Overland Trails; Difficulty Level 1 - 3

Chloride, NM

Chloride Canyon Level 2-3 Trail (Saturday) Depart Riverside Campground (EL 4,000) via I-25 N for Williamsburg, Exit 75 for the Fast Stop Store/Shell Station to top off fuel tanks & breakfast burritos. Back on I-25 N for the Monticello Exit 83 & head west on NM 52 W crossing over the Sierra Cuchillo (Knife Mountains) for Winston (EL 6,150) https://www.sierracountynewmexico.info settled in 1881 by miners who found nearby Chloride “too rowdy”! After browsing for local crafts at the Winston General Store, drive south on Hermosa Rd (Sierra County Rd 3) reaching the Cuchillo Negro Creek Rd, where direction of travel heads west into the Gila Forest along the Cuchillo Negro Creek, where hard pack macadam turns into minimally maintained National Forest Rd & the trail is in & out of the Creek. After five or six miles distance, a branch north from the trail climbs on switch backs out of the Cuchillo Negro Creek for a good lunch break spot on the threshold of a large mine opening. On the trail again, continuing generally north the trail crests over a ridge line (Approx. EL 7,000) & makes its way down on switch backs into Chloride Canyon, intersecting the Chloride Canyon Rd. At this intersection  if time allows, the left fork can be taken to the west for a short distance to visit petroglyphs, readily accessible from the trail & adjacent to caves that were once shelter for long ago inhabitants. After this worth-while stop, the trail turns around to head east for three or four miles into the old silver mining town of Chloride (EL 6,170) settled in 1880 after silver was discovered in 1878. Here is an excellent opportunity to stop, use the facilities, visit Chloride’s  museum, gallery & view the other original structures. At Chloride the trail turns into hard pack macadam & the return to Riverside Campground back along New Mexico 52 E & I-25 S.  About 6 hours travel time.  

Bottle Tree Loop Level 2 Trail (Saturday) consists of very scenic trails that encompass several abandoned mines and a pass that allows a great view of the area. Most of the trail is considered a 2 rating with the exception of 1 climb that would be considered a 3. Travel time 3-4 hours.

Outer Loop Level 2 Trail (Wednesday) follows a rugged drainage ditch through beautiful mountains, past abandoned mines and old ranch corrals and equipment. During the monsoons, seasonal rains pour down connecting canyons and rearrange the trail with new washed out areas and boulders.  This tail lies in a very remote area and there is always a new challenge just around the next turn.

Palomas Gap Level 2 Trail (Wednesday) starts low then gradually climbs an old mountain road built by Chinese Laborers in the 1800's. This road was used to haul water from the river to the new railroad. It is narrow in spots as it clings to the side of a canyon, but the scenery is spectacular as you climb to the high desert crossing before reaching the Caballo Rim. Travel time 6 hours.

Palomas High Desert Level 2+ Trail (Friday) Depart Riverside Campground via I-25 for Williamsburg, Exit 75, NM 51 E, for the Fast Stop/Shell Station to top off fuel tanks & breakfast burritos. Returning to NM 51 heading east for a few miles past the southern end of Elephant Butte Lake until reaching an open area on the right side of the road where vehicles are “aired down”. Continuing a short distance east on NM 51 until reaching the trailhead on the right side of the road, where the significant trail feature is a very large nearly massive slick rock which is the first challenge of this Chile Challenge Trail. The trail continues and covers the eastern foothills of the Caballo Mountains.  It is an easy, scenic trail with a few minor technical obstacles (depending on recent rains).  Along the way you will see several areas of ranching/mining history including a small shrine believed from the Spanish era.  The trail returns through the southern portion of Truth or Consequences, traveling north along the Rio Grande until reaching NM 51 W, then I-25 S back to the Riverside Campground. This is a great trail with some awesome views which may include exiting through Palomas Gap and opportunities to view wildlife.

Desert Wandering Level 3 Trail (Thursday) really gets you off the beaten path. When it was explored last year its existence was reflected on current maps, but the trail appeared as if there had been no traffic on it for at least ten years. It wanders through the hills through some  magnificent views of mountains and valleys of the Rio Grande. Careful negotiation of washouts, picking a good line through arroyos, and artful tire placement on a few rocks will make this easy trail a real adventure. 

Out There & Back Again Level 3 Trail (Thursday) is an old mine road that heads north from Hatch and then crosses over Red House Mountain. The pass is scenic, but challenging, as it has had irregular maintenance. Several washed out spots will challenge your driving skills. Once over the pass, the trail connects to a county road for a short distance before turning onto a double track ranch road. It then crosses a working cattle ranch following ridge lines and a drainage system until it connects with Lost Hills Mine Road.

