June 8, 2013

Group hike with the ASCHG. This was an in-and-out hike in the Magdalena Mountains, which are in the Cibola National Forest, just west of Socorro, New Mexico. If you want a hike that will give you a pretty good workout and reward you with truly spectacular views, this hike is for you… assuming you are in good shape! 😉

We left ABQ around 8 A.M. and drove south on I-25 headed to Socorro. Made a stop at a rest area where members of the Rocky Mountain National Park’s Hotshot Fire Crew were also making a stop. They had come down from Colorado to help fight the Thompson Ridge Fire in the Jemez Mountains and were now on their way to help fight new fires in the Ghila National Forest. We all thanked them for their efforts and gave them a round of applause as we departed.

Click Here to go to the trail map… then click on the individual icons for the trail notes. If icon notes come up empty, try reloading the map.

At Socorro, we took Hwy. 60 to the west (the road actually first goes south, then west, then northwest) for about 16 miles, then turned left on Forest Road 235, also called Water Canyon Road because it leads to the Water Canyon Campground. Drove 4.7 miles on asphalt road with a grade of 2.8%, then turned left at the sign for the Water Canyon Campground. The road then turned to gravel and we encountered two signs, the first indicated the road was not fit for passenger cars, the second indicated only 4WD vehicles should venture beyond that point.

Why those two signs are there is beyond me because the road is graded and apparently well-maintained. We did encounter some washboard effects and a few chug holes, but nothing that a passenger vehicle couldn’t manage with ease — just make sure your tires and your spare are in good shape and properly inflated. I suspect the road is in such good shape because the Langmuir Laboratory for Atmospheric Research is located at the top and people who work there need year-round access. That said, we ignored the signs and pressed on. Okay… we already knew this before we set out for the hike!! 🙂

From the signs, it’s another 6.7 miles to the trailhead, but this is where the climbing begins. The climb to the trailhead is 2,875 feet at an average grade of 8%. The road winds its way to the top, twisting and turning, with some pretty impressive views as the elevation increases, especially the view looking down on the road you just came up. Drive slow and careful because the drop-offs are severe. The Timber Peak Trailhead and parking area is located at 9,857 feet but when I say “parking,” there is really only room for one vehicle to park! Fortunately, it was open when we arrived.

The Timber Peak Trail (#70) is a bit misleading because the trail doesn’t actually lead to Timber Peak, elevation 10,350 feet, it runs along the west side of the peak, about a hundred feet lower in elevation. According to my map, the Timber Peark Trail runs 5-6 miles and then just ends to the northwest of Italian Peak. However, our destination for this hike was a big open meadow at the 3.15 mile mark, elevation about the same as the trailhead, where we would stop for lunch before heading back to the van.

Another thing misleading about this hike is our destination, as mentioned, was only 3.15 miles with an elevation gain at the highest point of less than 400 feet… but the total climbing, round-trip, was 1,796 feet. That means almost the entire hike was up and down, up and down, up and down with varying grades up to 20%.

Timber Peak Trail Round-Trip Elevation Profile

Timber Peak Trail: Round-Trip Elevation Profile

To say the views on this hike were spectacular would be an understatement, even with the haze. It’s definitely an on-top-of-the-world feeling while hiking along the spine, which makes the hike and the workout more than worthwhile. The total round-trip for this hike was 6.3 miles and took 5.16 hours to complete, counting stops. Actual round-trip hiking time was 3.3 hours.

If you decide to do this hike, make sure your legs and lungs are in good shape because you will get a good workout, especially if you are a senior hiker. Don’t let the signs deter you from driving up to the trailhead unless there has been rain in that area within a week or so prior to your hike. There is a pretty good rock-slide area, which would be a good place to twist an ankle, so wear boots with good ankle support; however, there are ankle challenges for almost the entire hike. And start early so you can finish early because the clouds can start building up around mid-afternoon. Keep in mind, the Langmuir Lab is up there to study lightning,  so you don’t want to get caught exposed during bad weather. Make certain you check the weather forecast before doing this hike.

Click the first pic to start the manual slideshow: