This blog is about hiking trips along the Valles Caldera Rim. For more information, see link for the Valles Caldera Rim Trail blog.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Valles Caldera North Rim--Valles Caldera Northwest Rim--Twin Cabins-Pipeline Road, Hilton View, and Cerro de la Garita

Seasons and Sights Seen Along Valles Caldera North-Northwest Rim
Twin Cabins-Pipeline Road Gate in the Northwest Corner of Valles Caldera National Preserve

Four Views (above) of the Forests and Meadows of the North Rim

The north rim is so far away from everything. It is heavily treed in places and a morass of logging roads with few views into the caldera. There are crisscrosses of downed timber. It was frankly impossible to start north rim explores before summer because the access road, Forest Road (FR) 144, was covered up high with heavy snows. Despite these deficits, the Valles Caldera north rim will draw you in and draw you back, again and again, because it is an area of peaceful beauty and solitude.

One cautionary note about the Valles Caldera rim--in places where the rim wanders around in the woods, which describes a lot of the north rim, figuring out if you’re really on the rim is not intuitive. I wonder how people like me who have a distorted sense of direction that not even a GPS can compensate for will find their way! Some ideas that have been suggested to help people find the rim trails are marking the route with diamonds like cross-country ski trails, making waypoints of the Valles Caldera Rim Trail for download, and making a dedicated map of the whole route.

Ring-Fracture Domes with Resurgent Dome Beyond

This photo is a good argument for taking field notes while you are photographing the caldera. That’s Redondo for sure in the background and this is looking into Valle San Antonio but then I’m unsure if I’m seeing all three of the Valles Caldera northwest ring-fracture domes or only two of them. I’ll just give you the line up of domes and their elevations in the northwest corner from east to west: Cerro San Luis,9510’, Cerro Seco, 9931’, and then San Antonio Mountain which has two peaks, 10,908’ and 9988’.

The caldera has a paid, reservation only hike to Cerro Seco. You are allowed 4 short hours to wind around Cerro Seco on old logging roads. It hardly even leaves enough time to go to the top, picnic, and get back on time to catch the van ride back to your vehicle. You really have to hustle to do it and where’s the enjoyment in that?

Redondo Peeking above Hilton View

The golden grass of late summer and Redondo Peak are seen from Hilton Cabin View which is near the Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF)-VCNP boundary gate above the Hilton Cabin. At one time, the VCNP had a hike to Hilton Cabin and this hillside was the endpoint of the 12 mile roundtrip hike. People groused that the views weren’t worth the distance walked so the VCNP eliminated it. It wasn’t profitable to drive a few people the long distance to the trailhead. That’s sad, because the hike was a wonderful way to become acquainted with the charms of the north rim’s solitude, beauty and isolation. It’s a bad idea to have people’s appreciation of the Valles Caldera National Preserve be driven by the bottom line!

View from Cerro de la Garita toward Grasslands of North Rim

From the north rim, looking northeast, are the grasslands of Garita Ridge-Hunter’s Point, right, and Cerro de la Garita, left. Polvadera’s bald spot is peeking up above Cerro de la Garita and Tschicoma and the grasslands above Santa Clara Canyon rim are above Garita Ridge-Hunter’s Point. The Valles Caldera is viewer friendly because from most anywhere on the rim you’ll get very satisfying views of other parts of the rim and into the caldera.

The Sierra de Toledo Is Jam-Packed into the Toledo Embayment

Looking eastward from the north rim, you can see, clockwise, the grasslands of Garita Ridge-Hunter’s Point, the grasslands on the Santa Clara Canyon rim, Tschicoma, an unnamed peak, Cerro Toledo, Indian Point, and Turkey Ridge, with its upside down Hershey-Kiss bald spot. All those domes in front of Tschicoma are in the Toledo Embayment and are Cerro Toledo Rhyolite domes formed after the Toledo Caldera collapse. Collectively, these domes are called the Sierra de Toledo and form the northeastern rim of the Valles Caldera. The reciprocal conservation easement between Santa Clara Pueblo and the VCNP runs along the crest of the Sierra de Toledo. Although hiking on the VCNP side of the easement is not forbidden by the easement wording, this area is off-limits for now.

