Mineral Creek Trail

This trail description starts at Forest Service Road 157 and continues for 1.78 miles to the west up Mineral Creek.  FR 157 runs north from NM-152 on the east side of the Black Range.  At an elevation of 6,347 feet, the trail starts at 13S UTM 24607.29 m E, 3651445.36 m N and continues west, up the creek, for about two miles.  On September 18, 2017 we followed the trail to the overlook of a “large” waterfall, 1.78 miles up the trail.  At this point (13S UTM 243932.35 m E, 3651394.47 m N) the elevation is 6,993 feet (having just dropped from 7,002’).

mineral creek map

In the map above, our route on the 18th is shown as a thin blue line running from right to left.  The elevation profile for the walk starts with Forest Service Road 157 on the left.  The route is along an old mining road which gradually peters out.  At about 1.25 miles the grade begins to increase and the trail becomes more overgrown with grass, prickly pear, and mountain mahogany.  In the segment shown above the trail has a gross elevation gain of 897 feet and a net gain of 646 feet.

Near the end of the trail described here the road reaches an adit on the south side of the north ridge of the stream canyon.  After this the road diminishes quickly.  There are random pieces of metal associated with this adit in the streambed below.

Mineral Creek Spring (links to our sister site, www.blackrange2.org which covers the natural history of the Black Range) is a short distance from the beginning of the walk.  It percolates from the ground at the base of a hill about fifteen feet above Mineral Creek.

At about 13S UTM 245711.14m E, 3651617.65 m N there is a small waterfall, photo below.  This is not the waterfall which is well-known in the area - that fall is in the streambed at the end of the walk described here.

On the 18th the trail was very “birdy” (Bridled Titmouse, Acorn Woodpeckers, Northern [Red-shafted] Flickers, Downy Woodpeckers, White-breasted Nuthatches, Turkey Vulture, Plumbeous Vireo, Painted Redstart, Swainson’s Thrush, Wilson’s Warbler, unidentified Quail, …etc.

Along the north ridge of the stream valley there is a natural arch.  Although I have not inspected it closely it appears to be a lava formation, perhaps part of a lava tube which existed long long ago.

The usual suspects are possible along the trail, watch for Rock Rattlesnakes especially.  The trail is often rocky and uneven, several stream crossings are involved, higher on the trail the footing is obscured by grass, Mountain Mahogany and prickly pear make the trail difficult to negotiate near its end.  The area is rather remote, there is no cell service, so due diligence should be practiced.

The waterfall at the end of our walk in September is shown below.

On December 29, 2017, I returned to the area to photograph the waterfall from its base.  The trail to the base of the waterfall starts at roughly the point where the old road crosses the stream for the last time.  Just beyond that point the road starts to climb more steeply and a “trail” to the left (south) follows the stream bed westward.  In places the path involves a lot of boulder hopping and if wet this area would be treacherous.  

At the base of the waterfall there is a pool, and in (this very mild) winter there was still a bit of ice lodged near the top of the fall.  The waterfall is doubtlessly more dramatic at higher water levels.  Conversely, higher water levels would create a more difficult and potentially dangerous path to the waterfall base.  

© Robert Barnes 2018