Moderate Trails; Difficulty Level 4 - 5

Scratch Level 4 Trail (Saturday; SOLD-OUT) was so named because of the high probability of NM pin striping there. Lots of ocotillo cacti have been encountered. It is one of the shorter trails, but it does require time and attention to what you are doing. Look for many large boulders and narrow squeezes through which negotiate. This trail has claimed at least one ring and pinion gear! 4-5 hours travel time.

El Pedregal is a Level 4 Trail (Wednesday) that is combination of previously used short trails that together combine to provide a satisfyingly Moderate Trail experience for those drivers who may not be quite ready to push their vehicles onto the demands of Hard Trails. A good training experience, this trail offers challenging but not crazy obstacles in a time frame that will not require the entire day.

Rattler & Breath Taker   (Thursday)  Pre-run on Oct 3 revealed that this will be a combination of two rather short trails (Level 5 and Level 6-7) to make one outstandingly interesting trail. Rattler starts out of Green Canyon arroyo and then it turns out of the main canyon on an ascent to the top of the Canyon. A few challenges will be present as you cross in and out of the canyon bottom before reaching the top. Depending on the size of the group, lunch will most likely be at the mountaintop taking in the views of the area. Following lunch you will descend down the backside dropping off a few ledges along with tight turns before exiting back into Green Canyon. Breath Taker is all about paying attention to the vehicle ahead. After reaching the trail- head, the trail becomes narrow and tight in places causing the vehicle to straddle V shaped canyon bottoms. A few obstacles that will need to be climbed are steep and tight on each side. Approximately midway from the top the trail will fork.   Wide Body Level 6 Alt  on the left fork is has large, loose, 30-inch boulders that earn a level 6 rating.   Narrow Level 7 Alt  is a Hard Level 7 trail. The right fork features a level 7 obstacle, a narrow notch in the rocks with a 4-foot entry climb. 

San Diego (Tonuco) Mountain is a Level 5 Trail (Friday; SOLD-OUT) that is an authorized trail for use, and has been used by the members of the Las Cruces Four Wheel Drive Club, but has not been offered for the past three Chile Challenges. The Club decided that it would be a great trail to offer as the trail provides a satisfying driving experience as well as providing driver and passengers with great vistas of New Mexico.

Hard Trails; Difficulty Level 6 - 7

Apache Canyon Level 6 Trail (Thursday & Saturday) begins at the Caballo Lake Dam. The trail goes through Apache Canyon and continues toward the top of the Caballo Mountains. The trail used to have Level 1 or 2 options, but now two sections of ledges (12” to 18”) and large rocks (12” to 20”) must be negotiated. There are no “by-passes” for these obstacles. 

As run for the Chile Challenge, after dropping down from the Ocotillo Ridge road back into Apache Canyon, the trail will follow the arroyo bottom of the canyon to enjoy the level 6 obstacles rather than follow bypasses on the old constructed road alongside the canyon. 

The trail will exit the arroyo bottom near the beginning of War Path and climb the ridge on its west side. The trail will end at Apache Gap Tank at the top of Apache Canyon and near the end of War Path.

This will require more driving time on the up-leg of the trip.  

The return trip will be a reverse of the up-leg, except that all the bypasses will be taken in order to arrive back to the campground before dark. 

Green Canyon Level 6 Trail (Wednesday & Saturday) follows the arroyo that flows through the Southern Caballo Mountains. It starts out as a wide, sandy arroyo and may seem to the uninitiated that its difficulty level does not live up to its rating. As the canyon gets narrow and the canyon walls become higher, the boulders start appearing and so does the fun. The boulders get bigger and the obstacles get harder.  Pretty soon, expectations are clearly met. The trail has something for all hard and extreme capable four-wheel drives. All past drivers of Green Canyon Trail have never been disappointed!

Narrows Level 6 Trail (Thursday, Friday & Saturday) starts out in a brushy flat area but quickly changes into a narrow canyon filled with boulders, ledges and dry waterfalls.  This trail is absolutely a challenge of driving skill. The fun starts almost immediately with a decent ledge to negotiate followed by a large boulder in the middle of the trail. Two of the largest obstacles are next; The Fangs; a four-foot ledge and The Waterfall; a six-foot narrow chute. Both require close and rapid attention. This trail is packed with obstacles from start to finish. Body damage is a real possibility if situational awareness is not maintained.

