Philmont Trek Route #12

by Bill Griffin <>

Ute Springs: A fair starting camp. You will probably hike through Cathedral Rock Campsite (which will be to your left, look for the latrines) to a fairly new trail that leads around Window Rock ridge to the west. The trail will eventually enter the road that goes to the commissary. Across the road are a couple of poor Ute Springs campsites. The better ones are down the hill on the north side of the road, along the old stream bed. Your water will either be in the stream (usually dry), in the spring (usually not flowing) or in the stream that goes through Grouse Canyon on the north side of the road. If you have to visit the commissary it is up the road about a mile or so, off on a side road to the right.

Sawmill: A good climb as Sawmill is a pretty high camp and you haven't been at altitude very long. Go back to the trail you entered the road on. There was a fork just before you entered the road. Take the right hand trail up through Grouse Canyon. At the head of the canyon (pretty walk) you will get to another fork. The left hand one goes into Cimarroncito Meadow. The right goes up the hill to Sawmill Camp. It is a steep and tough climb. The campsites are okay and the view from the staff cabin is great. You will see lots of old logging activity there.

Mt. Phillips: Get lots of water as it is the last good chance for water until tomorrow. Head up the trail/road at the top of the camp. Soon they will fork and take the trail to the right of the road. They go the same place but the trail is easier. Watch for a pair of pliers that I left on a log half way up. At the top you will be on Thunder Ridge. A road goes along the ridge. Just before the road heads downhill a trail crosses it. To the left the trail goes down to Cyphers Mine. I have put up a bear bag and side hiked down to Cyphers for the program but do this only if you have a great hiking group. It is a tough side hike and you still have a very tough climb to Phillips. The trail on the right side goes up to Comanche Peak. Just before the top you will leave this good, new trail and hit the old rocky one. After you enter the trees you will turn to the west and pass through a camp. The peak of Comanche is on the other side (wooded and no views). Drop down into the saddle between Comanche and Phillips and climb up Phillips. You will break out onto a false top on the eastern end of the peak. Continue west into the trees and finally in the clear as you reach the real summit. The campsites are on the north side of the peak, in the trees. They are not the best. Good sunsets. The snowcapped mountains to the west are Wheeler Peak, highest spot in New Mexico. Baldy to the north.

Comanche Camp: Get up and drop down the mountain. In a little over an hour you will be in Clear Creek Camp. Take the program and eat lunch there. Head down the trail to Comanche Camp. It is a very easy hike down. Comanche Camp campsites are spread for about a mile along the creek. Most are on the other side and in trees. They tend to be dark and damp.

Apache Springs: Continue down the trail to Porcupine. This is a pretty camp along the Rayado Creek. Go downstream to Phillips Junction and get some food. From the junction, head downstream. You can go up the side stream half way down and over the ridge to Apache Springs. This is the shortest way but confusing with all the old logging roads. Be good with a map and use the southern sector map for guidance as it is a better scale and more accurate. If in doubt, continue down the Rayado to Fish Camp. Don't stop as you'll camp there in two days. Go up the Agua Fria Creek (about 28 crossings the last time I did this) to Turkey Canyon. Just after, the trail switchbacks up onto a shelf. Go through the woods to the Apache Springs Meadow. Pretty.

Apache Springs layover: Rest, visit the sweat lodge, take the short side hike up onto the fence line to the west and see the view. Have a good time.

Fish Camp: Head back down to the Agua Fria and follow it to Fish Camp. Beautiful and good fishing. Visit the lodge and learn to tie flys.

Abreu: The trail down the rimrock above the Rayado the left far below is a great hike. Be careful if you decide to go off the trail on the left to look down. It's steep and a long drop. After awhile you will switchback down to the river. When you reach it you will be at Old Abreu camp. At the first campsite (rock and mortar foundation) just down the bank towards the creek, stop and see the shale beds. You can see lots of fossils, some of which were creatures that lived in water over 200' deep. Continue down the trail to Abreu. This is a good camp with a root beer cantina and great burro racing in the evening.

Aguila: From the Abreu burro barn, take the left trail up the side of Fowler Mesa. It is a steep climb of 1,000' up to the contour line then a level hike into Aguila. Good view on the first half. The best campsites in Aguila are off the trail to the east, over by the edge of the drop to the valley below. Good views. I have often found water in the old spring, but it wasn't great. The spring is above the broken cement cistern, just up in the woods about 100'. Try it out. Purify it. I took a water filter and it helped us get good water there and filtered out all the little creatures doing backstrokes.

Miners Park: Continue on the trail around Fowlers Mesa. Soon you will hit a trail going off to the right, leading down to Stonewall Pass. Near the bottom you will see parts of the low, stone wall on your left. This separated the Rayado and Urraca Ranches. Just after the wall you will be at the Pass meadow. Drop down to the north to Lovers Leap Meadow. Cross the meadow. The trail to Miners Park is in the NW corner. It goes across the road below and heads into Miners on a trail on the other side. Miners is a pretty camp full of Ponderosa Pine. Park-like.

Base Camp: Head north out of Miners, going over a low ridge and down the thee north fork of the urraca. At the small camp, head up Shaefers Pass. 16 switchbacks later you will enter the pass meadow. The spring is in the SW corner, up the grassy slope. Hopefully it will be running. Otherwise your last water was at the Urraca Creek below. Head up Shaefers Peak to the Tooth Ridge trail. The trail reaches Tooth Ridge on the east side of the peak. You can drop your packs there and climb the 100 yards to the top to get the view. Return to the packs and continue eastward down Tooth Ridge. This is a tough, hot and rocky trail. But, it isn't steep. A new trail is under construction. At the Tooth the trail drops down the north side a bit to get around the rock slide area. When you reach the ridge again, drop your packs and scramble up the Tooth. Be careful this is the most dangerous climb you will make. Afterwards, continue down the ridge trail to base camp.

Bill Griffin

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