New Mexico Nature January 21, 2017
The Hidden Park That Will Make You Feel Like You’ve Discovered New Mexico’s Best Kept Secret
When people visit the Alamogordo area, White Sands National Monument is usually the first thing they want to see. Fair enough. It’s spectacular. However, this concentrated focus on White Sands means that people often overlook the nearby Oliver Lee Memorial State Park.
This 640-acre park is set against the astoundingly beautiful Sacramento Mountains. The park offers dramatic canyon hiking, a trail that weaves beneath cottonwood trees by pools of water, historic buildings, and night skies so clear that it feels like you can view the whole universe from this one spot in the Chihuahuan Desert.
The park contains the remains of Oliver Lee’s ranch home, which dates back to the 19th century. Lee was a rancher who became involved in the rough political scene of the New Mexico Territory.
Learn more about the park’s history by dropping into the visitors’ center, which contains some interesting displays.
As you explore this hidden gem, you’ll get to soak in views like this.
Oliver Lee is rarely crowded.
There are two popular hiking trails (leashed dogs are welcome). The Riparian Nature Trail is easy and only a half-mile or so long. It leads down into the valley, hugging the path of an arroyo.
You may find small pools of water where you can cool off.
However, as is the case in many parts of New Mexico, there is a risk of flash flooding after rain.
The cottonwood trees provide a welcome source of shade as you enjoy this picturesque hike.
The second path is the Dog Canyon Trail, a challenging day hike that means ascending 3100 feet in the span of 5.5 miles. Before that information scares you off, remember that you can turn around at any time.
Admire the stark beauty of the canyon, mountains, and Tularosa Basin.
You’ll encounter a historic cabin 2.9 miles in, at which point many choose to retrace their steps.
If you aim to finish the whole trail, allow 8-10 hours and ensure you have all the necessary supplies, especially water.
The park is open 24 hours a day and there are 44 developed campsites.
What they lack in shade, they make up for in size.
Watch the desert glow with the colors of sunset as the sun dips below the horizon.
Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, head to 409 Dog Canyon Road in Alamogordo.
Have you visited this hidden treasure?
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