Nature July 24, 2017
The 7 Scariest Hikes In New Mexico Are Not For The Faint Of Heart
Are you looking for a physical and mental challenge? Or perhaps you’re kicking back on the couch and are curious about what adventures your fellow New Mexicans might be taking. Either way, you’ll want to check out the scariest hikes in the Land of Enchantment. From drop-offs to ladders, you won’t get bored traversing these 7 trails.
During these uncertain times, please keep safety in mind and consider adding destinations to your bucket list to visit at a later date.
1. Wild Rivers Recreation Area (near Taos)
If you thought driving or walking across the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge was nerve-racking, try hiking in Wild Rivers Recreation Area. The Big Arsenic Spring Trail, while well maintained, leads down the steep side of the gorge to the river below. Overall, the hike is two-miles long (round trip) but involves a descent of 653 feet. If heights don’t scare you then the prospect of climbing back up just might! This hike is considered "moderate," but the return journey is pretty rigorous.
For more info.
2. Junction Cave Hike, El Malpais National Monument (near Grants)
While hiking through a lava tube is one of the most unique experiences you’ll ever have, if you’re claustrophobic then this jaunt takes some guts. Remember to pick up a free caving permit from the visitor center before you start.
For more info.
3. Lava Falls Trail, El Malpais National Monument
Even if you stay aboveground, El Malpais National Monument is a place where it’s smart to exercise caution. The Lava Falls Trail is only a mile in length, so you might assume it’s easy. Not so much. There are huge crevices in this lava field – some of them big enough to fall down - and traversing this terrain is surprisingly disorientating. Always find the next cairn marking the trail before leaving the last one behind on this unique hike!
4. Organ Needles Trail (Las Cruces)
This challenging trail requires preparation and preferably a bit of climbing experience. The route is tricky because it’s easy to slip, and the markers are confusing as well. So why attempt this 5.8 mile out-and-back hike? The views and bragging rights.
If you decide to brave the Organ Needles Trail, get an early start and bring plenty of food and water. The trailhead is at La Cueva Picnic Area, within the Dripping Springs Natural Area. Pictured is Juniper Saddle, which you pass through on your way to the top.
5. Alcove House, Bandelier National Monument (near Los Alamos)
Most people who come to explore the cliff dwellings and petroglyphs at Bandelier follow the 1.2-mile Main Loop Trail. If you’re feeling gutsy, add on the one-mile round-trip spur that takes you to Alcove House. The ascent up the cliff face involves climbing up four long wooden ladders and plenty of stone stairs until you’re 140-feet above the canyon floor!
6. Hermit Peak Trail (Las Vegas)
If you’re an aspiring hermit and want to ensure you’re left alone, one way to achieve that goal is to climb up to an inaccessible location and carve yourself a cave. That’s what Italian Juan Maria Agostini did in the 1860s and reaching Hermit’s Peak, which is named after him, remains a challenge to this day.
The trail is most frightening on the way down because the number of large, loose rocks make slipping or turning an ankle a real concern. The elevation gain along the 8.1 mile, out-and-back trail is 2939 feet. Then again, it leads to views like this… The trailhead is located in El Porvenir Campground, near Gallinas.
7. Carlsbad Caverns National Park (near Carlsbad)
While you can ride the elevator into Carlsbad Caverns, there’s nothing quite like following the 1.25-mile long path into the Natural Entrance. It’s like being swallowed by the earth. The astounding formations you’ll view inside the caverns make this an experience you won’t want to miss. The ascent on the way back out is a different type of challenge since you gain 750 feet elevation in a pretty short period of time.
For more info.
What’s the scariest hike you’ve ever taken in New Mexico? Share your story on the
Only In New Mexico Facebook page.
Perhaps these hikes seem too daunting. Fair enough.
Here are some much shorter, easier trails for you to try!