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Caballero Upper Canyon Traverse, NM

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Rated  Favorite Wish List NM > Southeast
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Canyons are inherently risky. Flash floods occur without notice on sunny days. Technical skills & surrounding topography knowledge required yet does not eliminate risk.
Statistics
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Difficulty 4 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance One Way 1.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 5,867 feet
Elevation Gain 1,300 feet
Avg Time One Way 2 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 5.83
Interest Off Trail Hiking, Seasonal Waterfall & Seasonal Creek
Backpack Yes & Connecting
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
editedit > ops > dogs to adjust
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   Feb, Mar, Oct, Nov → Early
Seasons   Late Autumn to Late Spring
Sun  5:52am - 5:59pm
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Water
Much Better Than the Road!!
by imike

The one big problem with hiking Caballero Canyon (trail #103) is that above 5800' it turns into more of an open basin wander, leaving the nice cut canyon walls and ambling around in meadows and riparian areas a bit too obviously used by ranchers over the years. Additionally, the ATV use in this upper section continues to be extensive. Trail 103 also goes to the same place as trail #104, Alamo Canyon trail, and if you want to head on up to the higher elevations of the back range, #104 is likely the better choice. Still, the lower section of Caballero Canyon remains a delightful hiking area. Now, with this traverse route added, the exceptional qualities of the hike can be preserved.

This route simply exits the canyon to the north, behind Hershberger Peak, in the drainage immediately to the east of Hells Hole drainage. This is a fairly steep cut, especially in the upper end, but a drainage that provides relatively easy access along the entire length to the old mine site on Hells Hole trail #219. If you are hiking this down from the old mine site, the route is simple... walk past the end of trail sign for #219, past the odds and ends left at the mine, and drop into the steeply eroded wash and head down hill. Continue down hill until you exit the wash, intersecting with the old jeep road portion of Caballero Canyon trail.

Finding your route headed uphill is a bit more involved, but not hard.

Above the 5800'level on Caballero Canyon trail you will exit the narrow canyon and enter more of an huge open bowl. there will be a main riparian drainage winding east and north, and a shorter, steep drainage on the south. The trail follows the northern most drainage. Moving through and out of this very nice stream/forest section, the trail then winds up and over a hill covered with chollo cacti, really a forest of same. You will be able to look up to your left and site the highly distinctive spine of rock strata weaving it's way down the eastern side ridge of Hells Hole Canyon. Your goal is to enter the drainage on the other side of that ridge. You do not want to go up into Hell's Hole Canyon but instead wind your way into the drainage immediately to the east.

It may be handy to study the pictures for this hike to make certain of your route; there are a few minor splits where you could angle up the wrong cut, although it might not really matter. The nice thing about staying in the right cut is that you will end up exactly at T219, and you'll get to enjoy a really delightful little canyon. There will be nice vistas, pleasant mini-falls, some minor sculptured and carved rocks... and depending on the time of year, some interesting water formations, including a side seep spring.

The entry to the drainage is simple and very well marked, in it's own way. Exiting the cacti forest, you begin to wind around and down hill on the jeep track. Looking left, you will see an old water pipe trellised across the wash on your left. Walk under that pipe and into your canyon. Not too far up this cut you will encounter a fork... take the right hand cut, around and behind the VW Bug size white boulder. The hiking gets really nice from this point; enjoy the small falls and sculptured rock.

Your next fork has some of that old pipework strewn about... take the left hand cut this time. Do not pass under the old pipe works crossing the drainage on your right. That pipe is headed up to siphon water from the spring you'll soon encounter, a very interesting side seep.

You will eventually wind your way up to the only real bit of blockage, a small falls that can be climbed or skirted (on the right on the many elk trails there.) The cut stays interesting, with a variety of nice rock structures to enjoy... eventually turning into more and more loose dirt/rock... until you eventually pass under a barb wired fence, indicating that you are near to the old mine works. Move to your left once at the mine to access trail #219.

This traverse avoids having to hike up to Forest road 90 (West Side Road) and the walking along that road to make a connection with all of the Hershberger Peak and Ortega Peak routes. It allows for some nice variety of looping or would really make an out and back up Caballero Canyon to Hershberger Peak a very viable option. It would also make a great hike just for itself... it is well worth the effort to find and explore!

