Dog Canyon Trail

November 17, 2022

campground at Oliver Lee State Park

The following morning we relocated to Oliver Lee State Park, an excellent campground at the foot of the Sacramento Mountains, with a nice assortment of tent and RV sites, great views and — the ultimate camping luxury — hot showers!

Dog Canyon trailhead

With the most promising forecast for the week, we chose this day to hike the Dog Canyon Trail. We thought it would be a riparian hike, maybe the New Mexico version of Sabino Canyon. Whoops! This is a challenging trail that climbs 3100' in 5.5 miles. The first half mile will weed out all but the most determined hikers.

fall foliage in Dog Canyon

Looking down canyon toward the Tularosa Valley. Brilliant fall foliage marks the location of a tiny stream in the canyon bottom.

climbing higher

Instead of following the stream, the trail climbs high into the foothills. The many-layered cliffs on the opposite wall are part of the rugged western escarpment of the Sacramento Mountains, composed of sedimentary rocks about 7500 feet thick.


We expected to see fossils among the strata, and Dennis was delighted to photograph this sizable ammonite etched into the limestone.

looking back at the Tularosa Valley

The second of two strenuous climbs took us to the top of a large mesa, where the trail winds through a meadow of tall grass and staghorn cholla.

view from the mesa

From here, topping out at around 6000' feet, there were fine views of the shimmering expanse of White Sands.

many-layered rocks on the canyon wall

"Sedimentary, my dear Watson."

looking down into Dog Canyon

At 2.9 miles, after a 2000-foot ascent, the trail finally intersects the canyon. Visible near the bottom of this photo is the remains of an old stone cabin. The trail continues another 2.6 miles to a junction with an old forest road on Joplin Mesa, rising 1000' in .8 miles, and that is NOT a hike I need to do!

remains of an old stone cabin.

Close-in view of the cabin.

bush dalea

Bush dalea blooming in November, at 6000 feet.

Dennis and me

Dennis and me taking a break on the way down. It was a tough but thoroughly rewarding hike!