Cerro Seco and San Antonio Mountain

This is looking southwest at the two westernmost ring-fracture domes of the Valles Caldera--Cerro Seco (left) and San Antonio Mountain (right).

The views that can be seen from the grasslands of Cerro de la Garita on the north rim include the Nacimientos, Mt. Taylor, the cliffs below FR144, FR 144 itself, Cerro San Luis, Cerro Seco, San Antonio Mountain, Redondo Border, Redondo, Cerro Santa Rosa, Trasquilar, Cerros del Abrigo, Cerro del Medio, the Sierra de los Valles on the east rim, Rabbit Ridge-Rabbit Mountain-Las Conchas-Los Griegos on the south rim, and Garita Ridge-Hunter’s Point, Cerro Toledo, Indian Point, Turkey Ridge on the north-northeast rim. In short, the views from Cerro de la Garita are spectacular! Of all the rims, the north rim is the highest. In part, this may be because landslides in the geologic past have steepened the north rim, especially above Valle San Antonio, where Cerro de la Garita is located, which has numerous landslide blocks that have come off the north rim wall.

A unique feature of views from Cerro de la Garita is how close the views are of the northern ring-fracture domes and the resurgent dome, Redondo--close enough that you can clearly visualize the ring-fracture encircling the resurgent dome and this leads to greater understanding of the Valles Caldera than just reading about it in a geology treatise or looking at photos! With the Valles Caldera Preserve’s mandate to become financially self sufficient by 2015, a price is put on what is priceless: learning firsthand about this beautiful natural wonder of the world!

Valles Caldera Northern Moat Rhyolites from Cerro de la Garita--the North Rim Supreme

Looking southeast from Cerro de la Garita, the Valle San Antonio is to the west (right) and Valle Toledo to the east (left). San Antonio Creek flows between the two small domes in the center. Trasquilar is on the north (left) and is an exquisite, miniature, conical dome of Cerro Toledo Rhyolite making it a ring-fracture dome of the Toledo Caldera which predates the Valles Caldera by four hundred thousand years.

On the right of Trasquilar, and looking like a flying saucer, is Santa Rosa, part of the larger Cerro Santa Rosa dome complex that extends behind it in a long, southwestward ridge. To the left of Santa Rosa is Cerros del Abrigo. Cerro del Medio is next to Abrigo but it’s lower and you can only see an arm of it reaching out to divide the Valle Toledo from the Valle de los Posos, of which only a thin smear is visible. Cerros Santa Rosa, Cerros del Abrigo, and Cerro del Media are all ring-fracture domes that rose up around the resurgent dome, Redondo, after the collapse of the Valles Caldera.

This photo also shows the northeast-east (left) and southeast-south (right) Valles Caldera rims. Going around clockwise (left horizon), beginning above Valle Toledo, are the west and east Cerros de los Posos domes on the northeast rim and then on the east rim are Cerro Bonito, Pajarito Mountain (with two peaks), and Cerro Grande (the latter three are part of the Sierra de los Valles that lies west of Los Alamos). Continuing clockwise past Cerro del Medio and Cerros del Abrigo is the southeast-south rim with Scooter Peak, Rabbit Ridge, Rabbit Mountain, and the Paso del Norte area.

Hiker Overlooking Valle San Antonio from Cerro de la Garita on North Rim

Late Afternoon on North Rim Logging Road

I have to admit, even though I have complained a lot about not being able to hike wherever I want on the Preserve, I feel sympathy for the difficult and complex task the Preserve has before it. The Valles Caldera Trust has been given by Congress the conflicting goals of sharing the Valles Caldera National Preserve with the public, while yet protecting and preserving the integrity of the land, and all the while working toward financial self-sufficiency by 2015.

