PART ONE: Orientation and Start
Mike Hill’s most excellent book advises taking Forest Road 540, the Guadalupe Ridge Road, off New Mexico Highway 123 past Queen, to where the gravel ends and walking three miles on Forest Road/Trail 201 to get to the trail onto Lonesome Ridge. Says if you have the right vehicle you can drive it but it is so rough you may as well save yourself and your vehicle and walk it. Very similar advice as given to me by the Guadalupe Ranger District’s Wildlife Biologist, Larry Paul. He said walk the 201, don’t drive it, easier on your back and knees.
BLM, on its Lonesome Ridge Wilderness Study Area website, suggests taking Forest Road 540 (Guadalupe Ridge Road) for 4 miles, then left on Forest Road 69 (Klondike Gap Road) for 2¼ miles, then turn right on Forest Road 69A for 2¼ miles to near the Dark Canyon Lookout. Then turn right (southwest) on Forest Road 201 (4 wheel drive required at this point). Drive or hike for just over 2½ miles southeast to Forest Road 3010 (not marked as such as you will see on page 3) and go 1.5 miles to where the actual Lonesome Ridge Trail begins. Take this trail for 2 miles to get through national Forest Service land to the BLM’s WSA boundary. There the trail becomes the Golden Stairway on BLM land and continues another 2 miles through the WSA.
Mike Hill says the Golden Stairway is so faint (hard to see) it was not worth his exploring it. He also says there are other ways into the Big Canyon outlet below, but you had better have a vehicle waiting for you somewhere below, otherwise you have to hike it all back. What others have said is that this Golden Stairway is “crazy steep” and strongly discouraged. The Golden Stairway is NOT in my plans.
So, this time I took the route suggested by the BLM. Drove (bounced) to the 201 where it meets the 69A by the Black Canyon Overlook. The above cited BLM internet site suggests this can be done by a normal sedan. I doubt it, there are places where clearance is an issue. Maybe 4WD is not absolutely necessary, but it adds some assurance.
Let's consult some Bing 3-D maps to orient ourselves further, first here is FR 69A (coming in from the left at the cross) meeting FR201, where we start walking:
Road 69A is not a smooth road, requires some clearance even if not 4WD:
We park just below the intersection sign and see the 201 in the background in some trees going up and around the next ridge:
Crossing that first divide gives great views into canyons in both directions: the Black River starts and goes off in the easterly direction on the left (Franks's Canyon the map says?), and on the right is Fir Canyon, a tributary to Dark Canyon that occasionally sends flood waters into south Carlsbad:
So far, it has been a pleasant walk, but we are just starting, we will be seeing those communications towers off and on the whole walk:
Have no clue about the purpose of this water tank duo:
A bit later we see a large green water tank in the valley where the Black River starts (in the center, just to the right of the pine tree):
We will keep moving along the 201 trail on the next page.
PART TWO: Walking the 201
PART THREE: The big intersection
PART FOUR: Walking the 3010
PART FIVE: Trail 56 first half mile
PART SIX: Trail 56 second half mile
PART SEVEN: Turnaround point
PART EIGHT: Coming back
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