even with my problems climbing.

    Not too far up the East canyon we got a very pleasant surprise... bedrock walkway with a dramatic rock ledge hangover tenting the walk for quite some distance. We could nearly touch this roof and the 15' width was impressively wide for our area. It made the day.

    Above this section the sidewalls turned to dirt and we came to our first upper split. Neither branch looked all that inviting, but since our goal was to loop around to the better canyon to the west, we chose the left fork. Working our way over a substantial side cavitation, complete with large tree, we were pleased to reach bedrock on the far side. Steeply tilted bedrock...

    ... and enjoying that... at each and every turn we were gifted with more of the same. It did not end! Bedrock StairMaster just kept climbing... steepest and possibly our longest section of bedrock canyon in the area. And, this was complimented with great side canyon cliff formations and ever expanding distant vistas. Ross felt it was/is the best canyon he's hiked in the area.

    Topping out that cut... we moved West to discover the smaller and less dramatic middle canyon. It splits off with it's western branch climbing well beyond and above our entry canyon... and it's eastern branch running up to saddle into the great bedrocked cut we had enjoyed coming up. We crossed the middle and descended the ridge to access the far west cut down at the top of the blocking cliffs. We had spotted a cleft from below that gave some promise of up/down access... and sure enough it did cut all the way to the top. We left close inspection for another day... and moved over to the top of the dryfall in the west cut...

    ...only to discover no bedrock!

    This canyon was a rock pile jumble... maybe interesting scrambling if our expectations had not been so high... and then raised with the entry canyon... but in the moment, not good. At this point, it was time to cut and exit. We opted for a nasty rough bushwhack up to the Mesa... then a loop around and down Alamo Ridge.

    The consideration now is to get back up in there and find a good exit route... one that will not distract from the great hike up that Bedrock Monster... or better: one that will add to it. The prospects: one of the 3-4 remaining upper spurs... or, the ridge to the East (Split Ridge).

    The hike wasted me... massive leg cramps in the evening, totally expected. Tired today... but, sort of thinking about heading back up and in this weekend. It was really nice!

    I need to process the pics... doubt if they'll do the areas justice.
    https://plus.google.com/photos/11748554 ... 5973151345
    Cave Canyon
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    posting this hike I realize I never did the write up for Alamo Ridge, PockRock Clffs and Ross's Cut... not sure how to put those into the proper perspective; that might be why they had not been written up...? Above Alamo Point there are the lower Alamo Bluffs... part of Alamo Ridge... then there is the ridge proper which runs up to connect to The Mesa. In the Bluffs: Broken Buttresses, Ross's Cut, Pock Rock Cliffs, and the Hidden Slot... and the Cave with it's upper and lower entries.

    Great to have new Trailhead signs in Alamo Canyon!
    Cave Canyon
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    John drove up from El Paso... Jody and Rosario along for the day. Cool temps with light rain made everyone very happy! The shorter south loop lacked the nice scrambles of the north cut... but, the exit down Cave Ridge, over Cave Peak (scored a lucky downclimb cleft through those cliffs)...down Ross's Route and up to the Cave... great finish to this loop. Over too soon!

    Good group.. great day. Early finish.

    I started to drive over to add Ortega Peak into my afternoon... but then decided that I should not overdo since I have a timed ascent scheduled for tomorrow. Once home I realized that today is Saturday... not Sunday. I only have weeny easy hikes tomorrow. So, maybe I'll head back out later today?
    Cave Canyon
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    Well... this is the first Sunday 2pm hike that had none of Terri's Friday group... and very few others! Paul showed for the start... Ross was along (...knowing I'd haul the laddder to the Cave?)... and Cindy drove over from Las Cruces!? The one nice thing: I could blend the hike and post hike hike into a single event! We hit Alamo Point then immediately headed around on the new route to check out PockRock Canyon. Ross glanced up into the Cleft... and was looking as if he'd enjoy hitting that today. Then, looping around, grabbing the old ladder, we headed up Ross's Route to access the slot canyon to the Cave.

    There now resides an access ladder for those who wish to rob themselves of the mystery of the inner cave...

    From there... we checked out the brim ledge to confirm it could be used to access high around into PockRock; it did the job.

    Hopefully, the hike was enough to justify all of Cindy's driving!

    Blustery wind offset the warm temps... not too bad for an afternoon outing.
    Cave Canyon
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    ...afternoon laps and a big loop around over PockRock to make up for the easier morning. The Goat Trail below the PockRock Cliffs has interesting potentials. I may see if the Sunday beginners want to add that to the simpler Alamo Point Hike. If not, the after hike hike will include that along with the scramble up through the cleft to Ross's Route!