If you take the time to read the 2006 Report to Congress, which is a very interesting document and is available on the Valles Caldera National Preserve website, the budget numbers tell a story. In 2006, the Valles Caldera Trust’s revenues earned from all recreation activities were less than 9% of its total expenditures. It’s obvious that since the public is allowed only limited use of the Preserve, the idea being to keep the Preserve from being overrun by swarms of people and overwhelmed by snarls of traffic like at Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, or the Great Smoky Mountains national parks, the Preserve’s fortunes lie elsewhere rather then in allowing more open access to the general public. A few people will get a quality experience on the Preserve and the majority will get no experience at all. Is that fair?
The north rim has a lonely spaciousness that is addictive. Any plans for public access and use that the Trust makes could preserve this rare experience of space-enough not by excluding people but in equitably distributing recreation opportunites throughout the Preserve so as to not overly concentrate activities or vehicles into any one area. The over-concentration of people in scenic hotspots is behind the problems of overcrowding at national parks like the Great Smokey Mountains where the main problem is vehicular traffic--too much of it.

I wonder how many people out there are infected, like I am, with an incredible longing to explore the inner sanctum of the Valles Caldera National Preserve and frustrated that after eight years, the progress is so slow in allowing greater public access?

If you care about the future of the Preserve and your access to it, let me remind you again that in 2008 the Valles Caldera Trust will continue the planning process for visitor use and access on the Valles Caldera National Preserve. Check the Valles Caldera National Preserve
website for notice of upcoming public meetings and how to submit comments. Please be part of the process. Let the Trust know your concerns.
Valles Caldera Northwest-North Rim

Click on the map to enlarge it and look at the boundary line between Rio Arriba and Sandoval counties at the top, middle of the map. You'll see that "Cerro de la Garita" appears twice--once south of Rio Arriba county, on the Valles Caldera National Preserve, and once north of Sandoval county, on Santa Fe National Forest land in the northern Jemez Mountains. To access Cerro de la Garita from within the SFNF, take either the northern leg of FR 144 out of Española or FR 100-FR 99 out of Youngsville to intersect FR 144. To access Cerro de la Garita on the VCNP is presently not possible by mere mortals!! You can get close, though, by signing up for the VCNP's La Garita hike. The La Garita hike is located to the east of Cerro de la Garita and gets you on the north rim for spectacular views!

Special thanks to Donald and Dorothy Hoard for their encouragement and help on this project.

Valles Caldera West Rim--San Antonio Hot Springs, San Antonio Canyon, FR 144

Seasons and Sights Seen Along and Near Valles Caldera West Rim


Below West Rim in San Antonio Canyon

This is San Antonio Hot Springs in San Antonio Canyon. On Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) land, it’s accessed via Forest Road (FR) 376, off NM-126. This is part of the caldera that is freely open to the public because it is outside the boundary of the public land of Valles Caldera National Preserve (VCNP).

Cliffs below FR 144 and the West Rim

These cliffs are across from San Antonio Hot Springs and are below FR 144, on the west caldera rim. All along FR 144 are single track motor bike trails that parallel the Valles Caldera west rim and can easily be followed by hikers as well. This is the same FR 144 that accesses the north rim from Española. It wraps around both the west and north rims. The part of FR 144 that parallels the Valles Caldera west rim is accessed from NM-126, northwest of La Cueva.


Hiking Group on FR 376 along San Antonio Creek

The gate to FR 376 is often closed, making for very long treks into San Antonio Canyon.

Signed Gate at VCNP boundary in San Antonio Canyon: Your Public Land Lies Beyond!

Confusing Sierra de Toledo Domes on Northeast Valles Caldera Rim

The Sierra de Toledo on the northeastern rim of the Valles Caldera is seen from Valle San Antonio. From this view, all I know for sure is that Turkey Ridge, 10,741’, is on the ridgeline above the distinctive triangular bald spot on the right. Indian Point, 10,241’, and 500’ lower, is just to the left of Turkey Ridge and almost a continuation of it. Cerro Toledo, 10, 930’, almost 200’ higher than Turkey Ridge, is one of the two bald spots behind Turkey Ridge and Indian Point. If forced to, I would vote for the one on the right. Someone please invent a peak finder for the Sierra de Toledo range!

