Hiking up towards the trail from NM 502 2009 C. Wecckerley
(This is a continuation of a previous article.)
Continue riding NE on NM502 through into the Jemez mountains. Climbing into the wide twisties the Pueblo Valley opens up to the north. The road is cut into a high ridge and high walls and bizarre rock formations are within arms reach to the south, puncutated by the Juniper and Pinyon of the Pygmy forest.
Just east of the Los Alamos airport is the Clinton P Anderson Scenic Pullout. Looking north is a stunning view of the Pueblo Valley. Across the road to the south is a hard to spot, but visible walking route up the rocky wall leading to a hidden mountain trail along the south side of the ridge, particularly visible in the snow.
A Cairn in a natural shelter in volcanic tuff. 2009 C. Weckerley
Once at the top there is a hidden mountain trail along the south side of the ridge. At first it appears to be just a wide path between the rocks allowing different vantage points affording different perspectives of the stunning view of Los Alamos Canyon. Following the path one soon discovers that it leads further down the mountain. The appearance of cairns along placed in weather carved holes in the rock then indicate that this is, indeed, a serious hiking trail.
Careful! 500 feet straight down to your right. 2009 C. Weckerley
Walking east along the overhanging rocks the trail becomes narrower and begins to descend more steeply toward the canyon floor. Because the entire area is part of the Pajarito Plateau created by the Valles and Toledo eruptions the trail consists largely of volcanic tuff. This material is highly fragile and creates a layer of slippery sand and small rocks wherever it is disturbed. This often causes slippery conditions and, although it does not seem particularly dangerous, good hiking shoes with high grip soles are recommended. It is possible to hike down to the bottom of the canyon, however on this particular excursion this reporter and his companions did not do so. Keep in mind that while going down is challanging and fun the hike back up is physically demanding and one should make sure they are in decent physical shape before attempting it. Above all, ride on, hike on, have fun!