Note: the lower access for this hike is reached by hiking Alamo Canyon trail (#104) up to Caballero Canyon trail (#103)... then following it up drainage to the area noted above... these trails are mostly canyon bottom washes, except for a few places where the trail moves up and onto a side bench. The first notable bench is at the terminus of Caballero canyon, where instead of walking up into the canyon cut, you continue on up Alamo canyon and access the bench trail around the corner. This avoids a waterfall feature, but it is more fun to just stay in the bottom and work your way around the waterfall... your choice.

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

2010-03-04 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 Triplog Reviews
    Caballero Upper Canyon Traverse
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    Bit of a misunderstanding for our hike... Scheduled: Good Canyon Exploratory. Luster had a specific canyon near Womack Mines in mind... as good canyons! So, we shifted (Good has waited six years... it will still be there) and dropped into a ridge cut east of Womack immediately below West Side Road. Traversing over one cut, we passed up some exceptional rock and proceeded to drop down the drainage. I was thinking this might be the east split off the old Caballero Traverse; I'd never hiked that cut... might be nice to get it off the to-do list.

    Turns out this Cut dropped directly into North Caballero... nicely. Which would mean the one we crossed would also flow into same.

    We hiked the old waterpipe road around and down, eventually dropping back into the big canyon. We turned up my old Traverse route (soon to be renamed Womack Cut) and proceeded up to the Mine. Lots of interesting color... lots of too warm weather (what is with that!) Topping out at the old Mine works we spent time exploring the old tailings, both east and west side.

    The goal today on this loop: check out the rock ridge above the line of rocks holding the many shafts to the east. So... climbed the Hell Hole road to a high point then headed cross the ridge... and scored a fairly easy route that carried us across... to discover more shafts, but not developed all that much. One more check of this area to document all of the existing mines should close out the exploring in this area... although there remain 3-4 cuts to check below the mines.

    Scored really nice crystal copper flow stone(?)... Did not look the same at home! What is with that... need to post it online and see if folks can identify...

    Other than the warm... great hike!
    Caballero Upper Canyon Traverse
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    Will, Ross and Mary... parked high on West Side Road near Dry Canyon Trailhead... walked road down into Caballero... and hiked the pipeline down canyon. After the meadow, dropped into canyon bottom and followed it to intersection with the Traverse. This little cut really needs a name, probably Mine Cut? It was a very nice ascent... lots of bedrock scramble. Again Mary nailed the climbs! Unfortunately, the climbing nailed me! Cardio just off... felt like I was doing sprints! So... I really slowed the paced... might have been the heavy pack? I'm not sure of the issue... but it did not distract to greatly from this diverse loop.

    Ross commented about down hiking this route all the way back into town... I like the sound of that! One more for the Fall/Winter Calendar...

    Ross and Mary hiked Hell Hole back to trail and road... Will and I checked out series of old Mines and mine roads East of the big copper mine. Nice area.
    Caballero Upper Canyon Traverse
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    A planned exploratory up to the top of the Steamboat formation got re-routed because of rain... we hiked up Alamo Canyon but instead of heading up Deadman for the planned hike, we stayed in the easier route, hoping for a change in the weather. Heading up Caballero the drizzle persisted, so detoured into Caballero North, then made an exploratory left turn up into Hell Hole Canyon. I've intended to check this one out for years. Today would be the day.

    Expectations were high. Overshadowed by the dramatic ridge of Devils Backbone I had visions of bedrock cliffs and falls. What we got instead: easy walking gravel. At the entry there was some nice strata, but for the most part the sidewalls were 30-50' tall sedimentary deposits... precarious piles of impending dirt and gravel. Finally, we scored a great section of sculptured, multi-tiered falls... a section good enough to make the canyon worth the effort.

