Philmont Trek Route #20

by Bill Griffin <> Tue, 31 Mar 1998 13:35:33 -0600

Okay, here it goes. Remember, this is my opinion and observations.

Rayado River: Good camp. May be able to participate in burro race at nearby Abreu (evenings) but not scheduled and other crews have first rights. Can visit the root beer cantina. The best camps (3) are not near the trail but are to the north, through the oak scrub (no real trails) over by the river. If anyone is interested, there are shale beds with sea fossils in them at Old Abreu, just down the bank from the westermost campsite (the one with the stone fire site in it). Many of these fossils existed only in water over 200 feet deep.

Toothache Springs: Get an early start, this is a hot climb as there is very little cover up the side of Urraca Mesa and it gets very hot by 10am. Go up by the Abreu burro barn and follow the corral fence north. The trail up to Toothache Springs branches to the right. It is a steep scramble up. Water at Toothache is poor (steel tank) and the campsites are a bit open and poor. Hard to find the bear rope. Best view from any latrine on the ranch. Take a side hike over the Mesa to Urraca. It is pretty easy (especially without packs). I'd take all the canteens and bring back as much water as I could. Oh yes, the bear rope is WAY down the road that goes from the tank towards Rayado.

Miners Park: There is a trail that traverses around the contour line to Stonewall Pass. It is hard to find so you may have to climb back up to the top of the mesa and take the western trail to the road that drops to the pass. The traverse trail starts in the NW corner of the meadow that the tank sits in. You have to bushwack a bit to find it as it isn't obvious until you get on it. Don't spend too much time hunting, however. From Stonewall, drop down to Lovers Leap Camp. The trail towards Miners goes out of the NW corner of the meadow. It crosses the main road well west of Lovers Leap Camp and goes to the back side of Miners Park Meadow. Miners is a good camp, pretty, Ponderosa Pine, almost park-like.

Lower Bonita: From Miners, take the trail out of the SW corner, near the staff cabin and climbing wall. It goes back out to the road. On the other side is a contour trail that goes around the bowl to Crater Lake. When you enter the Crater Lake road, the staffed camp is down the road a couple hundred yards. Get water. If you are early, take the program--its worth it. When done, go back up the road past the shower house. When the road takes a sharp right turn, go up the bank to the LEFT. At the top of the bank is the trail up Fowler Pass. It is steep but good. Crosses the road a couple of time. Watch for it to start on the other side. Just before the pass you will stay on the road. Cross the pass and follow the trail to the left when the road turns north. The trail is good and leads down to Bonita (pretty in Spanish) Meadow. Trails cross in the middle of the meadow and there should be a sign post. Lower Bonita Camp is to the left, down the meadow a very short distance. Watch for the camp across the meadow from the trail, you'll cross the meadow in a usually swampy spot. Bonita Meadow camp is in the trees in a small side meadow. There is a spring on the left as you enter the camp. Watch for the mosquitoes. They like to drag off the smaller campers in the evening.

Apache Springs: Since you'll have to get food at the commissary, I recommend you go up Bonita Meadow to Beaubien so you won't have to back track between Fish Camp and Phillips Junction. Go back to where the trails cross in the middle of Bonita Meadow. Take the route that leads over the pass towards Fish Camp. Just as you enter the trees you will see a new trail branching to your right. Take it into Beaubien (this trail was not yet on the maps in 1997). It is a good trail. Go through Beaubien camp to the staff cabin then take the trail beside it up to the head of the meadow. At the top of the meadow you will see a trail leaving the road that is there. Take it down to Phillips Junction and draw food. The trail down to Fish Camp from there is easy and quick. A pretty walk. Take the program and head up the Agua Fria Creek towards Apache Springs. Last time I counted we crossed the creek 28 times before getting to Turkey Canyon. Just after that, the trail switchbacks up onto a shelf. Continuing through the woods we finally broke out into the Apache Springs Meadow. Pretty.

Crooked Creek: We had to return to Phillips Junction so we took the trail over to Bear Canyon then over the ridge to the north and down the creek to the Rayado then upstream to Phillips. Not a bad hike but watch your maps as the old logging roads may confuse you. Recommend using the more accurate southern sector map here. From Phillips Junction hike up through Porcupine camp. At the last crossing of the Rayado, you will climb a short way up onto a shelf and enter Crooked Creek Camp. The first thing you will see will probably be the spring, which is almost on the trail. Good camp.

Clear Creek: A fairly easy day. You'll climb over 1,000 feet but it will be spread out nicely and the grades aren't steep. Go back down to the Rayado, cross to the north side (we ate breakfast here) and hike up the trail. Clear Creek is a good camp and the highest staffed camp at Philmont. Once I had snow there in July. Several times I've had heavy hail.

Cyphers Mine: We usually get up VERY early. Go through the fence in the NW corner of camp. You are off Philmont property. It is a relatively short but very steep climb up Phillips. You will finally hit a wooded shelf then face the last, rocky scramble up to the top. The snowcapped mountains to the west are Wheeler Peak, highest in New Mexico. To the north is Baldy. The top of Phillips is a long peak. Continue east along it and soon you will drop into a saddle between Phillips and Comanche. Comanche is almost as high as Phillips. Pass over the summit (covered with trees so no view) and through the camp. North of the summit the trail heads down. At first it is rocky but soon you will enter a new trail that snakes around the mountain then drops onto a road at Thunder Ridge. Across the road is a trail going down to Cyphers. It goes all over the place and is long but an easy walk. Finally you will enter Cyphers Mine just above the staff cabin. There, you will sleep in Adarondak cabins as it is too rocky and steep for tents. Makes an early start easy.

Shaefers Pass: Take the trail across the creek from the cabins. It is an old mining road that goes around the ridge and meets the trail going down the valley on the other side. This is an easy walk down to the Hunting Lodge. Just down the road from the lodge is a trail that goes off the road to your right, leading to Clarks Fork. We have supper at Clarks as that is the last reliable water until base camp tomorrow. We save an easy lunch/breakfast for the ridge. The trail up to Shaefers Pass has about 16 switchbacks and seems pretty long. At the Pass you might investigate the spring (it is usually running but can quit quite suddenly). It is in the SW corner of the meadow in the corner up the grassy slope. Not many choices for campsites but I like the one on the high spot in the SE corner of the meadow.

Base Camp.:Take the trail up Shaefers Peak. 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. You can easily get there by noon.

Good luck,

Bill Griffin

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