June 3, 1998
Highlights: A long hike, sometimes steep, but with some of the best scenery these mountains have to offer Location: Northeast side of the Magdalena Mountains, west of Socorro Round-trip distance: 10 miles Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous Elevation: 7,070 feet to 10,783 feet at South Baldy Maps: Cibola National Forest Magdalena Ranger District, Water Canyon and South Baldy 7.5-minute USGS quadrangles Printable map
Copper Canyon Trail
This hike begins near the Forest Service's Water Canyon Campground, reached by Forest Road 235, a paved road branching west at a well-marked junction with U.S. 60, west of Socorro, east of Magdalena.
Just after the pavement ends and just before the road descends to the campground, Forest Road 406 branches to the right. It's rough in spots but passable with care. After 0.9 miles, FR 406 ends at a parking area, just before a stream.
From here the marked Copper Canyon Trail, No. 10, heads west, and after bypassing private property, it parallels the pleasant little stream into the mountains.
At three miles, immediately after a decaying log cabin, Trail 10 forks. The left, or south, fork ascends steeply one mile to the Crest Trail, No. 8. This is the most direct approach to South Baldy and the easiest to follow.
The right, or north, fork also ascends one mile to the Crest Trail, No. 8, but while slightly less steep is brushier and more difficult to follow, especially in its upper end. If you choose a loop, ascend the north fork, as it's harder to find from the top.
By following Trail 8 south along the crest from the north fork junction, near an old mine, you reach a pleasant meadow and looming over you to the south the steep, grassy west slopes of 10,783-foot South Baldy. If you climb this, you'll be disappointed to encounter a dirt road and electronic apparatus of Langmuir Lab, which studies lightning. (This is no place to be in a storm!)
But the views from here are anything but disappointing. If you came up the north fork of Trail 10, descend via the south fork.