Monte Largo Canyon

We still manage to find new hikes within 60 miles of Albuquerque that surprise us with their remote beauty. It wasn’t just that we failed to see another soul on the trail, but after we left the paved road and drove across 10 miles of desolate, flat rangeland to reach the trailhead in the foothills we never even saw another vehicle, either going in or coming back out.

Monte Largo Canyon is on the west side of the Manzano Mountains, which we’ve hiked in before, but usually our hikes start on trails that are on the east side of the mountains. The west side of the mountains are reached by driving south of Albuquerque to Belen and then east. Below is a picture of our track on Google Maps.

We found it quite amusing to see all of the street names on the map. It must be someone’s dream of future development because driving out there you see nothing but flat rangeland, rough dirt roads and, once in awhile, an isolated ranch. There are no street signs anywhere.

For our friends who are familiar with the Manzano Mountains, notice that the hike is climbing up towards the crest, about halfway between Manzano Peak and Gallo Peak. We’ve been up there on the crest before, but always by hiking in from the other side. Forest Service Maps do show a trailhead for Monte Largo Canyon, but not a trail. That seems strange because it was a trail that was fairly easy to follow, basically up the drainage of the canyon.

We got some nice views from an overlook about 2.5 miles in from the trailhead, at which point we turned around and came back down. If we were real ambitious, of course, it would have been possible to get all the way to the crest. But maybe another time.

First spring flowers! Easter Daisy.
Looking west, Ladrone Mountains on horizon. In between is the barren rangeland with the dirt roads we drove on.

View from highest point we reached. Canyon continues.

Lots of huge alligator juniper trees.

Hoodoo Pines

Finding hoodoos is one of our favorite activities that comes with hiking in New Mexico. Awesome views and bright blue skies are right at the top of our list, too. After what seemed like a long, dark, cold January we welcomed the start of February with a hike that gave us all of our favorites.

So what is a hoodoo? Here’s an example:
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Over eons of time, wind and water (mostly wind in New Mexico) work on layers of rock to erode away the softer rock and leave behind columns of harder rock layers. And many times on top of the column you will see a stranded rock precariously perched looking like a giant hand decided to just set it down somewhere.

Here’s another example:

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And here you see that bright, blue sky that made the day so special.

And I thought this one was cool because it looks like the silhouette of a dog.
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These are not hoodoos, but they show the erosion of soft, sandstone rock that often exposes colorful layers and forms miniature “tent cities.”
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Rocks aren’t the only thing that gets shaped by the wind.
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This particular hike was in the Ojito Wilderness. The area with the hoodoos is commonly called Hoodoo Pines because the hoodoos are in a small grove of Ponderosa Pines. Most of the terrain in the Ojito is desolate, open desert with scattered mesas here and there. So it’s a bit unexpected to find Ponderosa Pines.
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Looking south. Albuquerque is at the foot of the Sandia Mountains on the horizon, so we aren’t too far from home.

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The famous “Ruthie Pose”