New Mexico August 11, 2016
You’ve Never Experienced Anything Like This Epic Abandoned Railroad Hike In New Mexico
Throughout the country, organizations are working to repurpose old railroads into hiking trails. The result is often a unique walking experience that pairs natural beauty with engineering ingenuity. This movement is big in New Mexico and you’ll find rail trails in the Albuquerque area, in Santa Fe, and near our state border with Texas. However, perhaps the most impressive rail-to-trail conversion is the one in Cloudcroft.
This town of 674 people is located in the Lincoln National Forest.
In 1899, the Alamogordo & Sacramento Mountain Railroad was built to give lumber companies access to the abundant wood here.
Up until the 1940s, the only way of reaching Cloudcroft was via train or else by pack mule! As cars gained in popularity and roads were constructed, the railroad became redundant. It was taken apart in 1947.
One of the most extraordinary parts of the old railroad was left in place.
The old Mexican Canyon Trestle is the highlight of the Cloud-climbing Trestle Trail (also called T5001 or the Mexican Canyon Trestle Trail). This bridge is 323 feet across and earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.
At the beginning of the trail, you’ll find a replica of a railway depot – a nod to the route’s history. The 1.2 mile, moderate climb to the trestle is open to both hikers and mountain bikers.
The initial half of the path is paved but, around the midway point, the surface transitions to dirt.
As you walk, you’re surrounded by the majestic pine and fir forest that first attracted timber companies to the area.
Keep an eye out for the railroad’s “S” trestle. Although it’s now falling apart, it once incorporated two 30-degree curves.
This hike ends at a viewing station that abuts the trestle, giving hikers a memorable look at both this feat of engineering and the sweeping forest beyond.
If you want to expand your adventure into a day hike, you can continue along another part of the rail trail loop, known as the Switchback Trail.
After your hike, spend some time in Cloudcroft. This teeny town contains a
haunted restaurant, succulent BBQ, and old-time diners. It’s a great base for recreational opportunities and a visit to White Sands National Monument. If you want to extend your stay, there are plenty of budget-friendly cabin rentals and campsites in the area.