A Green Desert – Backpacking Gallo Peak and Red Canyon Campground

View from Gallo Peak

This spring and summer have been incredible. Just last year I went rafting on the Rio Grande and we were rocking the raft back and forth to get over rocks the entire way, this year I did it again and the water is completely different. You can only see the largest boulders sticking out of the water. I have had the same amazement hiking. I went up La Luz and there are tons of wildflowers, animals and big fat lizards. The foothills are usually alive and interested if you look hard, but it was so different to have all the green and color shoved right into your face.

Perhaps the best place I have gone is the the Red Canyon Campground in the Manzano Mountains. A couple of weekends ago I had the please of backpacking in the area with my scout troop. Red Canyon Campground is only an hour and a half away from Albuquerque, but despite its proximity it was incredibly peaceful and secluded when we got there on a Friday night. It does not have water, but it has nice camping areas, fire pits, large picnic area, horse corrals and a creek running by it. The backpacking route we took could easily be a day hike with packs for those that don’t want to lug their gear around. There is only a $7 fee per campsite.

Friday night there a lot of lightning and some rain, but it was very pleasant. In the morning we to the trail head and made our way up the Spruce Spring Trail. We planned on making it to the Spruce Spring (about 3.5 miles), filling up our water and camping not to far away for a total trip of 4 miles on the first day. Then we were either going to try and hike the rest of the route Sunday morning or head back down depending on how well the boys were doing. The trail was easy and the boys we took did an great job and had an amazing pace. We made it to the spring with no problem and took a long break to eat lunch, refill and let the boys play around.

Originally, we thought of setting camp up where Spruce Spring trail and the Crest Trail meet, but they were doing so well and it was so early, we decided to go all the way to where the Red Canyon Trail and the Crest Trail meet, which would put all the uphill behind us and give us an easy Sunday morning down. On our way we went up Gallo Peak and it made all the hard work of hiking and carrying a pack more than worth it. The views were incredible. The peak is at 10,000 feet and it is amazing how the environment changes right on that peak. Suddenly there we no tree and instead there were barrel cactus’ and lady bugs and completely different flora.

After the peak we finished the trip down to the Red Canyon trail and made camp. Almost immediately after camp was made the sky opened up and just dumped hail on us, for an hour, maybe more. Afterwards, it looked like we were winter camping with the area just covered in white. We were on the east side of this saddle area, just down from a ridge. The wind was ripping up from the other side (luckily skipping over us) and bringing with it all the evaporating mist and hail. It was incredible sight standing on the top and having the wind and mist howl over you. Unfortunately, I had packed up my phone nicely to keep it safe (and all my other gear), the tent I was using was not exactly water proof so I didn’t want to mess with my setup. I wish I had now, especially since it didn’t rain any more.

I love looking at the terrain maps with our route on them!

The rest of the evening was uneventful, I forgot any reading material so it was fairly boring, but relaxing as everyone retired early due to the dampness and cold. The next morning we packed everything up and went right down Red Canyon Trail. The boys were excited and flew down the trail, much faster than I would have liked to go and I didn’t quite get to enjoy the morning scenery as much as I would have liked. There were two waterfalls that I did not get great pictures of and we passed over the creek many times. It was great to see so much water in New Mexico and the creek took us right back to the campsite we were at on Friday.

All in all a great first backpacking trip with the troop and I hope they use this campground and area again for future trips. This is truly a unique summer and I encourage everyone to get out and about. I put some pictures below, reluctantly I have to link to a Google Plus Post to show them, which doesn’t inline them. If anyone can let me know on a good easy way to get pictures from your phone to online and then be able to inline them in a blog I would appreciate it.