Philmont Trek Route #24

by Bill Griffin <> Mon, 30 Mar 1998 10:40:05 -0600

Trek 24 is my favorite. I have taken it 3 times and its near twin, route 23, three times. Here is my opinion and description of the route.

Rayado River: Good camp along the best river at Philmont. The best campsite are nearest the river. Bushwack from the trail as soon as you get there, to the general direction of the river (north). There are 3 campsites over there but few trails to them. There is a shower in the meadow. You can take a short walk to Abreu to visit the root beer cantina and watch the evening burro races. They may even let you participate if they aren't crowded. Great starting camp.

Crater Lake: Hard day as it is your first full day and you have a 1,000 ft. climb right away. Go up to the burro pens and take the trail to the left at the pens, it goes straight up the hill. Be careful not to take the trail beside the pen fence as it goes to Stonewall Pass and Toothache Springs. After a 1,000 climb (good views though) you will reach the contour line and shortly thereafter enter Aguila. It is a bit swampy and the spring may be dry. If you want to check go to the old, broken concrete cistern just after the grassy (and wet) meadow. The spring is about 100 feet up the hill. Purify. From Aguila you will go around Fowler Mesa pretty much following the contour line. The only critical fork is at the end of the mesa before you turn west. The fork goes down to Stonewall Pass to your right. Don't go there. Continue left around Fowler Mesa. You will pass through Bear Caves camp then drop down a bit. 45 min. later you should enter Crater Lake Camp. Good camp with good program and usually a campfire at night.

Clarks Fork: Take the road up the hill, past the shower house. BEFORE the road takes its first major right hand turn, you will see a trail heading off the side to your right. This is a level and nice trail that finally enters a road. Cross the road to continue the trail on the other side. It goes into Miners Park. I usually like to try to coax them into giving us our rock climbing program there. Be polite. If they do, you speed up the next day a bit. In any event, the trail heads north out of Miners and goes over a low pass then drops down to the Urraca Creek. At the creek, take the trail up the hill. 16 switchbacks later you will enter Shaefers Pass meadow. The spring is up the grassy slope to your left just as you enter the meadow. Don't absolutely rely on it unless you have met someone who has seen it flowing in the last 24 hours. Drop down the other side of the pass (long drop and many more switchbacks) to Clarks Fork. You will have to be there by 4pm so your cooks can help prepare the chuck wagon dinner.

I have side hike the Tooth of Time from Shaefers Pass. It will take a quart of water to get there and a quart to get back--if you conserve. It is a 6 hr. round trip and is hot and open with a difficult trail. When I did this side hike our entire crew was beat to the ground at Clarks and no one wanted to participate in anything there. You better be in great shape to do this.

Ute Springs: A fairly easy day but you may do your conservation project that day and that eats up about 3 hrs, so get an early start. Take the trail through the upper Clarks Fk meadow. It eventually drops down to a road. Go across the road to the trail on the other side. After a few yards it will fork. The right fork goes up Cathedral Rock and down Hidden Valley. The left goes to Cimarroncito--take the left fork. After a short walk you will begin to see the grassy slopes of the meadow. The hunting lodge can barely be seen to your left. Continue up the meadow trail to Cimarroncito. This is where you are scheduled to do the rock climbing (in the rocky ridge to your right) and environmental awareness programs. By the way, there is no Cito Trail Camp. Cito is short for Cimarroncito and it is a staff camp, not a Trail camp. Afterwards, continue up the left side of the meadow (the trail on the right side goes to Aspen Springs). At the head of the meadow you will see a trail to your right, going through Grouse Canyon--a pretty hike in a very narrow cut. When you leave the creek you will see the trail to your left coming from Aspen Springs. Continue left to the road. This is the road that supplies the commissary. Across the road are 3 campsites for Ute Springs. Don't take them, they are dusty. Cross the road and find a trail down to the creekbed. Down there are the best campsites. The creek may be dry and the spring may also dry up. If so, you can get water in the creek that goes through Grouse Canyon. It isn't far from the campsites anyway. Take the trail following the creekbed, west. It parallels the road above and soon meets it above the last campsite. Follow the road a short way. A side road up the hill to the left goes to the commissary. I recommend you only pick up supper and tomorrow's breakfast. You'll be back just after breakfast and can pick up the rest of your food then. That way, if a bear hits your food, you'll only lose a little.

Visto Grande: A short hike today and no program so you aren't in a terrible rush. Go back to the commissary and get the rest of your food. You can buy gas at any commissary. This is your first one since base camp. It runs about $1 a quart. Take the trail by the trading post, up the hill. It is a steep climb (you are now full of food) to the top of Deer Lake Mesa. The trail goes across the top of the mesa. Just before dropping down the other side from Upper Bench Camp (trail camp) you will reach a beautiful outcrop with a great view of Baldy. Drop down to Visto Grande. There is a small, weak but reliable spring there. Purify. The best campsites are on the west side of the camp as they provide a view of Baldy. The bear rope is beside the trail on the way down to Cimarron River.