    Juiced blueberries/pinapple for todays fluids... very nice. Sat up on the shelf below Cave Point and ate cantelope for lunch/breakfast. Excellent!

    Basin filled with smoke from fire down on Joplin Ridge (Dog Canyon)... hope they do not lock down the forest too early this year!!
    Cave Canyon
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    6,000' morning, and nearly called it a day, then noticed I was not scheduled for project work at home today... the cancelled Meetup hike left me with additional hours. I figured I'd hit the steep Alamo Point trail and hike laps...

    ...and I did until that got a bit dull... so, I headed around past the saddle to check out overviews down into Pockrock. Following a really clear sheep trail I found access around and up that gave great views of all the lower portion of the canyon. Finally, moving up to the base of the cliffs below Cave Point, I wound even further up and around and found the path heading up a narrow slot cut! It looked to give access to the top of Cave Ridge...? This was unexpected. I headed up.

    By the time I climbed out of that short spur canyon I had to revise my opinion of the climbing ability of the local Barberry Sheep... way up!

    I did make the top of the ridge, adjacent to the Cave Cut slot... and exploring around I discovered the rear entry to the Cave! Who knew?

    Descending down Ross's Cut seemed secure after the sketchy ascent in the slot out of PockRock Canyon. I took some time clearing loose rocks from the route (group hike planning to use that Cut in a few weeks), then completed the loop back to the Alamo Point trail.

    Long Day...

    No one on the "A" trail this morning. A few folks using Alamo Canyon this afternoon. March training must have prepared me for these 12+ hour days; too bad I'm putting off the 200,000' month until later this Fall... it might not have been too difficult this month.

    I guess I should share the info about the Goat Path trail in Pock Rock... hikers could access views of those odd rock formations without having to do all the climbing of the lower canyon.
    Cave Canyon
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    Very abrupt change of plans today. Hiking partner that I spent the last six months training and training with suddenly has left town. The planned training pattern for the coming months has lost its primary emphasis. As I hiked today, thinking about the coming months, I decided to split the focus between hiking and working on my long delayed project. So, April will not be the over the top month I had planned. Instead, I'll hike early each day, then work!

    Hopefully, I'll return later in the year to log a 200,000'+ month...?

    2014 will still have a hiking priority... just different.

    I guess if plans have to shift, it is nice they shifted on the very first day!
    Cave Canyon
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    Early start... earlier finish with this overly steep routing.

    Pretty much closes out this month of training for high daily AEG... it was not like I thought it would be. I projected lots of overly long days: 6,000'+, x4 9,000' days and one or two 12,000' days. I did not hit any of those upper limits. I thought I'd do easier laps with no pack. I did some like that, but more days were up difficult routes taking many more hours to score the AEG... and, there were lots of heavier pack days. There was no highend cardio training. There was no speedy ascents/descents. It was a long, slow month.

    Now... what might April be?
    Cave Canyon
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    I forget What a great hike this loop is! Every time I introduce new hikers to this route they affirm the quality and variety. The Springs, Indian Wells, meadows, rocks, vistas... and the not too hard, not too easy nature of the loop. This was a great Friday group hike. Of course, Terri's Friday hikers were all off on a different hike, but that was nice too. It would be great if the calendar could fill in with lots of choices for everyone.

    Finished after 11am for that first hit, started to do laps on the "A", but that was not inspiring. I moved over to the more difficult Cave Canyon and that did the trick. I quit a little short of the 5,000' goal but my focus is drifting ahead to April... I may fall a little short of the 150,000' goal this month as I get ready to try for the bigger month about to start.

    The game/cattle trail up the ridge on the west side of Cave Canyon could be improved into a great training route up to Alamo Point (high north side over the mouth of Alamo Canyon). That would also give us a good path up to the Cave... and the connecting short loop around from Pock Rock up through Ross's Cut. That needs to happen!

    Very good day out!

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    Directions
    Map Drive
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    Road
    Paved - Car Okay

    To hike
    From the far south end of Scenic Drive (on the east side of Alamogordo), take Alamo Canyon Road around the left side of the city water tank, following it to its far eastern end at the upper City Water Works... park there at the trailhead for T104, Alamo Canyon Trail. Begin on T104, looking to your left for the first canyon cut... within .2 mile. Look up for the dark outline of the cave!
    page created by imike on Nov 16 2013 12:12 pm
    1 TB Flash Drive... $40
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