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On Walkabout On: The Organ Mountain’s Dripping Springs Trail – Part 1

Basic Trail Information

  • Name: Dripping Springs Trail
  • Where: Organ Mountains, New Mexico
  • Distance: 2 miles
  • Difficulty: easy (400 feet gain in altitude)
  • Time: 2 hour round-trip
  • More Info: BLM Website

Google Terrain Map of the Trail:

Narrative:

Just north of my present home in El Paso, Texas and just across the state line is the scenic college town of Las Cruces, New Mexico:

There are plenty of things to see and do in Las Cruces, but the one thing site that over shadows all others in this town is without a doubt the Organ Mountains:

The Organ Mountains, so called because they look like a church organ, tower over the city to the east and are a sight that new visitors to the city are always in awe of.  Well these mountains were a place where my wife and I decided to go a take a hike at recently.  Las Cruces is only about a 45 minute drive from where we live and the drive down Dripping Springs Road to the mountains from Las Cruces is about another 15 minute drive:

Here is a Google Maps image of this spectacular and rugged mountain range:


View Larger Map

The Organ Mountains is managed by the Bureau of Land Management and they keep a visitor center open at the base of the mountains at the end of the Dripping Springs Road:

The visitor center is actually quite well done and has a number of displays depicting the areas history, wildlife, and plant life that is well worth checking out.  Even from the parking lot of the visitor center, there is a spectacular view of the surrounding Rio Grande river valley:

I just find it amazing how much water flows down this river in the middle of a desert.  Even more amazing is how little of this water is left once the Rio Grande reaches the border between the US and Mexico.

The visitor center is also the hub for a number of trails that lead off into the surrounding park land.  One short trail from the visitor center leads over to a rock formation known as La Cueva:

This rock formation has a cave that for nearly 7,000 years local Apache Indian tribes used for shelter.  The top of the cave is still black with smoke from these fires. The caves most infamous resident however was not Indians, but rather a monk by the name of Giovanni Maria Agostini, know to local folks as “El Ermitano”…the Hermit.  Agostini the son of a rich Italian family who became a monk and eventually traveled around the Americas before joining a wagon train that took him to Las Cruces.  Agostini eventually decided to move into the cave at La Cueva and became known as a valuable healer in the community.  Many locals worried about the monk living alone in the isolated cave, but to ease their worries Agostini promised to light a fire every night letting people know he was okay.  In the spring of 1869 a fire failed to appear and the next morning when a local man went to check on Agostini, he found him murdered with a knife in his back.  Agostini is buried in a local cemetery and the culprit of his murder was never found.

On this visit to the Organ Mountains my wife and I planned to hike the Dripping Springs Trail where at the end of the trail the remains of an old sanitorium and mountain resort still remain.  The entire length of the hike would be about 4 miles which makes for a pleasant day hike.  Here is the start of the Trail:

The start of the trail also had a sign warning hikers about the dangers of hiking in the park:

My wife and I had no intention of rock climbing during this trip and were going to simply follow the trail thus avoiding any potential dangerous situations on the high rocks.  Here is a Google Earth image of the Dripping Springs Trail we planned to follow:

Along the way on the trail my wife and I continuously saw these little lizard running off into the bush as we neared them on the trail:

Better having these guys running around us than rattlesnakes, that’s for sure.  Anyway continued down the trail and were impressed not only by the high rocky peaks of the mountains, but the variety of Chihuahuan Desert, plant life that surrounded us:

The yucca plants all had these high stems sticking out of them in order to spread their seeds around:

These yucca trees actually reminded me of how the fern trees in Australia reproduce. The lower reaches of the Organ Mountains even had some large trees:

Further up the mountain at higher altitudes Ponderosa Pine trees can actually be found.  Of course since this is a desert there was some giant sized cactus, but not as much as you would think.  The desert plant life was quite colorful at times.  In the below photo if you look closely, you can see the bird hanging out in the shade:

Anyway as the trail continued on closer and closer to the rocky peaks of the mountain we walked across a very lush grassland that actually served as grazing land for the Cox Ranch before the government acquired the land:

As we neared the mountains we both could not keep our eyes off the massive rocky peaks ahead of us:

Before the trail enters into a rocky valley where the trail ends, there is an old stable that used to house the horses that were used to bring visitors up to the now abandoned resort at the end of the trail:

There are no more horses here now a days to see, but the view of the surrounding Rio Grande basin is still as good as it was back then:

From here the trail ascended into the interior of a rocky valley where one of the first resorts in New Mexican history was established.

Next Posting: Dripping Springs Trail – Part 2

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