The Great Northern New Mexico Loop

July 12-13, 2021

Silver City to El Morro National Monument

When our friend Ann H. proposed a joint camping trip in honor of her late husband and our dear friend, we eagerly signed on. But hey, once we drove nearly all the way to the Colorado border, why stop there? Why not continue north and east to complete the trip Dennis and I had planned a year ago, before the Covid-19 pandemic? And Ann decided to tag along, for her first big trip with her new Four Wheel Camper.

two campers

And so we wandered north around routes 180, 12, 32 and 36 — among New Mexico's most scenic highways — past ancient farming villages, through a landscape of dense pine forest and buff-colored mesas.

approaching El Morro

South of Quemado, we drove through a torrential rainstorm. Since it was still early, and too wet to camp, we just kept driving, which put us within 100 miles of El Morro National Monument, which never fails to draw us in like a giant magnet whenever we are within range.

best campsite

We were very fortunate to nab the last two sites in one of our favorite campgrounds!

at the base of El Morro

Next morning it was off to hike the "Headland Trail Loop", which skirts around the rock and then scrambles to the gleaming summit, under the most perfect of monsoon skies — all deep cyan with puffy white Georgia O'Keeffe clouds.

atop El Morro

I can't count the number of times we've done this hike, but I never get tired of it.

The Headlands Loop

Photo by Ann H.

Dennis and me

Photo by Ann H.

Ann and Dennis

Atop El Morro, the world is blue and white.


At the very top of the trail are the ruins of Atsinna Pueblo, which dates from about 1275. It is believed to have housed 500 - 600 people in a series of interconnected rooms surrounding an open courtyard.

stepping into the river

Arriving as we did at the height of a thoroughly satisfying monsoon, there was no shortage of fantastic flora and fauna, including this dazzling flame skimmer.

stepping into the river

Western Spiderwort blossomed all around the campground.

stepping into the river

Rocky Mountain Bee Plant (also very popular with ants).

stepping into the river

Nodding onions?

stepping into the river

Colorado Four O'Clock.