Las Cruces – Planning for the Thanksgiving holiday can be more than turkey, pumpkin pie, and watching football. It is also an opportunity to take family and friends and those leftover turkey sandwiches for a picnic or hike to any of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) recreation areas in southern New Mexico.
Better yet, the family can enjoy a day of mountain biking, horseback riding, or simply hanging out at a campsite with plenty of non-stressful things to see and do.
Here are some choices for avoiding Black Friday shopping or over-indulging on mom’s apple pie!
- Dripping Springs Natural Area has over 4 miles of easy hiking trails, including the Dripping Springs Trail, which shows off desert scrub and low elevation piñon-juniper and oak woodlands. It also has a visitor center, handicapped-accessible restrooms, 12 picnic sites, and one large family/group picnic site that can be reserved.
- Picacho Peak Recreation Area has over 15 miles of hiking trails. The 1.5 mile trail to the 4,959-foot high peak provides spectacular views of the Mesilla Valley and the Organ Mountains. Although most of the recreational use occurs on the peak, there are also large canyons and mesa tops to explore.
- Soledad Canyon Day Use Area includes the 3-mile loop Bar Canyon Trail, which offers an easy and scenic hike very close to Las Cruces. The Bar Canyon Trail includes scenic vistas of the central Organ Mountains and the southern Mesilla Valley.
- Tortugas Mountain Recreation Area’s trails are used regularly by nearby residents for short, but quality biking opportunities. The lower trails are a great place for beginners to the sport. As skills are developed, there are more technical routes available as well.
- Sierra Vista Trail is a 29-mile non-motorized recreation trail along the western flank of the Organ Mountains and the eastern side of the Franklin Mountains. The Trail provides spectacular views of the mountains, which jut majestically above the desert floor.
- SST Trail is a popular mountain biking trail within the Prehistoric Trackways National Monument in the Robledo Mountains northwest of Las Cruces. It is an extremely technical trail, traversing challenging rocky terrain, steep canyons, and mountain-top ridges — and requires expert riding skills.
Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Riding:
- Aden Hills OHV Area is approximately 20 miles southwest of Las Cruces. The Area encompasses approximately 8,700 acres of Chihuahuan Desert mesquite or creosote dunes and a variety of grasses, yucca, and cacti.
- Red Sands OHV Area is in Otero County, south of Alamogordo, and has over 100 miles of off-road/cross-country trails that have been developed by users. Although the trails are mainly utilized during organized motorcycle races, the area is popular with OHV users of all types and levels.
- Robledo Mountains OHV Trail System is a network of trails within both the Prehistoric Trackways and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monuments. The trails are dominated by enormous rocks, making the terrain extraordinarily challenging for riders. The extreme OHV trails require specialized vehicles, with locking differentials, winches, and expert drivers.
- Aguirre Springs Campground is the only high-country campground in the Las Cruces/El Paso/Juarez region. It is also a popular picnic site on weekends and holidays. The Campground includes 57 family sites and two group sites that can be reserved.
- Three Rivers Petroglyph Site is also in Otero County, north of Alamogordo, and offers five shelter sites with picnic tables and cooking grills; one group site with three picnic tables under a shelter and two grills; two RV sites have covered picnic tables and grills as well as water and electric hookups. In addition, five locations are designated for tent use. All of the campsites have direct access to the area’s outstanding concentration of petroglyphs.
- Gila Lower Box Canyon is a true oasis in the desert, 20 miles north of Lordsburg. The river canyon is ideal for non-developed .camping in the lush thicket of cottonwood, willows, and other riparian vegetation. The area provides some of the best birding in New Mexico, including 200 bird species. The Gila River also provides opportunities for canoeing or rafting during spring runoff, hunting, and year-round fishing and camping. Access to the Gila Lower Box Canyon from the county road requires a 4-wheel drive, high-clearance vehicle and staying on the existing routes.
The pre, during, and post- Thanksgiving Day choices are many and diverse. So on second thought, take mom’s apple pie along. You will need it to give you high energy for a day on BLM public lands.
For more information/maps on BLM recreation opportunities, visit www.blm.gov/nm/lascruces.
The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM’s mission is to manage and conserve the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations under our mandate of multiple-use and sustained yield. In Fiscal Year 2014, the BLM generated $5.2 billion in receipts from public lands.