Near Single Track Motor Bike Trail on West Rim

This is just east of FR 144, near a single track motor bike trail that runs along the west rim of Valles Caldera, above San Antonio Canyon. Since the motorbike trail is on SFNF land, it’s hikeable now without reservation, fees, or permission.

An interesting observation is how these motorized trails skirt the long way around obstacles like fences, hills, and drainages, sometimes even going back out to FR 144. A hiker’s first impulse, though, is to avoid such long detours and take the most direct route. Another possible issue is that the single track motorbike trails can seem very steep to non-motorized users. The motorbike trails also tend to get quite rutted on uphill sections.

Boxy San Antonio Mountain, beyond the cliffs of Thompson Ridge, is in deep cloud shadow. It’s the westernmost of the ring-fracture domes in the VCNP. The VCNP once had a hike that went up San Antonio Mountain, starting across from the Cerro Seco hike, but I’ve been told it wasn’t very popular because of the heavy tree cover and lack of views. I wish I could have hiked up San Antonio Mountain before they axed the hike as not popular and therefore not profitable. It’s a detriment to have profitability be the bottom line determining where people are allowed to explore in the Preserve.

From this cliffy section of the west rim, nearly above San Antonio Hot Springs, very far off sights can be seen of Los Griegos and Peralta Ridge on the south rim. There are also views of the west side of Redondo-Redondito and Redondo Border and down into the La Cueva area. The west rim itself, however, can be elusive or blocked from view when you try to see it from the other rims because it is lower in altitude and has no prominent peaks. Geologists have determined that the Valles Caldera is a trapdoor caldera that collapsed deeper in the east than in the west which accounts for the other rims being higher than the west rim. The best places to spot it are from the Cerro de la Garita on the north-northwest rim and from the highest points on the south-southwest rim.

While the southern portion of the west rim has cliffs overlooking San Antonio Canyon, on the northern part of the Valles Caldera west rim, you are surprisingly close to the caldera floor. There is an amazing place on the northwest rim where you can stand on a narrow, low divide and simultaneously look at the head of a drainage going downhill into the caldera on one side while just a few yards away, a different drainage runs away from the caldera and the two never meet!

Valles Caldera West Rim: West FR 144

I'm fascinated by the many canyons that feed into Cebolla Canyon --Lake Fork, Barley, Bear, Oat, Hay, Pony, Road, and Twin Cabins--but never enter the caldera. Because the west-northwestern rim is relatively low , I would have imagined that erosion might have breached it by now. But, then again, the Valles Caldera is young--a mere 1.2 million years old. Maybe I should come back in a couple of million years and check out the situation!!

Some have suggested that there could be an alternate route in the area of the Valles Caldera west rim in the vicinity of San Antonio Canyon. One route would follow the true, topographical west rim that goes along and mostly parallel to west FR 144. There are the single track motor bike trails that run along the west rim that could be multi-use trails.

Others suggest that an alternate route could be followed by going from Jemez Falls to the Thompson Ridge Road, FR 106, and following that down into San Antonio Canyon, coming out practically on top of the Valles Caldera National Preserve boundary fence, and then climbing out of San Antonio Canyon on a road that intersects West FR 144. You would have to walk about 8 miles in on Thompson Ridge Road to the Santa Fe National Forest boundary and then it's about 4 miles to the Valles Caldera National Preserve boundary fence. I'm not sure of the distance from the VCNP boundary fence up to West FR 144. On this map, Thompson Ridge is the area bounded by San Antonio Creek on the west, Sulphur Creek on the east, and San Antonio Mountain to the northeast.

This alternate route is not on the true west rim but it has the advantage of providing an easy way of negotiating one's way across the immensely steep San Diego Canyon, starting from Battleship Rock, to connect with the west rim, above La Cueva. Besides which, San Antonio Hot Springs would provide a welcome interlude for hot, tired, dusty thru-hikers! Routing the rim trail through San Antonio Canyon would be a way to have both a Valles Caldera rim adventure and yet also have the experience of being within the caldera.

