|Hiking Zia Pueblo White Mesa Trails, near Ojito Wilderness, New Mexico|
|A hiker heads into the painted canyon, which leads up to White Mesa|
|This is your first ascent and final descent - it's challenging but do-able|
|Check out the views from the hike's high point on a solid gypsum hill|
|Pay attention to these junction signs to follow the loop described - or explore!|
At the western edge of White Mesa, the Tierra Amarilla Anticline forms high, narrow mesa ridges. This classic example of a plunging anticline is visited by several university field schools each year. Fossil remains of rare dinosaurs, plants, and trees from the Jurassic period are located in the Morrison Formation. Natural erosion processes have exposed the bones of huge dinosaurs and large segments of petrified trees. These fossils are approximately 150 million years old! The longest dinosaur ever recovered, Seismosaurus, was discovered only a few miles west of the bike trails area in what is now the Ojito Wilderness. Paleontologists and geologists use this great variety of life to construct geologic timelines and interpret climate changes over the earth’s history.
|Tierra Amarilla Anticline provides stunning backdrop at mineral spring|
|Center Spine rises up the mesa as seen from a cool sink-hole along the hike|
|Take your time and really explore the Center Spine Loop at White Mesa Trails|
Trailhead: On Cabezon Road, four miles from NM 550 just south of San Ysidro. From the turn-off, follow signs for Zia Pueblo/Ojito Wilderness down the rugged dirt road for about four miles where you will cross a cattle guard. Park at the lot on the left side of the road; The trail head is directly across from the parking area on the right side of the road. NOTE: There is a second parking lot a little further down which is where most of the mountain bikers who ride these trails begin their rides.
Distance: 4.5 miles
Elevation Gain/Loss: Estimated 300 feet/300 feet (twice)
Map: A free map is available from BLM here. This entire area is also well marked and mapped at most if not all of the junctions.
Hiking Time: Depending on your pace and how much you spend wandering around, this hike can take about two or three hours. But take your time - there is much to explore, and it's pretty hard to get lost since it is so open and well marked.
Best Times to Hike: This hike can be brutal in the summer but any other time of the year it can be hiked any time of the day. Just make sure you wear a hat and apply sunscreen regularly, even in the winter.
Difficulty: Easy. With the exception of the first ascent I mention where you might need to use your hands for balance, there is no climbing or scrambling. But you can do this hike at a good pace and will get an excellent cardio workout.
|Making my way along the final portion of trail back to Junction 17|