The Backstage Pass Level 7 Trail (Wednesday, Friday & Saturday) is exciting from start to finish, which is packed full of obstacles, boulders and ledges. The “Slide”, a series of dry waterfalls that are not quite vertical, will have drivers relying on their spotter’s skills to help navigate vehicles through these obstacles. This trail makes a loop as it climbs one canyon crosses over a ridge and drops down into another canyon.

Lost Boys Level 7 Trail (Thursday, Friday & Saturday) has it all; boulders, ledges, narrow spots and amazing scenery. The route starts off with some easy warm ups then gets serious pretty quickly. Following a narrow drainage ditch past some old mining claims over large boulders and up 3-4 foot ledges. Near the end the last big obstacle, “Game Changer”, is a near vertical 6-foot dry waterfall for those drivers who will try anything once. The sneak route around “Game Changer” is a hard move but there is a natural winch point if required. There are sneak routes around the harder obstacles. This trail is sooo much fun, but beware of body damage and scratches! 

Rattler (Extended) is a Level 7 Trail (Wednesday & Friday) that takes the Moderate Trail Rattler and extends it into a more challenging exit. Boulders and drops exceeding 30 inches  demand adequate equipment and will sharpen the driving skill edge of any good operator.

Sidewinder Level 7 Trail (Thursday, Friday & Saturday) begins out east of I-25 on a graded road until reaching a two track heading south across the mountainside to the trailhead. Leaving the trailhead the trail drops down into a fairly deep canyon after which all driving effort is focused upon making it to the top of the hills. One obstacle is narrow and full width vehicles may experience body damage in an effort to get through it. This trail will test both driver and vehicle. Sidewinder should be a challenge for drivers who haven’t “stepped” into the more extreme trails.

Extreme Trails; Difficulty Level 8 - 10

Brandon's Boulders is a Level 8 Trail (Wednesday, Thursday, Friday & Saturday) . It is a technical trail with a mixture of 7-8 foot ledges, boulder fields, and a challenging exit. The trail sticks to the bottom of an arroyo and follows an old mine road.

The Shaft to Off Again are two shorter Level 8 Trails (Wednesday; SOLD-OUT

, Thursday, Friday & Saturday) from previous Chile Challenges that have been combined this year to provide real "driver fun"! The Shaft Trail begins the adventure with  a small boulder field of differential catchers, and after these obstacles are avoided, the trail is a series of 6-7 foot ledges which are slowly covered up to the main dirt road. Once the main road is reached, an opportunity is provided to continue onto the Off Again portion of the combined trail which offers a steep ascent comprised of off-camber climbs, 4-6 foot ledges, and small boulder fields which will challenge drivers’ skills. Body damage is a real possibility on this section of the trail.

Mine Field & Frame Twister is a Level 9 Trail (Wednesday, Thursday; SOLD-OUT, Friday & Saturday) which combines again two great but short trails into an afternoon of "hard work".  It is a challenge just getting to the trailhead. But then, the fun begins as on the first turn be heads up, or your vehicle could end up on its side.  A great view awaits from the top of the old mine before heading back into the canyon. The first section of starts off with 4-5 foot ledges, with little room for maneuvering as the trail works its way up to a monster 8-9 foot ledge. After successfully conquering the waterfall, navigating a tight turn, and working their way up a few more ledges, drivers will find themselves facing a large boulder field. At this point, drivers can bail out to the left, but if not, push on to the top, watching out for the differential catchers.

Short Cut is a Level 9 Trail & Very Popular (Friday; SOLD-OUT, Saturday; SOLD-OUT) that can be nice going with the right line. However if the wrong line is chosen things can go south real quick. The first obstacle consists of an intimidating crawl up a wash that is at once an ego booster, and a vehicle breaker. That is only the beginning, shortly after that comes a tub that is just waiting to catch those not paying attention. There are walls that come along that will test drivers’ skills whether driving a short or long wheelbase vehicle. If all is going well at this point on the trail, drivers are encouraged to try a  ridiculous wall above a “Burnt Out” wreck. It might be one wall, but an Extreme one, and drivers’ adrenaline will be flowing after the top is reached. Working winch, front and rear lockers are required to accomplish this trail, and excellent driving skills are an imperative.  

Warpath a Level 9+ Trail (Wednesday; SOLD-OUT, Thursday; SOLD-OUT) is located just east of Caballo Reservoir. Warpath is a legendary trail full of obstacles and large boulders from one end to the other. There are non-stop hardcore obstacles to include the biggest obstacle on the trail, a large waterfall that most vehicles will require the use of their winches or others’ winches, as they will be unable to complete it unassisted. This trail will severely test a driver's nerve and vehicle. Flops and broken parts are very common. The day on this trail will begin early, and likely end late. So, all drivers should plan accordingly.