Hike #70 – Railroad Canyon – 129 to 128, The Black Range, Gila National Forest

The Black Range is in the eastern part of the Gila National Forest and consists of over 550,000 acres of wilderness. Highway 152 works its way through the mountain range, reaches up to Emory Pass, and then cascades down the other side toward Interstate 25. Locals and visitors know this area well and discuss “going over the Black Range versus going around the long way”. The road can be brutal for folks who get car sick – it’s a windy one – but beautiful. I’ve only been through here a handful of times on my way to or from Albuquerque or Magdalena. I’ve always found it to be stunning. There are many dramatic vistas and outcroppings, valleys and canyons to ooooh and ahhh over.

I wanted to make sure I had at least one of the 100 here in the Black Range (more, if feasible) so we got up early and drove an hour to the Railroad Canyon trailhead. Another reason I wanted to check it out is because it’s the backdrop of the book, “Fire Season” by Philip Connor. It’s a fascinating look at the management of forests and a peaceful description of living in one. If you want to understand more about fires and forests, it’s a fascinating read that will get you thinking.

We parked in the ample lot that had a bathroom, gravel drive, picnic benches and shade. There are several trails to choose from, some staying along the canyon floor and others branching to other canyons or up the sides to the ridgeline. It was promising to be a hot day; we stayed under the trees and walked Trail 129 to 128 and then returned the same way. This trail rises slowly; we started at an altitude of around 7000 and by the time we turned back, we were over 8000.

Now I’m reading “A Walk In The Woods” by a funny man named Bill Bryson. It’s the story of a man who attempted to hike the Appalachian Trail and his experiences with it. It is helping me keep motivated to reach my goal; the guy has my sense of humor and it’s good to laugh at the way he tells the story.

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5.32 miles /4.0 hours

70 down /30 to go


About Gila Hiker

First I hiked 100 different trails in a year, now I write a monthly article in Desert Exposure about a local hike. Come on out to Silver City..... and bring your hiking gear!

Posted on June 24, 2012, in Black Range, Challenge, Gila National Forest, Hiking, Nature, New Mexico, Outdoor Activities, Outdoors, Silver City, Southwest, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Hi Linda. I enjoy your blog from here in the Midwest and envy your ability to enjoy the Gila on a regular basis…as I am able to come down once a year. Climbed Cookes Peak last September and plan, with my daughter, an August trip this year intending to do a (too short but what can you do?) out-and-back or loop day hike in the Aldo or Gila. I think some permutation of the Railroad/Gallinas Canyon treks and maybe to Hillsboro Peak seem compatible with our timetable and abilities. In your opinion, is that a good intro trail to the Black Range? We’ve done a small bit of the Crest Trail north and south from Emory over the years and want to combine the vistas with the canyons this time around. Also this one fits because we won’t be spending a whole lot of time reaching the trailhead, as opposed to the very intriging hikes off the North Star Mesa Road, but also don’t want to rule out some near Pinos Altos or off 180 towards Gila. Interested in your take on it all.

  2. Hi Jay, I have only hiked once in the Black Range – and you read about it, above. From the homework I’ve done by asking fellow hikers, they all say that Railroad Canyon, Percha Creek and Galinas Canyon are all beautiful. A cool trip might be to go up Railroad Canyon to Hillsboro Peak and check out the fire lookout there and then back – about 10 miles, if I remember hearing about that correctly. Some of my favorites are….1) TurkeyCreek – in August the positives are – water crossings, negative is … not a lot of shade. 2)Hummingbird Trail – Trail # 182 – postives – beautiful, shaded, old airplane crash to explore. Negatives would be that it’s 1.5 hours west of Silver City and the fire may have burned the forest in that area. 3) Trail #153 – Sacaton Rd. Positives… beautiful, negatives, not a lot of shade. 4) Allie Canyon – off of Highway 35 – mm 12-13. Beautiful, hoodoos at the 3.5 hour mark, shaded. There’s also a gravestone out there. Interesting stuff to see, it follows the canyon and is part of the CD Trail. 5) Tadpole Ridge Trail #232. Hwy 15 to Sheep Corral Rd to #232.

    Let me know if I can help with more directions, etc. Let me know which hike you end up taking – I want to hear all about it!

  3. Thanks for the input Linda! I’ll do my due diligence on your suggestionsin the hiking guideboks and maps I’ve acquired and will report back…or we may bump into you!

  4. Hi Linda-

    Now that I’m back in the comfotably cool Midwest I wanted to let you know how our Black Range trek went. Awesome! My daughter and I did a day trip through Gallinas Canyon from the Railroad Canyon campground to the Crest Trail and looped east and south along Railroad Canyon proper. 7.5 hours in all – 15 miles on my pedometer. Amazing monsoon-free day that started in the 60’s peaked in the low 90’s. Refreshing from the constant 100’s in Deming that week. Ran across a cinnamon bear eyeing us in one of the open meadows near the crest trail and some beautiful butterfles. Wildflowers galore. Several fantastic vistas of Cookes and Hillsboro Peak, but was disappointed I did not get a good vista north. Also a bit disappointed we did not have time/energy to scale Hillsboro Peak after I had just finished reading ‘Fire Season’, from your recommendation. What a great read. Glad I own it. Crest Trail was a bit overgrown and thorny in the open stretches, but it was otherwise lovely. Definitely doing a clockwise loop was a big advantage with only a few challenging grades in the cooler AM legs. If you have an occasion to ramp up the miles sometime I’d certainly recommend this as an option. Looking forward to hearing about your future exploits.


      • I do have a few cool photos Linda. Is there a way to post them here or you could friend me on facebook and see them there.

    • My husband and I just went through the Black Range on a week-end trip to Elephant Butte and I was thinking that I needed to get back out there. My next trail in that area will be Sawyer’s Peak – which is right at the Emory Pass. It’s poignant because my maiden name is Sawyer. I’ll let you know how it goes!

      • My family and I got rained out during monsoons on the Sawyer Peak trail many years back. The initial mile or so was nice but we got drenched on the sprint back to Emory!

  5. Is it as steep as it seems? It looks like it rises 1500 feet in 3.5 miles.

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