- Rio Grande Overland Trail (RGOT). Level 2 Trail located between Truth or Consequences and Arrey, Sierra County, South-West New Mexico.
Note that in bad weather, portions may become impassible due to mud in the Monsoon Season which is designated as the period lasting from June 15th through September 30th.
RGOT runs between Elephant Butte Lake Dam and Caballo Lake Dam, roughly paralleling along the eastern bank of the Rio Grande River. Total trail distance: 30 miles (48.3 kilometers). Trail elevation range: 4,141 feet minimum (1,262 meters) to 5,032 feet maximum (1,534 meters) ASL. Elevation gain/loss: 2,690 feet (820 meters). Maximum Slope: 14.3%. Trail may be run in either direction. Trail description is from north to south.
RGOT begins at the river crossing below the Elephant Butte Dam at [N33.14521° W-107.20775°]. The trail runs generally southward along the eastern bank of the Rio Grande River, passing T or C, NM, Las Palomas, NM, passing the junction to the Palomas Gap Trail at the 10.1 mile mark (16.2 kilometers) [N33.03744° W-107.27566°] (turn east for Palomas Gap Trail).
RGOT continues south along the river. Follow the main trail. At the 14.3 mile mark (23.0 kilometers) [N32.98673° W-107.27824°] the RGOT will turn east and away from the Rio Grande, beginning an ascent into the foothills of the Caballo Mountains. For several miles the trail will wind in and out of the arroyos, gaining and losing elevation several times. Maximum elevation is at the 18.5 mile mark (29.8 kilometers). At 19.1 miles (30.7 kilometers) the trail passes a significant mining operation. KEEP OUT of the fenced area, private property.
At the 19.5 mile mark (31.4 kilometers) [N32.94114° W-107.26007°], there is a 4-way junction in the trail. To the east are several dead-end trails leading to some other abandoned mines. To the west is a walled canyon trail leading down toward the eastern shore of Caballo Lake about 1.7 miles (2.7 kilometers) west of the main trail. Reaching the lake here is impossible due to heavy brush. There is a spur-trail to the south at [N 32.93921° W-107.28163°] that will take you into the next canyon south where you can bear right to reach the lake shore. This would be a good place to stop for lunch, or even to overnight if camping is on your agenda. NOTE: This lake access could change if the lake level rises during the rainy season or with snow run-off from Colorado.
Continuing on the main trail, at the 20.0 mile mark (32.2 kilometers) [N32.93524° W-107.25549°] the trail reaches the junction of the El Pedregal Trail (Turn east for the El Pedregal Trail). The El Pedregal Trail will lead eastward into another mining area. Continuing ahead on the main trail will keep to the RGOT.
From this point the trail will begin a gradual descent into the lower foothills of the Caballo Mountains and on to the bluffs overlooking the lake. Keep to the main trail heading generally south. There will be several spur-trails to the west leading to the eastern lake shore if you care to explore some. At the 23.5 mile mark (37.8 kilometers) [N32.90865° W-107.28203°] the El Pedregal Trail will rejoin the RGOT from the east. At the 25 mile mark (40.2 kilometers) [N32.89753° W-107.29069°] you will see a Y-intersection to the right. This is a dead-end road going to the Caballo Dam spillway. The dam crossing is locked and controlled by DHS.
Continue along the main trail heading generally south along the Rio Grande. At the 26.8 mile mark (43.1 kilometers) [N32.87688° W-107.29466°] you will come to a tunnel that crosses under the highway (I-25). This tunnel is large enough to pass most common vehicles. Beyond the tunnel you will be on county road B-012 surrounded by private ranches. Stay on the roads. At the 27.7 mile mark (44.6 kilometers) take the right turn on to Milkweed Rd, then at the 28.0 mile mark (45.1 kilometers) turn left on to Tumbleweed Rd. Cross over the Rio Grande at the 28.5 mile mark (45.9 kilometers) then turn right on to County Rd B-38 at the 28.7 mile mark (46.2 kilometers). Follow County Rd B-38 to the end at NM-187. There is a Country Store to the left with fuel and supplies.
