Entrance to the Bar Canyon Trail parking lot.
Hiking Bar Canyon Trail is an exciting introduction to the beautiful Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument https://www.blm.gov/visit/omdp 10 miles east of Las Cruces, New Mexico. This national monument was created by executive order from President Barack Obama on May 21, 2014. Its 496,330 acres is administered by the Bureau of Land Management. This land was set aside to preserve archeologic, historic, geologic, and scenic features, as well as plants and wildlife. The monument consists of four separate sections: 1) Organ Mountains, 2) Desert Peaks, 3) Doña Ana Mountains, and 4) Potrillo Mountains, as shown on the map below:
Hiking Bar Canyon can be accessed from I-25 exit 1 in Las Cruces. Head east on East University Avenue, which becomes Dripping Springs Road in a few blocks. Following Dripping Springs Road to its intersection with Soledad Canyon Road and turn right on Soledad. Follow Soledad Canyon Road until it dead ends at the parking lot for Bar Canyon Trail.
This old windmill and water tank at the start of the Bar Canyon Trail give evidence that this was ranching country before the establishment of the national monument.
Hiking Bar Canyon east past the windmill and up towards the mountains you soon come to fork in the trail. Take the main trail to the left. As the trail climbed up out of an arroyo to higher terrain we were met with an astonishing sight. Thinking we were seeing the back end of a cow, we were amazed when the animal turned around and we came face to face with an oryx. Now the oryx are not native animals to the United States. They were imported from Africa to hunting preserves in southern New Mexico to provide an exotic animal for big game hunters. Of course, the oryx escaped the hunting preserves and multiplied rapidly in the accommodating territory of the White Sands Missile Range, which is just east of the Organ Mountains. So here was an oryx grazing happily along the Bar Canyon Trail.
The oryx gazed nonchalantly at the photographer and passed on by.
Continuing on up the trail, you soon come to a trail junction with the Bar Canyon Trail marked to the left. You can go either left or right to complete the three-mile loop trail. We took the left fork and proceeded clockwise higher into the mountains. After about 3/4 mile the remains of a rock cabin rose up in the distance.
Rock cabin remains on the Bar Canyon Trail.
This rock home in the mountains was built in the early 1900s by the homesteading John Simmers family. It was eventually abandoned by the family, and fell into ruin. Until late 2015 the home was apparently still fairly well preserved, but the Las Cruces Sun News https://www.lcsun-news.com/ reported that a BLM officer visited the site on December 10, 2015 and found that three walls were partially fallen down. This may have been the result of vandalism or a recent heavy snowstorm.
Proceeding beyond the cabin, hikers will soon come to an arroyo. Climbing up the arroyo toward the peaks will lead to a steep wall which at times of adequate moisture will present a spectacular waterfall. No water was there on our early March trip. Completing the loop back down the mountain, our friend the oryx was long gone, but what a thrill it was to see this beautiful animal capping a perfect day in the Organ Mountains.