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On Walkabout On: Lookout Trail, New Mexico

The Ruidoso area is one of my favorite places in New Mexico due to its scenic mountains, lush foliage, abundant wildlife, and fresh air.  The best way to experience all of this is to take a hike into these beautiful mountains and the best place to do this is on Lookout Trail near the Ski Apache resort:

sierra blanca 1

The trail ascends through the thickly forested slopes and high alpine meadows of the 11,981 ft (3,651.8 m) Sierra Blanca Peak to offer incredible 360 degree views of the region:

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Ski Apache where Lookout Trail begins is easily accessed from Ruidoso by taking the winding County Road 532 up to high up into the White Mountains.  Even for people who have no intention of hiking in these mountains, CR 532 is still a must for all visitors to Ruidoso due to the incredible views from the lookout near the end of the road.  CR 532 ends at the parking lot of Ski Apache, which is also where the start of Lookout Trail is at:

The trailhead is located across the road from the parking lot and is well marked:

I started my hike at around 0:630 in the morning and was the first person on the trail.  A local back in Ruidoso told me that this hike is quite popular and recommended that I get an early start before the crowds of day hikers swarmed the mountain.  I took her advice and sure enough I had the trail all to myself.

The trail at first descended into a thick forest rich with the smell of pine trees that I so much enjoy after spending so much time living in the deserts of El Paso, Texas:

Shortly after entering the forest I soon found myself walking across a beautiful alpine meadow, with a trail marker telling me which way I need to go to reach the lookout at the end of this trail:

With this being an alpine meadow, the ground beneath me was just littered with beautiful wildflowers:

Especially these purple flowers:

Due to the abundance of wildflowers, on the way back I saw a guy collecting samples of butterflies that had ascended in this meadow.   Anyway as I continued down the trail I found myself traversing a hillside that was running parallel to the Ski Apache resort:

Here is the view looking behind me back towards the Ski Apache parking lot from where I started this hike:

The trail then proceeded to enter and exit thick patches of forests and alpine meadows as the trail continue to parallel the ski resort:

As I walked down the trail I saw plenty of wildlife to include many squirrels such as this little guy that appeared to enjoy being photographed considering how non-frightened he was with me standing near him:

I also had the opportunity to see some deer along the trail:

Kind of like with spotting kangaroos during my time in Australia, I just never get tired of seeing deer.

After the trail finished running its parallel path with the ski resort it then began to steeply gain altitude as the trail followed a spur up to the crest of the mountain range:

The trail following this spur took me up to the main ridgeline of the White Mountain Wilderness, which as this sign shows is part of the Lincoln National Forest:

On the ridgeline was also this sign directing hikers to the various trails that intersected here:

As I walked along this high alpine meadow at the crest of the White Mountains my pants got tangled with a few of these strange pointy berry like things that were hanging on some low lying bushes:

I also noticed these very strange yellow flowers as well:

If anyone knows what these plants are please leave a comment because I would like to know.  Anyway I followed the trail across the meadow and up to the clearing on top of a round mountain knoll:

This mountain knoll lookout I was on was over 10,000 feet in elevation, which provided sweeping views of the area despite the wind that causing a bit of haze on the day I hiked up this trail.  Directly in front of me to the north I could see the summit of another impressive peak, Carrizozo Mountain that has an impressive altitude of 9,605 feet:

Directly below me to the west I could also see the Three River Petroglyphs Site, which actually has a trail that leads up to this very crest line I was standing on:

Hiking from the petroglyph site to the Ski Apache resort is definitely something I would like to do some day.  To the southwest was another impressive sight, White Sands National Monument that which from this mountain perched laid about 6,000 feet below me:

Directly below me to the southwest was this extremely rugged canyon that looked like it would be quite hike to traverse the mountain from:

However, the most impressive view from the lookout was without a doubt Sierra Blanca Peak, which is a stunning sight no matter which direction it is viewed from:

From here I could have actually followed the ridgeline to the 11,981 ft summit of Sierra Blanca if I wanted to, but since it is located on the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation, a special pass is needed to access the mountain, which I did not have.  Some other time I will definitely climb up to the summit of Sierra Blanca, but for this day I was more than happy with the great views provided from the summit of Lookout Trail.

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