    Choosing the split closest to towards the backbone, we exited the bottom of the canyon and worked our way up a steep side ridge, to the base of the backbone formation... then began the tedious process of finding a slot that would let us ascend. Close, but no exit... the wet/muddy rock was a bit too challenging. I'd spotted an access point at the far end of the backbone from down lower, so we made our way across and up, ascending the old tailings pile from the abandoned copper mine. That put us on to Hell Hole Trail, and into deep mud! Soon we were on to "A" trail and out of the mud... and to a touch of sunlight for our meal of the day. Down "A"... checking out a portion of the new Ortega Peak trail... then, the long trudge through town back to our cars... even diverted to city streets; Yubao's boots had killed the bottom of his feet; pavement felt better than dirt!?

    So, not the exploratory Hike I had planned... but very nice day on the trail. I need to go back when it is dry and check out the other forks, maybe find a route up to Hershberger Peak?
    Caballero Upper Canyon Traverse
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    Interesting to lead a Meetup Group up canyon for a moderate level day hike... nice folk, and the day may have served to give them a taste of the potentials for showing up for the canyoneering hikes coming up over the next few months... or not! They did good... hopefully, they had a good time.
    Caballero Upper Canyon Traverse
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    Very interesting outing. Plan was to do an exploratory up into Hell Hole Canyon... but, Yuboa showed up, so decided to go up into the Traverse to salvage some old elk bones. Alas, the bones were long gone, but I did find my jacket lost 3 years ago! From the old mine site above Hell Hole, we decided to loop over and descend Caballero Canyon North... another long delayed exploratory canyon route. Got lucky on the descent into the drainage; easy trail down through the upper gorge waterfall... then it got interesting. The gurgling brook continued to gurgle. The bottom of the canyon was a deep V cut, overgrown and often water filled, but the general canyon bottom was shelved out, replete with small meadows and surrounded by a variety of hardwood trees. Initially, we followed a nicely developed game trail, then surprisingly, an old bulldozed road bed. City of Alamogordo had cleared a route and buried a water collection line feeding from the spring above west side road (FR 90). That meant an easy meander down and out of the canyon! In the lower section we could have dropped over into the narrow bottom, but instead chose to stick with the pipeline to confirm that it connected up with Trail 103 (Caballero Canyon Trail) up at the old concrete stockpond. Sure enough... I'd glanced down that old roadbed a couple of times over the years. It had never occurred to me that it would possibly work it's way around and over into the North Caballero Canyon drainage. This easy passage may open up the possibility for an all off trail route from Alamogordo up to The White Sands Observatory on Alamo Peak! 4400' to 9600'... starting with an open, dry canyon approach, then a narrow riparian stretch... then the hardwood forest section up to the cleft waterfall... from there up to the old road house mining site... into the pines and firs and ideally, ridging out to the Observatory... all off trail! Gotta try that out over the next week or so.

    Colors beginning to come on... sumac blazing red today.
    Caballero Upper Canyon Traverse
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    I headed out to check out a little trail that I've always felt would be disappointing. It was. Fortunately, on the way over to it I hiked Ortega Peak and scored a nice outing. Then, standing on the ridge looking across and down into Caballero Canyon I noticed that the drainage below me was headed towards the upper meadows area of Caballero trail... and if it really would connect around that point would provide a great traversing route, avoiding the normal forest road walk to connect the frontal range trails.

    I headed on down.

    The way was strangely eroded, as if the mine activity and diverted water and the wash was gorged out as if placer mined... too deeply cut. Not natural. But, it stayed open with just minor over growth here and there. The dirt and loose rock gave way to slabs and mini-falls, then to sections for flat bottoms, broken by more mini-falls. It turned into it's own little canyon, complete with running springs, then stream. Vistas opened up, sculptured rock formations... interesting vegetation...and, more mini-falls. I was really just looking for a navigable pathway, but was delighted to discover an area worth hiking just for itself.

    It did make it down and into Caballero (not anywhere near where I was thinking) and now I have a great traversing path to connect some of the great frontal range hikes...

    a good day.

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    Directions
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    To canyon trip
    In Alamogordo, drive to the far southern end of Scenic Drive, then turning on to Alamo Canyon (pull around the east side of the large city Water Tank) and follow it to the end of the road up in the mouth of Alamo Canyon. Park at the trailhead for Alamo Canyon trail (#104). Walk past the city water works and on through the gate... follow the trail over into the canyon bottom.
    page created by imike on Mar 04 2010 5:33 pm
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