Backpacking New Mexico: Calaveras Canyon

Backpacking New Mexico: Calaveras Canyon

If there is one thing we’ve learned about living in New Mexico, it is that there is no shortage of outdoor opportunities. However, our fall teaching schedule has been a little busier than our springtime teaching schedule was–especially with some weekend work–so escaping has been more difficult.

The good news is, Santa Fe National Forest is in our backyard. Literally, 100 yards from our door.

Knowing we only had one night free last weekend and not wanting to drive anywhere, we decided a backyard backpacking trip was in order. So we walked to a nondescript trailhead up the road and dipped into Calaveras Canyon.

Once through the ponderosa trees and a livestock gate, the isolated canyon opens to serene meadows peppered by interesting rock formations, shapes like skulls and gorillas.

We selected a basecamp backcountry campsite and took off to explore deeper into the canyon and its offshoots. We traveled about 15 miles total, but feel we could go back and traverse even more. What we found were aspen tree groves and mountain lion prints–both equally exciting. The aspens haven’t quite turned in this area, but many were getting ready to go.

The mountain lion may have been elusive, but the cow were not. We felt unbothered by them when we saw them way down the canyon at nightfall. By morning, though, they wanted to get a little cozier.

We have a few more canyons to scout in our backyard and hopefully we can get out there just in time for the aspens’ full fire dance.

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