Sunday, June 9, 2019

Fort Stanton - Snowy River Cave National Conservation Area

Today I decided to do an exploratory ride on some gravel roads (fire roads) within the Fort Stanton - Snowy River Cave National Conservation Area just NE of Ruidoso. I am glad I was on a bike with wide tires and low gears as the road went from smooth gravel to rough (very quickly). Heather let me go out on my own - as I anticipated that the roads would not be to her liking - I was correct.

I started at Fort Stanton and had a little over two miles of pavement on NM Highway 220 and then turned left into the Devil's Canyon trailhead area that begins a series of gravel fire roads through the area. It starts off really nice as you descend three miles (450 feet) to begin a loop called East Well Trail.

The view as you descend the first three miles towards Cave Canyon Campground.

The East Well Trail is basically a fire road that varies greatly from smooth dirt to very chunky and rough rocks. Seven miles in length, 3.5 miles all uphill and 3.5 miles downhill.

About two miles into the climb you encounter a well with solar powered pump and water storage tank. Within the next half-mile the climb gets more interesting...

More interesting is a half-mile climb with lots of big rocks and plenty of steep grade - 6% to 12%. I stopped a couple of times to get my heart rate back down, but I was able to clear the climb without incident (falling over).

The reward of the climb was a 3.5 mile downhill - with plenty of obstacles to keep you alert.

You get numerous views of the Capitan Mountains to the north and then the road finally flattens out as you get close to US Highway 380.

A left turn and you are level with the Rio Bonito River for about a mile and then it is back to climbing for the next four miles out of the canyon area.

On the way our you pass the Cave Campground and the Fort Stanton Cave.

The Fort Stanton Cave is closed to public access. It can be visited by guided tour or special permits. This is the staircase leading down to the cave.

Parting shot - the socks say it all ;)