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On Walkabout On: The Organ Mountains’ Pine Tree Trail

Southern New Mexico’s Organ Mountains are well known for their ruggedness, which has caused many of the mountains’ peaks to be inaccessible due to steep rock faces these mountains are famous for:

Rabbit Ears 2

However, there are a few trails that allow hikers to access the upper reaches of these mountains.   One of these trails is Pine Tree Trail, which begins at the Aguirre Springs Campground on the east side of the mountains:

Start of the Pine Tree Trail

The Aguirre Springs Campground is accessed off of Highway 70 that runs between Las Cruces and Alamogordo right below the east side of San Augustin Pass.  Aguirre Springs is a large campground with nice facilities available for camping and for picnics.  However, I was here to do some hiking and Pine Tree Trail is one of the best if not the best hike to take in the Organ Mountains.

Even before I even started on my hike, just the view from the trailhead was spectacular.  Here is the view looking towards the most northern reaches of the Organ Mountains:

Northern Organ Mountains Peak

Here is the view of the Organ Mountains famous Rabbit Ears that have fascinated visitors to these mountains for centuries:

The Majestic Rabbit Ears

Finally here is the view that was right in front me of the heart of the Organ Mountains, known as the Needles where Pine Tree Trail takes hikers deep into:

The Needles of the Organ Mountains

This hike is a 4 mile round trip hike, but it does have various side routes that can be taken to push even further into the mountains.  It is on these side routes that many hikers and climbers over the years have been killed and the Bureau of Land Management, which owns these mountains makes sure to let hikers know about this fact:

Organ Mountains Danger Sign

I plan on hiking the complete Pine Tree Trail depicted below in red, but also was going to attempt to get to the top Organ Mountains ridgeline by taking the spur from the trail depicted in yellow below:

pine tree trail map

I started up the trail and it immediately begins to gain a bit of altitude. The trail begins at 5,700 feet of altitude and the very upper reaches of the trail rises to 6,880 feet.  This gain in altitude of course provides great views throughout the hike.

Here was the view of the Tularosa Basin below the mountains that I was able to see shortly after starting the hike:

View From the Pine Tree Trail

You can read more about the Tularosa Basin here.

As can be seen in the above photographs, from the trailhead the vegetation around the trail consists of mostly shrubs and pinon pine trees.  However, this would soon change as I climbed further up the mountain.  At the intersection of the loop trail I ran into this sign that showed the trail route:

Pine Tree Trail Map

This map was not very informative other than to point out where I was at on the trail.  I thought maybe there would be more signs like this along the trail to chart my progress on this loop hike, but this would end up being the only trail sign I saw all day.  This kind of made this first trail map sign pretty worthless.

As I passed the sign the trail was in pretty good condition and surrounded by the small bushes and pinon trees at these lower altitudes:

The Organ Mountain's Pine Tree Trail

All along the trail during the day I saw various flowers that were out in bloom for these warm summer months:

Purple Flowers In the Organ Mountains

Organ Mountains Yellow Flowers

There was plenty of these small cactus along the trail sprouting new blooming flowers as well:

Beautiful Cactus Flowers

There was much more though of this cactus though that had no redeeming value by having beautiful flower blooms like the other cactus:

Organ Mountain Cactus

There was also of course plenty of yucca plants scattered along the lower altitudes of the mountains as well:

Organ Mountain Yucca

When I wasn’t gazing down to look at all the wildflowers, I was looking up gazing at the incredible craggy peaks that loomed ahead of me:

Majestic Organ Mountains

One of the crags Sugarloaf Peak hovered off to the south of me and is quite and impressive sight to see throughout the hike:

Sugarloaf Peak In the Organ Mountains

The for most of the way the trail up the mountain was following the stream bed:

Rugged Organ Mountains

While I was hiking up the trail I was surprised to see that even in the month of June, there was still a patch of snow that could be seen in the crevices of the Needles:

Distant Organ Mountain Mine

The trail eventually broke away from the creek bed for a while during the ascent up the mountain:

On the Pine Tree Trail

The trail was in pretty good shape for most the way, but it was getting rougher and rougher the higher up the mountain I went:

Rugged Pine Tree Trail

Eventually the trail got rougher combined with thicker vegetation, which made the going much tougher:

Rugged Organ Mountains Trail

I eventually broke off the trail to try and tried to climb up a spur to the top of the ridgeline of the Organs.  Once I broke off the trail the going became very tough due to the thickness of the brush:

Thick Trees In the Organ Mountains

I eventually broke through the brush to a nice clearing that provided some nice views of the Tularosa Basin:

View Looking Towards White Sands

Looking up from the clearing I could see that going up to the ridgeline of these mountains was going to be difficult:

Organ Mountains 1

From the ridgeline I eventually dropped into a creek bed in an attempt to escape the thick brush for awhile in order to speed up my ascent:

Cactus & Tree In the Organ Mountains

This high up, this creek bed actually had some water dripping down it:

Dripping Water at the Organ Mountains

I was also high enough now in altitude that large ponderosa pine trees were appearing:

View from Organ Mountains

While I was taking the picture above, I noticed this large lizard scurry by me on the rock ledge:

Organ Mountains Lizard

I continued up the creek bed and it to became overgrown with brush and the ascent once again became very difficult:

Organ Mountains Trees

I started to move a bit horizontally on the mountain trying to find an easier path up because the terrain was becoming just to difficult to ascend:

Distant Sugarloaf Peak

Even moving horizontally was tough quite tough because of the terrain:

High Up On the Organ Mountains

I came to another clearing where I took a rest and ate my lunch while enjoying the sweeping views over the White Sands Missile Range:

White Sands Missile Range

After finishing my lunch I decided to continue my ascent up another path I thought would be easier than the way I was going before:

Peaks of the Organ Mountains

So up the mountain I went.

Next Posting: The Organ Mountains’ Pine Tree Trail – Part 2

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