On December 1st, Trails Alliance of Santa Fe gathered a group of volunteers under the direction of Jennifer Sublett, Volunteer Coordinator for the Santa Fe National Forest to finish the new Dead Dog Trail. The new trail is exceptional.
It’s a fairly steep climb with many switchbacks to aid the ascent. It is plenty wide for horse traffic with the downhill side fortified with boulders. We rode this last week and were extremely impressed with the huge amount of work that went into creating this new trail. It is well engineered and should therefore survive the monsoon seasons.
Because climbing the wall of the plateau is steep, the trail winds back and forth on tight switchbacks. We stop on the uphill so that the horses could blow. As we near the top, the trail surprises us and changes to rock steps. We space the horses out so that each horse could carefully place their feet. Every horse approaches the rock steps with confidence; before long we are standing on the top of the Plateau.
The views are spectacular in every direction; the flat Plateau is massive. Before you leave the trailhead, look back and get a good visual fix on it, because the drop off the plateau is so steep that the trailhead cannot be seen unless you are standing right on top of it. If we fail to locate the trailhead, we will be riding the rim until we do.
No cut trail continues on the Plateau, but there are large rock piles – a suggestion of direction. At this point, we had been on the horses an hour; however, we could not resist riding a bit farther to explore. We came upon a water catchment made of concrete that replaced an older wood version and evidence of cattle grazing. Getting all the concrete up there must have been a real project in itself.
Before long, we felt the saddle time in our legs, so we turn back to find our way off the Plateau. Getting down is as tricky as coming UP, but the fear of the unknown was behind us. All agreed this is a trail we will revisit again soon and explore more of the Plateau.
We were impressed and grateful for the Trail Alliance of Santa Fe for their enormous volunteer work to create this great trail. Dead Dog Trail is accessible from Old Buckman Road across the arroyo thru the barbed wire fence, and leads to the top of the Caja Plateau.
Dead Dog Trail is one of 3 established trails off Old Buckman Road, although there are many other unnamed trails. Other trails include Soda Springs Trail along the ridge of the Rio Grande, and Diablo Canyon which is the arroyo that leads to the Rio Grande River. More information about the Trails Alliance of Santa Fe or to volunteer for trail building and maintenance, or information about the trails in Santa Fe National Forest, check the contact information below.