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          Front Page

March 18, 1999


  • Highlights: Scenic and interesting canyons in a little-known part of New Mexico
  • Location: In the eastern San Mateo Mountains, southwest of Magdalena
  • Round-trip distance: 8.8 miles or less
  • Difficulty: Moderate to difficult
  • Elevation: 7,200-9,400 feet
  • Cautions: High-clearance vehicle is helpful
  • Side trips: Magdalena is but a shadow of its days as both mining boomtown and terminus for major stock drives, but the village's main street has retained buildings from that boisterous era, and Magdalena may yet rise again.
  • Maps: Cibola National Forest Apache Kid and Withington Wildernesses
  • Printable map

  • Water Canyon Trail

    The Withington Wilderness in the San Mateo Mountains is among New Mexico's least known wildernesses and for good reasons: it's remote, not readily accessible, usually rugged, and lacks special features that would attract visitors.
    But hikers seeking solitude and a pleasant springtime hike will not be disappointed by this hike up Water Canyon.
    To reach the hike, drive west on U.S. 60 from Socorro to where N.M. 107 heads southwest from the west end of the village of Magdalena.
    After 17.3 miles, Forest Road 52, rough but passable for most passenger cars, branches right (west). After 3.4 miles, Forest Road 56 branches left. A sign says this is a primitive road and not suited for passenger cars, but most cars should handle it if driven slowly and cautiously.
    F.R. 56 leads into Big Rosa Canyon. The first trail you encounter, 2.8 miles from the F.R. 52-56 junction, is the Potato Canyon Trail, No. 38, but continue another 3 miles up Big Rosa Canyon to the road's end.
    Here Trail No. 37 ascends Water Canyon, getting steeper as it approaches the mountain crest south of Mount Withington. The route is forested, and water usually is to be found in the stream bed and in the springs along the route. After about 1.5 miles, at Leke Spring, a trail branches right. This steep trail crosses a divide to connect with the Potato Canyon Trail, No. 38, which would be a challenging but interesting loop for persons willing to walk the road in Big Rosa Canyon. Leke Spring also would be a convenient turnaround.

    Bob Julyan