PART ONE: INTRODUCTION ORIENTATION AND A WARNING!
When I went to hike more of the Devils (or Devil's) Den trail and got rained out in early August I followed the main road to Dog Canyon, part of Guadalupe Mountains National Park.
While there I asked the very nice Park Ranger where Devils Den Canyon came out and the trail came down to the highway. He did not know, said that was National Forest land and I needed to go check with the US Department of Agriculture's local National Forest Service Rangers, they would know.
I did that. All these land-management agencies have offices in Carlsbad, New Mexico, aka: home. And the Forest Service Rangers knew of the trail, two of them, but neither had personally been on it (Lincoln National Forest is huge!). But they had heard that it ends abruptly and stops where it faces a very steep drop.
They sold me a map book. Very nice. But where Devils Den Canyon is concerned it is way out of date even though brand new. They were talking about a part of Trail 202 (T202) that is not on the map they just sold me, it is abandoned. And now there is a 'new' T202 which starts at Five Points Vista but it is not on the map. It is not particularly new, it is primitive, not cleared and manicured.
Googled Devils Den Canyon again and came up with this description of a Devil's Den Canyon Wilderness Study Area (WSA) under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management. A third federal agency. All three agencies are part of the US Department of the Interior.
This description is accurate. It starts you out to explore the WSA from the place I had started before, on Forest Service lands:
Location: Southwest of Carlsbad
BLM Acreage: 320 acres
The Devil's Den Canyon WSA is located in southern New Mexico, approximately 40 miles southwest of Carlsbad and is contiguous with the Guadalupe Escarpment WSA (managed by the U.S. Forest Service). Devil's Den Canyon contains the mouth of a major drainage on the west side of Guadalupe Escarpment and has a variety of vegetation including desert shrubs and grasses, piņon and juniper woodlands, and sub-riparian trees and shrubs in the canyon bottom.
From Highway 137, turn south on Forest Road 540 following it nearly to its end where it intersects Forest Road 3008. Continue on to a short spur, signed 202, which is the trailhead to the Devils Den Trail, #200. Hike trail #200 to its end on a gentle ridge within the WSA. The infrequently maintained trail drops into a wash, and you must be careful to watch for rock cairns marking where it climbs back out of the wash near the mouth of the canyon on the north side. Since the middle section of the trail is on the bottom of a wash, avoid hiking here during times of heavy rain.
1. The last few miles of the access road is dirt road requiring suitable clearance. Conditions of roads can change at any time due to weather. Drivers should avoid dirt roads during rain or snow. Drivers should be cautious of wash-out following rain or snowmelt.
Elevation Range: 4,800-6,825 feet
Although the advice is good and the location description is good, several details in this description seem just a bit off.
2015 CORRECTION: This map is so out of date it does not show a new fenceline dividing public lands from private lands, a fence that runs roughly along the 6000 foot level. Just above where the word "Devils" appears there is a ridge parallel to the main escarpment. That ridge and its immediate surroundings IS the WSA! As the BLM website cited above says, the trail dead-ends at the top of that lower ridge!
"Trail #202: The Devil's Den trail is approximately 1 mile long. It begins at Forest Road 3008 and dead ends in the canyon past the springs about 1 mile later. The trail is open for the following uses: Hiking, Horseback Riding"
"Trail #200: The Indian trail is 0.8 miles long. It begins at Forest Road 540 and ends at Forest Road 540. The trail is open for the following uses: Hiking, Horseback Riding.
So both the map book and the web site are out of date. Calling some of these trails "infrequently maintained" is an overstatement.
This is the canyon we are (1) going to first approach from below, (2) then explore from within, and (3) then look at from above:
WARNING: what is T202 on the map, if you start from where the map shows it to intersect FR540, the trail is abandoned and the lower portions of it are very hard, if not impossible, to find!
THREE 'HIKES' ARE DESCRIBED BELOW:
Starting on page 2 we will follow the now abandoned T 202 from its origin on FR 540 to approach Devils Den Canyon from below.
Starting on page 6 we will follow T 200 through Devils Den Canyon, but not down the escarpment afterward.
Starting on page 10 we will follow T 202 from Five Points Vista to its cliff-ending.
NOTE THAT THE USE OF "WE" IN THESE DESCRIPTIONS MEANS YOU AND ME. I AM A SOLO HIKER. NOT A SMART HIKER.
HIKE ONE: Walking down, and back up, T 202:
Part 2: Walking down from Guadalupe Ridge on Trail 202
Part 3: Losing Trail 202 and meeting a fence
Part 4: Looking for the trail coming from Devils Den Canyon
Part 5: Returning via the same route
HIKE TWO: Walking down T200 through the canyon (for a first look at the canyon from the top, go to this page):
Part 6: Entering Devils Den Canyon from above
Part 7: Walking through Devils Den Canyon
Part 8: Meeting the trail coming up to Devils Den Canyon from below
Part 9: Clouds, showers, and a dedication.
HIKE THREE: Walking Trail 202 from Five Points Vista
Part 10: What about that Trail 202 sign at Five Points Vista?
Part 11: A walk on Trail 202 from Five Points Vista
Part 12: Devils Den Canyon vistas from near Trail 202
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