A Grand Gorge

NM Highway 68 between Taos and Espanola parallels the Rio Grande River and offers glimpses of the river and the huge gorge it has carved in the landscape.  I knew there was a lot more of this area that I wanted to see than just the time or two that we had driven by it on the highway.  This week we made a one night camping trip to the Wild Rivers area of the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument.  This gorgeous upper section of the Rio Grande Gorge was grand indeed.

At this point on the Rio Grande, the scenic Red River empties into the Rio Grande.  The only way to access the point where the 2 rivers join is to hike down the steep basalt cliffs that form the canyons of the rivers.  There are several well maintained trails for getting down to that point, as well as other points along the rivers.

After a chilly night sleeping in our tent in the very quiet and peaceful campground that sits atop the Taos Plateau on the edge of the gorge, we were more than ready to begin our trek down into the gorge. We headed towards La Junta Point, the spectacular overlook that gives a birds-eye view of the confluence of the two rivers.

VIew of Red RIver in gorge below.
VIew of Red RIver in gorge below.
Overlook at La Junta Point.  800 feet below is the point where the Red River joins the Rio Grande River.
Overlook at La Junta Point. 800 feet below is the point where the Red River joins the Rio Grande River.
Starting down the La Junta Trail to the bottom of the gorge.
Starting down the La Junta Trail to the bottom of the gorge.

The trail was steep and rocky but with the built-in staircases along the way it wasn’t that difficult to get down. I would have been quite a climb to go back up that way!

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One of the staircases on the La Junta Trail.
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The rocky point behind me is La Junta Point where we started down the trail.
Red River flowing in from the left--notice how clear and blue its water is, compared to the muddy Rio Grande.
Red River flowing in from the left–notice how clear and blue its water is, compared to the muddy Rio Grande.

After enjoying some time at the water’s edge we continued our hike by following the trail upriver along the Rio Grande. I found it interesting that the trees here were Ponderosa Pines, while the vegetation at the top was piñon and juniper. Usually when we hike it is the Ponderosa that replaces the piñon and juniper as you hike to higher elevations, not as you hike lower. This sign explained it well.

A Reverse Ecosystem
A Reverse Ecosystem
Ponderosa Pine along Rio Grande.
Ponderosa Pine along Rio Grande.

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Two of us.

Before beginning the climb back out of the gorge we walked to a small spring that flows out of the canyon walls. The trail that we then took back up came out on top of the plateau at the campground where we were staying. We had taken that trail down and back up the evening before so we knew what to expect. Not an easy one-mile section left to hike, but at the end we were more than ready to sit at our picnic table in the shade and enjoy our well-earned lunch break.

Campsite at Wild Rivers Recreation Area.
Campsite at Wild Rivers Recreation Area.
Little Arsenic Spring.
Little Arsenic Spring.
Back up from hiking down into the gorge.
Back up from hiking down into the gorge.

GPS Track on Every Trail

Author: bjregan

Enjoying retirement activities. Main goals for retirement are to stay spiritually, physically, mentally and emotionally healthy.

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