Thursday, October 12, 2000
Highlights: An outstanding Aspen Forest with not too many hikers. Location: Dockwiller Trail 256 starts at the Panchuela Campground on Forest Road 210 directly north of the Winsor Creek Road. It is about 21 miles from the Village of Pecos. Difficulty: Moderate, but the climb to the top of the ridge is steep. Round-trip distance: Ten miles to the junction with trail 259; about 15 miles if you go all the way to Pecos Baldy lake. Elevation: Starts at 8,300 feet; climbs to a high point of 10,500 feet at the trail junction. Cautions: The Dockwiller Trail is steep and rocky in places. Best seasons: Spring, summer and fall; for aspen viewing, the first two weeks of October are prime. Maps: The Pecos Wilderness, Santa Fe National Forest. Printable map
Dockwiller Trail, Pecos Wilderness
"The aspens are turning! The aspens are turning!" So say hikers who return from the high Pecos Wilderness to the San Pedro Parks Wilderness. The time to trek through golden rain is here, and the trails await.
One of the better routes for viewing aspens is the Dockwiller Trail in the Pecos Wilderness. This is a steep trail that goes right through a major aspen forest and because it is not one of the more popular trails in the Pecos, you are apt to find solitude on it.
The route follows a ridge between the Pecos River and Panchuela Creek. There are spectacular overlooks of drainages on both sides of the ridge.
The trail starts at the Panchuela Campground, which is reached by going to the Village of Pecos and driving north on Highway 63 for about 20 miles to Cowles. There, a bridge across Winsor Creek on Forest Road 201 leads to the summer-home area to the west. About 50 yards after the bridge there is a sharp right turn onto Forest Road 305, which leads to the Panchuela Campground.
Mind the speed limit (10 mph), as there are several speed bumps where the paved road passes through a private dude ranch.
From the parking area, go north past the campground and turn right across a bridge where trail 259 starts. You will follow the trail north for about one mile to a fork trail 259 going on north, trail 288 going to the left up Cave Creek.
A trail marker points to the Dockwiller Trail, which continues about 4 miles where it joins trail 256 to Pecos Baldy, and returns on trail 257, joining the original trail at Jack's Creek.
Total distance is about 15 miles round trip. The trail, which is well-maintained, starts at an elevation of 8,300 feet and climbs to about 10,500 feet.
If you are ready for the climb, it is a great walk through aspens. Be sure to take adequate clothing because it can get cold this time of year, particularly if the wind is blowing.
If you can't make the Pecos this weekend, don't despair. Further south, in the Lincoln, Cibola and Gila National Forests, aspens turn a little later in the month. Check with the forest service to find out what trails might offer the most colorful scenery.