East Railroad Canyon

As described here this walk was 4.5 miles each way (9 miles RT) with an elevation gain of 1700 feet.

During the winter, the Railroad Canyon Campground and direct access to the trailhead is closed so hikers have to park along the highway.  On February 11, 2018 we found the lower section of this trail in very good condition.  The stream level was low and the many stream crossings were easy (hardly noticeable).  

From the highway, the Gallinas Canyon Trail continues north and reaches the junction of the Railroad Canyon Trail at 1.4 miles from NM-152 (the signage indicates 1.5 miles from the trailhead to this junction).  At this junction the Gallinas Canyon Trail turns northwest.  From this junction the Railroad Canyon Trail continues north for another .8 miles (signage indicates 1 mile) to its junction with East Railroad Canyon Trail. The Railroad Canyon Trail continues north (left trail) to the Holden Prong Saddle.  The trail to the right is the East Railroad Canyon Trail, it continues northeast to the Hillsboro Peak Cut-Off Trail, a distance of about 2.8 miles.  

At one time this was a maintained trail through lovely country.  We went up this trail for about a mile on January 28, 2018.  The trail is a disaster, downed trees are everywhere, there is lots of smaller debris everywhere, there is loose rock everywhere, and at the best of times the trail is nothing more than an overgrown game trail - lots of locust saplings, masses of wild rose, and other vines, grass, and tangles of vegetation.  At other times the trail does not exist.  It is beautiful country.

We had hoped to walk to the Cut-Off Trail on that occasion but found that our progress was much slower than we had anticipated.  As a result, we turned back well short of our goal.  Coming back down we found the going much easier because we had an idea of how to traverse the canyon floor.  Although it is not that easy to find the general location of the old trail - you can’t get lost, the entire walk is in the canyon bottom.

A stream of ice.

On the map below, I set a way-point (yellow circle) near where I took the photograph above on January 28, 2018.  At that time the stream was ice, with a bit of water flowing beneath.

On the 11th we returned, starting earlier than before and feeling fairly sure that we would navigate the canyon to where we had stopped before in much shorter time.

On the 11th we made it to a point at 8,671 feet in elevation, about .3 miles short of the Cut-Off Trail (a steep .3 miles according to the map).  By the time we stopped, we had gained 1,700 feet in elevation and were very tired, every step seemed to be a fight with locust and roses.  The fire and floods had made the canyon a mass of loose rock and boulders, downed trees were everywhere.  Bad footing was the norm for more than half the time.  

By far, the best section of trail.  Lovely.

We turned back at this point (4.5 miles from the highway), pretty sure that we would make it out about an hour before nightfall.  There had been a couple of falls on the way up so our bodies were both tired and sore.  Shortly after we started down, I took a fall down a section of boulders, downward about ten feet to meet one of the boulders face on with out obstruction, luckily my momentum was such and the angle of the rock to my face was such, that I pivoted off of the rock, somersaulted over that boulder to have my knees smash into another.  Trying not to be overly dramatic here, but it took awhile to assure myself that I was alive and could walk.  A very painful walk out (really glad that the water level in the creek was low and the stream fords were easy).  Thus, in addition to a trail description you get a cautionary tale as well.

The country is very beautiful - and untamed.  The map of our walk on February 11 is shown below.

© Robert Barnes 2018