San Lorenzo Canyon Recreation Area
This hike is a less-structured hike than many we write about. However, a repeated note we took when hiking summarizes one of the reasons to hike: interesting geology. Arches, shelter caves, a slot canyon, interesting inclusions of agate(?), and interesting rock formations are some of the geological features that you can find on this hike.
The other note that shows up often is the contrasts of this area. The cottonwoods, which indicate a reliable water source contrast with the cactus that can easily survive without one. Something interesting is around every corner.
|Hike data||Waypoints||Maps||Getting to the trailhead||About the hike||Plants along the trail||Comments|
When we hiked it:
|Time it took us:||3:15.||5:00.|
|Usage (people/hour):||2.10.||2.00. People were either hiking or using motorized conveyances. There are lots of ATV tracks.|
|Cleanliness:||8. Among other litter, we took out some shotgun and .22 shells.||8. We brought out two aluminum cans and a beer bottles as well as some glass from broken bottles.|
|SLCNYN||Trailhead||San Lorenzo Canyon entrance|
Maps:Geohack online map list Paper maps:
|Map name||Cartographer||Year||Scale||Topo map?||Online access||Notes|
|Gila National Forest||US Forest Service||1997||1:126720||N||From the National Forest Store (purchase)||North half. Includes part of the Apache National Forest.|
|Wildernesses of New Mexico||US Forest Service||1981||1:1000000||N||No online copies.||Base map with national forests, wilderness areas and highways.|
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Getting to the trailhead:
These instructions are for arriving from the north. While they work for arriving from the south, a more efficient route exists. The county maintains the road you take to get to the trailhead. The quality of the road is dependent on the recent weather and when they last graded it. It may be sandy, and it may have deep ruts. A high-clearance vehicle might be needed; if it has a lot of loose sand, four- or all-wheel drive may be necessary. The Socorro BLM office phone number is (505)-835-0412; if you are unsure, call about the road status. Exit from Interstate 25 at San Acacia (Exit 163), which is about 3.5 miles past the rest area. Head south on the east frontage road (you are following the signs toward Polvadera, although you will not go there). After about 2.2 miles on the frontage road, you will see a narrow (one car wide) underpass under the Interstate (this is the second underpass, and there are also some bridges that go under the freeway). The turnoff from the frontage road is just north of some houses. After you cross under I-25, the paved road goes left, and a dirt road goes more-or-less straight ahead. Take this dirt road. I set the odometer to 0.0 here. Stay on the "main" road, the one that is wider and somewhat less rough than the other roads that intersect it; it gets more traffic than these other roads and you can normally tell which road gets most of the traffic. After 0.3 miles, the road climbs a hill. At just under 1.3 miles, you start to come down from the hill. At about 2.0 miles, you will see the San Lorenzo sign on your right. Turn right and cross the cattle guard. The road weaves in and out of an arroyo; sometimes in it, other times beside it. You will probably see tire tracks going off into the arroyo when the road takes off to be beside it. Beware that some of these side branches are sandy and it is easier to get stuck. This arroyo is coming from the canyon that is your destination. About 4.2 miles from the paved road, you reach the entrance to the canyon. As you get closer to the canyon, you can begin to see the interesting geology pictured here. The mesa pictured here is a sign you are close. The road ends in the canyon. We suggest stopping at the mouth, so you can take your time and really see it.
About the hike:
Assuming you start hiking at the canyon mouth, this is the view up the canyon.
As you can see, the rock formations here are interesting. When we visited, the tamarisk (an invasive non-native plant) had been cut and burned. You can see some of the burned tamarisk in this picture.
Note that the sandstone (such as is shown in the previous photo, this photo, and the next one) weathers, and this results in a layer of loose sand across the top. If you are on top of a sandstone formation, you may find yourself sliding on what feels like a bunch of small ball-bearings. A friend slid 200 ft down a slope into an arroyo. Such a slide could have much worse consequences if the slope ends in a drop-off (as many do), so please be careful.
When you come to side canyons, you should explore them. We have seen slot canyons, shelter caves, beautiful little alcoves, arches and keyholes, and amazing geology.
Look for where the water seeps from the canyon walls---you will often find more interesting life in these areas. If you sit still, you may see animals come to the water.
Here is a view from the main canyon up one of the side canyons.
You can find great colors of lichen on rocks in the side canyons.
We saw these interesting rocks in the wall up a side canyon as well.
This is one of the natural arches.
When you get to what looks like the end of the canyon, climb up and you find that the canyon continues. This huge cottonwood is at this point.
This colorful mineral was one of many in the canyon wall above the climb. A geologist friend said that you can see calcedony, calcite, quartz, and other minerals. The tan-red rocks are sandstone. Starting near the large cottonwood, you also can see a greenish-slate colored rock that is andeste, a type of lava.
All of the rocks you see here are a result of the Rio Grande Rift. The sandstones were deposited by the river earlier, around 30 million years or so ago. The widening of the rift is also responsible for the vulcanism that produced the andesite.
This bunch of grass was really attractive when back lit.
This spring is one of a couple in the back part of the canyon. While we were hiking, one of the other hikers said that he had often seen wildlife such as deer at the springs. However, we did not see any.
Not far past the springs, you run into a fence with a sign indicating you have reached the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge. At this point, you can go no further.
Plants we saw along the trail:
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