Finally, no ATV's
Ortega Peak is one of the nicer frontal range vantage points, and an obvious destination hike from down in Alamogordo. The "normal" route is the straight up the hill, overly steep "A" trail (#119) covering the 3,000' of climbing in just over 3 miles... but, if you would like to enjoy a bit more ambling, and want to be off and away and playing in a bit of rock and waterfall, then this alternative approach may be just what is needed. This route also provides a nice looping alternative to combine with T119... up or down, creating a very pleasant loop.
The hike begins just behind one of the city water tanks at the intersection of Sioux Trail and Thunder Road. Park either or the street or behind the tank, and walk over to the north side of the tank, dropping down into the drainage. You'll be walking in the drainage for the first mile or so... Work your way uphill, passing immediately to the north of all the houses... one of which will be right on the drainage to your right... continue up until you come to a split in the drainage, with the wide open area curving up and around to your right, and on your left a very distinctive 15' limestone waterfall... your route is up and over the waterfall, entering that drainage on your left. At this point, the walk shifts from sand and gravel to more exposed limestone slabs, with small pools and falls, and more and more rock. This section is very similar to Rattlesnake Canyon in the Sabino Canyon drainage... a delightful scramble up and around and on rock pathways. Unfortunately, this is not to last... when the river bed finally turns into a very long, slanted rock slabbing, keep your eye out for an obvious ATV route dropping in from the right. About 60' past that point there will be a large boulder on river left... it is about 6' tall, shaped a bit like a pear... just opposite this rock you can make out a path leading out of the river bed on your right. This is your trail. From this point you move up and away from the drainage, climbing the ridge that splits this small valley. You will work your way up to an interesting and obvious rock knob, traversing around it's right side (south) and picking up the very clear trail from that point.
Now, the trail moves on up the mountain, mostly through grasses filled with loose rock, cacti, sotol, agave, and lots of ocotillo. The trail has numerous confirming cairns and is not too hard to discern as it moves through the mostly undisturbed grasslands. After it works it's way up onto a ridge line, it curves back to the south and east, finally intersecting an old jeep track that moves laterally across the mountain below the ridgeline of Horse Ridge. You take the track to the right (south) and follow it to the intersection with trail #119, which you then turn to the left to complete the ascent of Ortega Peak. Within about half a mile of the intersection just pick your point to leave #119, moving on up to the Peak on your left... you will be off trail once again as you finish this last bit of climbing.
If you choose to make the hike into a loop, simply return on #119 to the base of the mountain... the trailhead for #119 lies just a quarter mile south of where you began the hike... simply walk down the alley behind the houses separating the two trailheads.
This is a strenuous hike, but easy enough for anyone in reasonably good shape. The routes are very sun exposed, so in warmer weather prepare accordingly. The sections through the upper grasslands and creekbed are effectively off trail. There will rarely be anyone hiking this trail... be prepared. Cell phone is a very good idea to have along in case of emergency.
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.