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On Walkabout On: The Organ Mountains’ Fillmore Canyon Trail

Basic Trail Information

  • Name: Fillmore Canyon Trail
  • Where: Organ Mountains, New Mexico
  • Distance: About 4 miles
  • Difficulty: moderate (600 feet elevation gain)
  • Time: 3 hours round-trip
  • More Info: BLM Website

Google Terrain Map of the Trail:

Narrative:

The hike up Fillmore canyon is one of many trails that enter into the beautiful Organ Mountains outside of Las Cruces, New Mexico:

The various trails in the mountains is maintained by the Bureau of Land Management that is responsible for the upkeep of the park. A handful of these trails can be accessed from the park’s visitor center.  One of these trails is the Fillmore Canyon Trail:

The trail is accessed from the La Cueva Trail and takes hikers through a canyon that was once the location of a mining camp:

I followed the sometimes rough trail up to the old Modoc Mine:

From 1849 until 1898 a number of small mining claims for silver and lead were worked here on the west side of the Organ Mountains.  However, in 1898 the Modoc Mining Company invested approximately $1 million to create the large mine site pictured below:

The site had several shafts, hoists, and a large tramway to carry ore.  The 3-story mill pictured in the 1901 image below was the main area where the trams moved ore to:

The mine was depended on water coming from a 420 foot well that was dug that provided water not only for the mining operation but the miners as well that lived in tents around the Modoc Mine site.  Timber was cut in the high elevations of the Organ Mountains by local laborers and brought to the mine by burros.  This wood was used as fuel for the mine’s wood boilers.  However, the Modoc Mine would begin to have problems when the well ran dry.  This increased costs to bring water to the site.  This combined with other issues led to the mine to go bankrupt in 1903.  In 1904 the assets were auctioned off and a new company bought the mine and operated it until 1907 when the lead and silver ran out.  In the 1920’s the remaining mine buildings where removed and sold for scrap.

However, the old mine shafts remain and have been fenced off so wayward hikers do not accidentally fall into them:

As I proceeded up the trail I also spotted this old pile of rock which can be seen in the earlier historical photo as being used as level ground to construct the mill on top of:

Eventually the trail enters into the narrow Fillmore Canyon:

Within the canyon there was still plenty of remains from the old Modoc Mine that could be seen as well:

Fillmore Canyon ends at this small waterfall which after a heavy rain is supposed to be quite a site to see:

However, when I hiked up the canyon it was just a trickle of water coming down the rocks forming this small pool:

Here is how this waterfall looks after a heavy rain storm:

On the west side of the Organ Mountains there is water but no where near as much as I saw on the east side that has a rapidly flowing creek.  Most people end the hike here at the waterfall, but for the more adventurous the trail at the end of the canyon ascends up the side of the waterfall.  The rocks here can be a bit slippery so anyone continuing up the trail needs to be careful.  Here is the view from the top of waterfall looking down into Fillmore Canyon:

Here is another view of Filmore Canyon where La Cueva rock is visible to the right and the park’s visitor center to the left:

The small stream that flows down into the canyon is just a trickle up here and it is easy to understand how this wasn’t a water source that a mine could rely on to provide large amounts of water:

From here the trail follows the creek for awhile which is covered with thick bushes and trees which made walking through here a little unpleasant:

Eventually the trail then ascends up the side of the Organ Mountains and away from the thick brush along the creek:

Away from the creek the plant life consists of a lot of yucca and cactus plants that made it difficult at times to get around without getting scratched:

Fortunately when I go hiking I always wear long sleeve pants so I didn’t get scratched too bad and just had to pull a few thorns out of my pants later on.  As I ascended further up the mountain I noticed that there was another mine higher up on the mountain:

I didn’t see a trail from where I was at leading up there and I didn’t feel like walking through all the cactus to get up there.  The trail I was following continued to the north and down the side of the mountain range.  So I decided to turn around and head back to the visitor center.  So I followed the trail back down to the creek:

From the creek I then headed back down through Fillmore Canyon and soon enough La Cueva rock was right in front of me which meant it was just a short walk back to the visitor center:

Before heading off to the visitor center I took one last look back at the beautiful Organ Mountains:

Overall hiking Fillmore Trail is a must for those visiting Dripping Springs and have a moderate fitness level.  For those with limited fitness the La Cueva and Dripping Springs Trails are much easier undertakings.  Hikers should make sure to bring water with them no matter which trail they are on, especially during the summer time where the desert temperatures commonly rise to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  Picnic sites are available for those wanting to do lunch at the park.  The nice picnic area, visitor center, and multiple trails mean that an individual, group, or family could easily spend an entire day here at the park.

Here is information from the BLM website that should help anyone interested in further planning a visit to this wonderful park:

Visitor Center
The Dripping Springs Visitor Center offers interpretive displays of the Organ Mountains. It is located 10 miles east of Interstate 25, Exit 1, on the western edge of the Organ Mountains in the Dripping Springs Natural Area. It is open all year, except winter holidays, from 8:00 A.M. to 5:00 p.m. Phone: 575.522.1219.

Fees
There is a $3 per vehicle day use fee, and a $25 reservation fee for the group picnic site.

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