The formal designation for the Switchback Trail, as developed by the New Mexico Rails to Trails Association, is T5004, and that includes 1.2 miles of connecting trail in addition to the 2.2 miles of trail that lie on the old railroad grade for the Cloudclimbing Railroad (Alamogordo and Sacramento Mountain Railway). The portion of the trail noted here is just the railway grade section.
One unique aspect of this railroad grade was a switchback portion (hence the name of the trail) which allowed the train to move up or down grade by pulling up into a dead end spur, called a "tail", then once fully in, throwing a switch that allowed the train to reverse direction, proceeding on down or up the track. This feature allowed for a lower overall grade moving up the mountain. Development of the rail line up the mountain began in 1898 and was completed in 1900... including numerous wooden trestles, the remains of which can be noted along the route. The normal easy walking railroad grade is broken by sections down/up through ravines originally crossed by those trestles.
This is one of the easiest trails in the Cloudcroft areas, and with the inclusion of a Hiway crossing Pedestrian bridge at the lower end, and a Highway crossing tunnel towards the upper end, provides connecting potentials for a variety of possible loop hikes or bike rides.
The New Mexico Rails to Trails Association has developed, improved and maintained this trail portion along with a number of other sections of the original railway grade above and below the Switchback section. Their ongoing efforts hope to maintain and expand these trails. All of their trails are worthy of some hours hiking, and if you are around on the third Saturday's of most months you might want to consider volunteering help on their ongoing workdays.
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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.
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