Eddy County Highpoint Trip Report

Date: March 25, 2006
Author: Edward Earl

I took NM-137 through Queen and then followed FR540, the spectacular "rim road", as described in may other trip reports. I parked my rented Toyota Camry at the turnaround loop at the end of FR540 and headed S on foot. After 1.5 miles I encountered the junction now signed "North McKittrick Canyon" and turned right onto a narrow, rocky jeep road and followed this road to its end at a cairn. Here I turned squarely 90 degrees left and headed downhill toward the saddle between the roadend and Point 7139.

Based on prior trip reports and personal communications, I expected the off-road part of this hike to be rife with heavy brush and bad footing. What I found, however, were much better conditions: the brush was not an issue, and it was not as steep and the footing was not as bad as I had feared. After a couple of minutes, I encountered a small 10-foot white cliff band. Twenty seconds' walk to my right the cliff band faded and I continued downward. At this point I encountered a series of cairns and a use trail. The trail itself was minimal, but the cairns were large and frequent. After bottoming out at the saddle, the trail and cairns turned down into North McKittrick Canyon, so I left them and headed south on the ridge toward Point 7139 and the county HP.

Conditions for the remainder of the hike were as they had been. There was occasional dried oak brush, but it was never very heavy and not really an issue at all. The going was good and I made good time. There were a few rocks on the ridge near the summit, not much of an issue. It took me only 3 hours and 45 minutes round trip, including a 25 minute summit break, from the "North McKittrick Canyon" signed junction.

On the return leg approaching the jeep roadend, I found that the trail I had discovered earlier completely bypassed all cliffs by going around their west side. The trail then ended at the cairn at the roadend. I hadn't noticed earlier that the cairn marks the beginning of a trail. The trail is very faint and difficult to locate for the first minute or two but then it it gets better. If you can't find it and have to guess, you should err to the left, but if you get cliffed out, go right.

All in all, the Eddy county HP far exceeded my expectations. I thought it would be a nightmare of heavy brush, steep terrain, and loose rock with bad footing. To my pleasant surprise it was a great recreational experience: great views all the time, not too steep, and no problem at all with brush or footing, at least by the route I used. My route probably went farther north than anyone else: I did not cut across the canyon bottom but went across the saddle at its head, then I stayed close to the ridge.