Special thanks to Donald and Dorothy Hoard for their encouragement and help on this project.

Valles Caldera Southwest Rim--Cat Mesa, Cerro Colorado, and Battleship Rock

Seasons and Sights Seen Along Valles Caldera Southwest Rim


Southwest Rim on Cat Mesa

Near the southwest corner of the rim, in Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF), tent rocks are on Cat Mesa with Virgin Mesa’s cliffs, above San Diego Canyon, on the skyline.

Battleship Rock Below Cat Mesa

Below Battleship Rock, in San Diego Canyon, is where the East Fork of the Jemez and San Antonio Creek join to become the Jemez River which eventually winds up at the Rio Grande.

Battleship Rock, along with El Cajete and Banco Bonito, are the youngest of the Valles Caldera’s moat rhyolites that erupted around Redondo, the resurgent dome.

Battleship Rock anchors, in the most literal sense, the southwest corner of the caldera rim. There is a rough trail, accessed off East Fork Trail 137, not far from Battleship Rock Picnic Area, to the top of Battleship Rock--quite an aerie! I was in a group of hikers that walked to the top years ago. Currently, though, for safety reasons, the Santa Fe National Forest, Jemez Ranger District, prohibits hiking to the top of Battleship Rock.

Cerro Colorado on Southwest Rim below Cat Mesa

View from Cat Mesa Cliff of Cerro Colorado and Battleship Rock with Virgin Mesa’s Cliffs Beyond

Cerro Colorado is the heavily treed, reddish undulation below Cat Mesa. It is part of the true Valles Caldera southwest rim. A route needs to be explored off Cat Mesa, 8400’, down to Cerro Colorado, 7789’, and across the Jemez River, to the base of Battleship Rock, approximately 6800’, to make possible a walk down the true rim in the southwest corner of the Valles Caldera.

To continue on the west rim, which runs along Forest Road (FR) 144, one would have to climb back up to approximately 8700’. How do you do it--climb Virgin Mesa, in the background here, climb Cebollita Mesa above La Cueva ? Walk along busy, paved roads, NM-4 and NM-126, up to FR 144? Will you be a rim trail purist and only hike on the true topographical Valles Caldera rim? Or, will you have an official route but also an alternate route like in Bandelier National Monument’s hike up Cerro Grande that has both a steep, heavily used, official route and a less crowded, less steep unofficial route?

All is not lost, however! Recently, Valles Caldera Rim Trail volunteers had a beautiful explore down a very good trail off Cat Mesa to the Jemez Falls picnic area. We were able to cross the Jemez River on a fishermen’s bridge of rocks and logs without breaking out the Tevas!

To get to this trail, the group followed the Valles Caldera rim along FR 135, Cat Mesa Road, just off FR 10, up from Vallecitos de los Indios. There was a spectacular viewpoint, off FR 135, of Cerro Grande, Rabbit Ridge, Los Griegos, South Mountain, Redondo, and the Banco Bonito lava flow. We could also see the Copar Pumice Mine and the mine’s reclaimed land. Further along, Cerro Pelado could be spotted south of Los Griegos. Right beneath the trail going down to Jemez Falls, which skirts along a drainage off Cat Mesa, we could look down on impossibly tall and skinny tent rocks. We could also see to the west the spectacular cliffs above San Diego Canyon. (I did not take any photos on this Cat Mesa Road-Jemez Falls explore.)

Three Photos of Cat Mesa’s Formidable Cliffs

Cat Mesa's cliffs, above the East Fork of the Jemez River, are beautiful and breathtaking and walking along them feels like flying! On one stretch, though, the cliffs were so steep and slathered with prickly bushes that we we could not follow the rim but had to bypass downhill, behind the line of cliffs.

In the bottom photo, that’s Redondo peeking around the corner! We did not get soaked by the storm clouds.

