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Go forth on the 4th

Fourth of July campground is known for its spectacular colors in the fall. (Courtesy of Tom Kilroy/USDA Forest Service)

Inside the Manzano Mountain Wilderness, there are many natural treasures.

Miles and miles of hiking areas, as well as a different view of the world.

One of those is the Fourth of July campground and trail in Estancia.

Rumor has it the name is derived from the spectacular fall foliage colors that frame the picturesque area. The area is full of oak and maple trees, which provides a deluge of color.

“It’s one of the most special places,” says Arlene Perea, recreation technician for Mountainair Ranger District.

With the Fourth of July holiday weekend coming up, a trip southeast of Albuquerque is quick and offers some family fun.

Perea says the grounds are open during the day for hiking and overnight camping. Camping will cost $7.

There is also no water available and tents and pop-up campers are permitted. Larger recreational vehicles are not.

“That’s really inexpensive to bring a family out to the area,” Perea says. “It’s also important that when visitors arrive, they follow the health orders and rules.”

The area is under Stage 2 fire restrictions which prohibit:

• Building, maintaining, attending, or using a fire, campfire, or stove fire.

• Smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site, or while stopped in an area at least three feet in diameter that is cleared of vegetation and flammable material.

• Welding or operating an acetylene or other torch with open flame.

• Driving off designated roads. Visitors may park in areas cleared of vegetation within 10 feet of the roadway, or in designated parking areas.

• Operating a chainsaw or other equipment powered by an internal combustion engine between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. The so-called “hoot owl” provision is a historic term that was used to notify woodcutters they could only cut during the morning hours when they could hear owls in the forest. Today, the restriction reduces the risk of an accidental fire start by mechanical equipment during the hottest, driest part of the day.

Fuelwood permit holders may still collect wood as long as the chainsaws are off by 10 a.m.

• Fireworks and other pyrotechnic devices are always prohibited on national forests.

During this time of year, Perea says the area gets help from forest officials from Montana.

“We’ve got several severity crews on the district,” she says. “The folks up in Montana come down to New Mexico to help us out during our high fire danger season. They provide us with extra patrols.”

After the monsoon season passes, the New Mexico officials will return the favor and make themselves available to help out Montana.

“Because we’re national resources, we can go anywhere in the country,” she says. “We’ve worked out a system that works pretty well for us. It’s great to have the help at this time of year because we have a lot of ground to cover.”

Perea says one great thing about Fourth of July campground is the solitude.

“You can definitely get away from folks,” she says. “It’s also a destination. The campground is rarely full. Though, at the same time, you have access to several trails that lead to the Manzano Crest Trail. The views once you get up to the crest are spectacular. The area provides great hiking.”

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