More than 200 miles of established trails beckon hikers through mountain forests, river valleys, canyons and deserts. Even more options for non-motorized off-trail exploration abound in the U. S. Bureau of Land Management and National Forest back country. See the Quebradas Byway section in this guide for access points to desert destinations east of the Rio Grande. For trail guides and additional excursion ideas, check out the Magdalena Chamber of Commerce website at www.magdalena-nm.com.
San Lorenzo Canyon BLM Recreation Area
San Lorenzo Canyon, 15 miles north of Socorro, is a popular camping, hiking, riding and picnicking destination. The wide channel narrows to a spectacular high-walled canyon. Interesting side canyons — some with springs — allow for plenty of hiking and riding opportunities. The road ends at a rock pour-off. An easy scramble up the pour-off affords a beautiful walk further into the canyon, which features a perennial spring wetting the sand in places.
To get to the canyon, take the west frontage road north from the Lemitar exit (Milepost 156) on Interstate 25 and drive about five miles to a maintained dirt road. Signs will direct you from the dirt road to San Lorenzo Canyon via a dry sandy track that most passenger vehicles can negotiate in good weather.
The rugged, 9,210-ft high Ladron Peak, the highest point on the double-peaked isolated mountain range west of Bernardo, is a rough and long cross-country scramble up rocky and slippery terrain suitable only for strong, experienced hikers. The Ladrones Mountain Range is rumored to have been a hiding place for bandits (ladron means robber in Spanish). Nowadays, the summit is a goal for hikers who like a challenge. Anyone attempting the hike is encouraged to study the Ladron Peak N.M., U.S. Geological Survey 7.5 minute quadrangle map before starting out.
To get to one of the hike’s starting points, exit Interstate 25 at Bernardo (Milepost 175), 30 miles north of Socorro. Proceed southwest on Old Highway 85 from the Kiva RV Park, crossing the bridge over the Rio Puerco. From there, take County Road 12 (the Riley Road) west from the locked gate. At approximately 22 miles from the locked gate, take a left, After another three miles, take a left at a fork and drive approximately a half mile to a water tank. From there, bushwhack up the steep and narrow ridges about three miles to the peak. High-clearance vehicles should have no trouble with County Road 12, but hikers should check with the Socorro BLM Field Office for road and mountain conditions, since sand and wash-outs can make the road impassable.
The Magdalena Ranger District in the Cibola National Forest offers several popular Magdalena Mountain trails, many of which branch off from Water Canyon. The Water Canyon turn off is 15 miles west from Socorro on Highway 60.
A popular destination for Socorro hikers is the 7,247 ft. Polvadera Peak, located on BLM land northwest of Lemitar. The summit provides a fantastic 360-degree view of jumbled desert ridges, plains, the Rio Grande valley and several mountain ranges.
The shortest and easiest route to the peak begins at a microwave tower visible from the Lemitar Exit (Milepost 156) off Interstate 25, about 10 miles north of Socorro. From the Lemitar Exit, head north on the west frontage road past Durkin Diesel and the old cotton gin to a chain-link gate with a yellow BLM sign on it (about a half-mile). Proceed left through the gate and onto a dirt road suitable for most higher-clearance two-wheel drive vehicles. Head north by following the power line road and then left on a maintained dirt road to the microwave tower. Unless you have a rugged four-wheel-drive vehicle, park at the tower. Walk (or drive) west from the tower, up the arroyo to the end of the road, and then walk up an old jeep track to a ridge east of the peak.
Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge
Several trails offers a variety of hikes, from a shady valley stroll to a desert canyon hike to a moderately strenuous 9-mile round-trip trek up Chupadera Peak, the highest point in the refuge.
Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge
Located 22 miles north of Socorro via Interstate 25, the 230,000 acre refuge includes four different biomes and an array of biological diversity.
Most of the refuge is off-limits to the public, but two short nature loops, a river valley wildlife viewing area and the moderately strenuous 3.8 mile Mesa View trail give visitors a taste of the refuge’s magnificent vistas and intriguing fauna and flora.
The 8- to 10-mile hike to the top of the 7,012 foot-high reddish volcanic plug between Polvadera Peak and Socorro “M” Mountain ends with a strenuous scramble, but the spectacular view and strange, new-age memorabilia at the summit make the effort worthwhile. The only public access is via the Single Track, a mountain bike path heading northwest from East Road. For details, visit www.summitpost.org.
San Mateo Mountains
The huge and lightly used San Mateo Mountain section of the Cibola National Forest is still part of the Magdalena Ranger District. While there are plenty of off-trail hiking opportunities in the region, a popular choice is Trail 43, which leads hikers and riders from Springtime Campground up to the summit of San Mateo Peak – an elevation of 10,139 ft. The peak offers views of several mountain ranges and the valleys below. Springtime Campground is accessible from Interstate 25 south of Socorro via Old Highway 85 and Forest Road 225. Most passenger vehicles can make the graded dirt road up to the campground, but drivers should call the Magdalena Ranger District for road conditions before proceeding. The established trail to the peak will take several hours one way, so plan to be back at the trailhead before afternoon storms erupt on the high ridges.