Valles Caldera Southwest Rim: Cat Mesa, Cerro Colorado, Battleship Rock

The portion of the Valles Caldera Rim that's along Cat Mesa Road, FR 135, and Cat Mesa, is southwest of Vallecitos de los Indios and is accessed via FR 10, the road to Ponderosa, which begins at the turn-in for the Sierra de los Piños housing development, off NM-4.

Cat Mesa Road turns west (right) off FR 10 and you can park anywhere and head north to walk along the rim. Cerro Colorado and Battleship Rock are to the northwest below Cat Mesa's cliffs. The hot springs upstream (east) from Battleship Rock is McCauley Warm Springs and is a very popular destination year-around. It can be accessed either from Battleship Rock (hikers park free just off NM-4, north of the actual entrance to Battleship Rock Picnic Area) or from Jemez Falls Trailhead.

It would be best to buy a current Santa Fe National Forest map for any serious explorations of all that the Jemez Mountains have to offer. They are widely available at bookstores, travel stores, sporting goods stores, and at Santa Fe National Forest office locations.

Special thanks to Donald and Dorothy Hoard for their encouragement and help on this project.

Valles Caldera South Rim--Peralta Pass, Las Conchas, and Los Griegos

Seasons and Sights Seen Along Valles Caldera South Rim

Special thanks to Gary Salzman for the incredible job he did documenting the October 2005 Los Griegos explore! Here is a link to his Los Griegos Peak Trip Report, dated October 16, 2005 (the link takes you to the report on Google Drive but is also found on the Valles Caldera Rim Trail blog on this page). Gary took photos and collated them with two trip reports by rim trail volunteers, made numerous maps to graphically illustrate our route, and wrote an introduction. We appreciate your help immensely, Gary!


Valle Grande View of Las Conchas Peak

The perfectly conical Las Conchas Peak is seen from VCNP Road VC01, the entrance road to Valle Grande Staging Area. There are blue diamond cross-country ski trails around Las Conchas that connect with the cross-country ski trails in the Peralta Pass-Corral Canyon-Paliza Pass-Los Griegos area. These trails are a way to get onto the Valles Caldera south rim.

Valles Caldera South Rim and East Fork of the Jemez from Valle Grande

Taken from VCNP Road VC01, this portion of the south Valles Caldera rim has pointy Las Conchas and lumpy Los Griegos, which is partially in the clouds, with the East Fork of the Jemez in the foreground.

Cliffs on Los Griegos

The Los Griegos route is to the left of the cliffs. If you follow the grazing allotment fence on Los Griegos when you are descending, it will lead you to the top of the cliffs.

For more information on Los Griegos, click on the several trip reports linked to on the Valles Caldera Rim Trail blog, under
"Valles Caldera South Rim Trip Reports - East to West".
Southwestern White Pine Cones Dripping with Fragrant Sap on Los Griegos

The top of Los Griegos is loaded with huge southwestern white pine or good old pinus strobiformis, per Dorothy Hoard.

Paliza Pass

Pretty Paliza Pass, near Los Griegos Mountain, is a fantastically peaceful lunch spot on a weekday! That belies the fact that Paliza Pass is a crossroads with the Upper Los Griegos Road coming up from NM-4, cross-country ski trails coming from the Peralta Road-Corral Canyon-Las Conchas-Los Griegos area, and Paliza Canyon Road, Forest Road (FR) 271, that starts at the pass and continues south, past Cerro Pelado. And, of course, Paliza Pass is on the Valles Caldera south rim!

Peralta Road Area

Taken somewhere along the south rim, probably near Peralta Road. The red is in case a hunter was unable to interpret the obtuse New Mexico big game hunting schedule!

Dorothy Hoard carries a notebook and sits down at opportune times to write her “memoirs” which serve as a starting point to her very well-documented trip reports. Her reports are linked to on the Valles Caldera Rim Trail blog's index of trip reports from 2005 into 2009.