- Bottle Tree Loop Level 3 Trail consists of very scenic trails that encompass several abandoned mines and a pass that allows a great view of the area. Travel time 3-5 hours.
- Palomas Gap Level 3 Trail 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.
- Red House Mountain Loop Level 3 Trail 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. Allow for six hours travel time.
- El Pedregal Level 2 Trail is a combination of previously used short trails that together provide a satisfying Overland Trail experience for drivers who may not be quite ready to push their vehicles onto the demands of Moderate Trails. A good training experience, this trail offers challenging, but not crazy, obstacles in a time frame that will not likely exceed five hours.
Rincon To Sparkys. Level 4. A newly revived route that begins on the West side of I-25 and ends up enticingly close to Sparky's Burgers in Hatch. This route begins South of Hatch, just outside of Rincon. It crosses under I-25 toward the East and follows a meandering arroyo until it climbs up and out to a broad plateau on the southern portion of the Jornada del Muerto. Then it tracks North, negotiating several treacherous washouts and bypasses until reaching Hayfield Tank, where it turns East and follows the Redhouse Mountain track over the pass and back down into Hatch, where the green Chile cheeseburgers await.
Desert Wandering is a Moderate Level 4 Trail that really gets you off the beaten path. When it was first explored three years ago 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.
Last year's monsoon rains changed the exit arroyo so much that the Overland group running it turned around and backtracked.
This year, the arroyo is included for an introduction to Moderate Level 4 experience.
Careful negotiation of washouts, picking a good line through arroyos, and artful tire placement on a few rocks will make this trail an adventurous introduction to the moderate level of 4-wheeling.
San Diego (Tonuco) Mountain will NOT be available this year due to trail severe erosion. A Pre-Run conducted 10 August by the Moderate Trail Supervisor & Chile Challenge Coordinator determined that the trail was not passable.
Rattler, Level 4 will replace San Diego Mountain for the 2019 Chile Challenge.
Rattler. Level 5. 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.
When it is passable it is a Level 5 Trail 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.
Scratch Level 4 Trail 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.
Apache Canyon Level 6 Trail 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 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 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 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 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!
Sidewinder Level 7 Trail 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.
The Cabin trail Level 7+ (Winch Required) is one of the most difficult HARD trails in the region. Most wheelers go through the Green Trail (Level 6/7) to reach the Cabin trail. The trail gets your attention immediately as it ascends nasty rock ledges and very tight Left & Right turns. The arroyo canyon floor is cut into older rock layers creating ledges after ledges and very deep v-notches. The large rock ledges require good clearance and rock sliders. There are no bypasses on this trail and once you’re committed, there’s no turning back. The giant ledge (Dry Waterfall) at the end of the trail cannot be bypassed. Trying to climb it with a winch is scary enough, but be prepared for a good show while some see if they can without a winch. 75% of vehicles with 35 inch tires use a winch.
Back to Skool Level 7 is technically difficult for most vehicles with 35’s, just like going back to school it can be intimidating. Will you graduate? This trail can turn into a long day, bring plenty of food and water. Don’t under estimate this trail, it’s difficult with several ledges and challenging obstacles. The view from the top is well worth the hazards getting there! From the top you can look 30 miles across the Caballo canyons. The trail going down includes steep ledges, sharp turns, and hair-raising descents. Those looking for HARD challenges will not be disappointed.
Brandon's Boulders is a Level 8 Trail. It is a technical trail with a mixture of 7-8 foot ledges, boulder fields, and a challenging exit. The trail starts in the bottom of an arroyo and follows it out until crossing an old mine road. Then it drops down into another narrower and gnarly canyon that winds around obstacles and waterfalls until it climbs out and down an easy escape back to the county road.
The Shaft to Off Again are two shorter Level 8 Trails 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 & The Bone is a Level 9 Trail 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, 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 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.