Upper Dean Cow: Get an early start. Head down to Cimarron River. Don't drink the water, even if you purify it. You will cross a suspension bridge then jump off the bridge on the north side and go through a large culvert. This keeps you off the major highway. On the other side you will start up Bear Canyon (not because there are bears but because the canyon is a bear to climb). There is a new trail being built up the canyon but it wasn't open when I was there in 1996. Don't know the status. The old trail forked part way up. The west fork was too steep and hazardous. The right fork was a jeep road that had little shade and was also steep but it was in good repair. The two routes came back together at the top. Be careful to take the trail over the hill to Santa Claus. I have seen crews go up one side and back down the other, winding up back at the river where they left that morning. Bad for morale. From Santa Claus there is a trail heading from the meadow. It heads east and goes around the ridge, turning back to the west. A new and good trail. When it reaches the road once more, a side road and trail goes down to the right. Take the trail down to to Upper Dean Cow, a trail camp. There is a well there and is reliable. We set up camp and side hiked to Head of Dean, about an hour away. There, we got the program then went back to Upper Dean.

Miranda: We went up the meadow to Head of Dean. The program there starts at 9am and we didn't want to wait, thats whey we did it yesterday. There is a new trail under construction that heads down to Maxwell, just below Miranda. It isn't finished as they hit some difficult rock that needs dynamite. Don't know when they will finish it. So, we took the old, jeep road along the Baldy Skyline ridge. The road eventually drops down the south side to the Baldy road. Up the road a mile we could hear (and smell) the burro pens to the left. We left the road and walked around the pens, climbing up to Miranda Meadow on the other side. Go up the meadow to the staff cabin. It is a new log cabin this year. Miranda is a good and pretty camp with good program. You'll stay there 2 nights.

Bald Side Hike: The next day, we usually got up at 4am and started up the trail at 5am. It goes up the meadow then cuts out to the Baldy Road. After the second creek crossing a trail heads off to the left to Ute Meadows. Pass through Ute Meadows and climb up the ridge. You will break out onto the road just below Baldy Town. We stopped at Baldy Town to rest and eat our breakfast (saved one that we could eat as we walked). We started up Baldy at 7am. Just below the top we broke out onto the saddle between Baldy and Touch-Me-Not mts. The view was great from the saddle meadow and you can see the trail to the top. We reached the summit of Baldy at 11am. We dropped down the back side to Copper Park--careful, hazardous footing going down. We had lunch at Copper Park. From the park meadow, we took the trail in the left corner. It dropped down the creek towards French Henry. Near French Henry a trail across the creek goes up the bank. About a 100 yards along the trail we broke out at the Ponil Mine. We visited the mine and took the road up the hill from it. It goes around Aztec Ridge, a level walk, and brought us easily back to Baldy Town. After a shower (bandanas for towels) we picked up our food from the commissary (more fuel if you need it), hit the trading post and returned to Miranda. We got back to our camp at about 4:30pm. Busy day!!

Flume Canyon: We went to the burro pens by 9am and checked out our burrows, packing them. We took the burros back to Miranda and took the trail up the hill to Ute Meadows. As we entered the Meadows we took the right trail out to the Baldy Road. Down the road and across it is a trail that goes up onto Baldy Skyline Ridge. It sort of heads towards Ewell's Park. This is a much easier way to get up onto the ridge then the very steep road we took down two days earlier--prettier views too. At the top of the ridge we took the trail along it until we hit the road where we started down two days before. Instead of following the road towards Head of Dean, we dropped down the north side of the ridge to the stream below. We followed it through Pueblano Ruins to Pueblano Camp. At the camp we again met a road. A mile down stream from Pueblano we passed the burro pens. We stuck to the road and finally came to Flume Canyon about 45 min. later. There is a latrine on the left side of the road. Across from it, on the other side of the stream, is the best campsite. We unloaded and four of us took the burros back to the pens, leaving the burro gear in the camp. They fed the burros and returned. The rest of the crew had the tents pitched by then.

Indian Writings: We got up at 4:30am and sent 4 to retrieve the burros. While they were gone the rest broke camp and packed. When they returned with the burros we packed them and continued down the road to Ponil. We turned the burros in, hit the commissary for our last food pickup and rested at the root beer cantina there. Behind the staff dining hall we took the trail up Cedar Canyon and to the top of the ridge. There, we stopped on top of Harte Peak for our last good view of Baldy. To the south, we could see the Tooth. We dropped down the other side -- pretty trail-- to Indian Writings. The kids loved the program there. Good campsite.

Six Mile Gate and Base Camp: Again, we got up as soon as we could see. We had reserved the first bus pickup, 9am. Without breakfast we headed down the road. We stopped nearby to see the dinosaur footprints then continued to Six Mile Gate. We go there early, packs are light now, and had breakfast while waiting for the bus--ate everything we had left over--and congratulated ourselves.

Great route. Runs the full length of Philmont.

Have a great time.

Bill Griffin

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