She’s not going to like this but I have to say that Dorothy is the mastermind behind documenting the Valles Caldera Rim Trail and does an incredible amount of work to portray the possibilities and opportunities for the routing of a rim trail. After doing this tiny project of trying to identify my photos and write captions and legends, I appreciate so much more the work that Dorothy does week after week on behalf of the entire Valles Caldera Rim Trail!

South Meadows of Massive Redondo from Upper Los Griegos Road

The Valles Caldera’s resurgent dome is seen from everywhere!
Long Ridgeline of Las Conchas Peak

Remember the perfectly conical view of Las Conchas from Valle Grande? Well, in this view, you still see the cone but you also see how Las Conchas morphs into a long ridge to the south. A blue diamond cross-country ski trail contours high on the mountain on this west side. There is one place with an opening that has good views toward the west but mostly, trees block any views. Taken from Upper Los Griegos Road which used to be drivable to Paliza Pass from NM-4 but now has Grand Canyon size ruts.

Valles Caldera South Rim: Peralta Pass, Las Conchas, and Los Griegos Area
These maps I've posted are meant only as an introduction to the geography of the Valles Caldera Rim. Don't rely on them to find your way on the rim or to determine current land boundaries. Either buy a set of USGS 7.5 minute series topographical quad maps that cover the entire Valles Caldera National Preserve (Valle San Antonio, Cerro del Grant, Polvadera Peak, Valle Toledo, Redondo Peak, and Bland) or purchase this map, Valles Caldera: Map and Geologic History of the Southwest's Youngest Caldera by Kirt Kempter and Dick Huelster.

On this map, Peralta Pass is the divide between Corral Canyon, which drains into the Valles Caldera, and Peralta Canyon, which drains away from the caldera. Corral Canyon is the drainage to the northeast of Las Conchas Peak that has two springs in it. Click on the map to enlarge it and you'll see the word "Corral" in a meadow. Peralta Canyon is the big drainage east (right) of Peralta Ridge--the north-south ridge with Las Conchas on it. The big drainage to the west, between Peralta Ridge and Cerro Pelado, is Paliza Canyon--its drainage flows away from the Valles Caldera.

Special thanks to Donald and Dorothy Hoard for their encouragement and help on this project. 

Prelude: Valles Caldera South Rim--Rabbit Mountain, Paso del Norte, and Peralta Pass

Seasons and Sights Seen Along Valles Caldera South Rim


Overview of Paso del Norte-Peralta Pass Area from Valle Grande

Taken from Valle Grande Staging Area, looking toward NM-4, this is the south rim, going west (right) from Rabbit Mountain along the Paso del Norte-Peralta Pass area of the Valles Caldera rim. Note how much lower in elevation the Paso del Norte-Peralta Pass portion is. It’s a steep way down from Rabbit Mountain to continue west along the rim. A possible route, on VCNP property, leads down a logged, windswept, southwestern arm of Rabbit Mountain and would let you out exactly at Paso del Norte at the cattle guard on Paso del Norte Road, Forest Road 268. The Valles Caldera rim then goes uphill on a single track motorbike trail to Peralta Pass.

I didn’t yet own a camera when we explored the south rim from Paso del Norte to Peralta Pass so this photo is only a prelude to that area. On the Valles Caldera Rim Trail blog's index of trip reports from 2005 into 2009, there are more photos and information on this area.

Special thanks to Donald and Dorothy Hoard for their encouragement and help on this project. 

Valles Caldera South Rim--Scooter Peak and Rabbit Mountain

Seasons and Sights Seen Along Valles Caldera South Rim

Meadow on Top of Scooter Peak
Meadow at Base of Scooter Peak

A golden grass meadow near the top of Scooter Peak has a far-off view of Peralta Ridge. Scooter Peak is the rounded, heavily-treed dome (second picture) that’s catty corner (southwest) from the trailhead parking for the official Cerro Grande Route. “Scooter” is what the benchmark at the top reads but no one seems to know where the name came from. Don’t expect tremendous views from on top, but if you want a lovely, peaceful place, this is it. In a wet springtime, the small pond in the meadow at the northeast base of Scooter trills with the songs of spring peepers!

Two ways to get up Scooter are to either walk in on the Bandelier National Monument’s Alamo Boundary Trail, off the Dome Road, Forest Road (FR) 289, or on the Valles Caldera National Preserve’s free Coyote Call Hike. On both routes, walk to the pass between Rabbit Ridge and Scooter Peak and then go up an old logging road to the east. When you reach the grassy meadow, there is no real trail but you can work your way, more or less north, to the top.

Redondo from Rabbit Mountain’s Felsenmeer

From the felsenmeer on Rabbit Mountain, don’t you know, it’s Redondo! Views from Rabbit Ridge into the Valles Caldera are breathtakingly aerial. Rabbit Ridge can be accessed from Bandelier National Monument’s Alamo Boundary Trail or from the Valles Caldera National Preserve’s free Coyote Call Hike. Once on the ridge, it’s easy to follow the ridgeline, stopping to take in beautiful views from several small rock fields along the way to Rabbit Mountain.

Looking West from Rabbit Mountain at South Rim

Again, from Rabbit Mountain’s felsenmeer, clockwise, the south rim (left) includes the area between Paso del Norte Road and Los Griegos Mountain. Just to the right of Los Griegos is San Diego Canyon, which is in the southwest corner of the Valles Caldera rim. The Nacimientos are on the furthest western horizon. South Mountain is on the right and the Valles Caldera west rim hides behind it. In front of South Mountain, the Valle Grande is a lake of brown grass with NM-4 swimming at its edge.

Rabbit Mountain and Tschicoma Are Snowy While Valle Grande Is Snow Free

From Rabbit Mountain, Valle Grande with Tschicoma’s snowy triangle framed by bare aspens. This is beautiful country and hiking up Rabbit Ridge is one way to see it in person. The best part is that you can go up the Valles Caldera National Preserve’s free Coyote Call Hike to Rabbit Ridge and you don’t need to make a reservation or ask anyone’s permission!

The East Rim from Rabbit Ridge

The views from Rabbit Mountain are vast and include the northeast and east rims of Valles Caldera. In the immediate foreground is the continuation of Rabbit Ridge, as it arcs to the north with Cerro Grande and Pajarito Mountain being just above it. Valle Grande and Cerro del Medio are in middle foreground. The Rincon de los Soldados is inside the little hooked arm of Cerro del Medio. The northeast Valles Caldera rim is the line of domes that lie between Tschicoma and Cerro del Medio.


Rabbit Ridge from Valle Grande Staging Area

Rabbit Mountain and ground fog from Valle Grande Staging Area

Rabbit Ridge-Rabbit Mountain with early morning ground fog that will burn off quickly as the sun rises but makes everything magical while it’s there. The “notches” in the tree cover on top of Rabbit Ridge are where small rock fields are located that provide great views into the caldera. These photos were taken from Valle Grande Staging Area, looking toward NM-4.

Valles Caldera Southeast and South Rim: Rabbit Mountain and Scooter Peak

To the northeast of Rabbit Mountain, 3029 meters (9938'), is the summit of Scooter Peak, 2957 meters (9701').

The Alamo Boundary Trail is located in the meadows of the upper Alamo Canyon headwaters area between Rabbit Mountain-Rabbit Ridge and Scooter Peak. Bandelier National Monument acquired the Upper Alamo Canyon watershed in 2000 when the Baca Location was purchased by the federal government. The Alamo Boundary Trail opened to the public on September 10, 2005, the same day that the Cerro Grande Route opened. It was a momentous day for outdoor enthusiasts who had waited for almost 30 years to set foot legally on the beautiful southern portion of the Valles Caldera rim.To get precise directions to the Alamo Boundary and the Coyote Call trails, please see Craig Martin's book, Los Alamos Trails.

Special thanks to Donald and Dorothy Hoard for their encouragement and help on this project. 

About Me

My photo
Los Alamos, New Mexico, United States