Anytime I come through Raton, New Mexico, I simply just think of it is the place to get gas between Colorado and Texas as there is a long stretch of road without facilities. Raton, in fact, has more to offer than just gas, particularly its surrounding hiking trails.
The last time I stopped near Raton for more than just gas was twelve years ago on my first road trip across the USA. I explored Sugarite Canyon State Park to the Northeast of Raton. This time, I took Annie to stretch her legs in Climax Canyon Park on the west edge of town.
Climax Canyon Trail
Climax Canyon Park features a 2.7 mile loop which provides views of both Raton and the Raton-Clayton Volcanic Field. It is also home to a variety of geology and wildlife.
Getting to Climax Canyon Park
The 300-acre Climax Canyon Park is located in the back of a neighborhood. Follow the Alltrails.com directions to the large gravel parking area with no facilities.
From the parking area, take a short walk up the dirt road to the trailhead on the left. Posted signs warn hikers about dangerous wildlife including bears, mountain lions, and rattlesnakes. I didn’t see any.
Hiking Climax Canyon Trail
The Climax Canyon Trail immediately ascends through the pinon-juniper forest. The gradual grade, only gaining 450 feet over 1.3 miles, makes this hike easy. However, flatlanders should be aware the trail begins at 6,767 feet.
The loop trail is signed with “East Loop” and “West Loop” which confused me at first since the map shows one lollipop loop! But I suppose the gracious volunteers who maintain the trail, want trekkers to know which way is east and which way is west.
The well-maintained path includes benches at occasional lookouts. One lookout has Indian grinding mortars in the rock! The path also features a handful of wildflowers and high desert cacti which dot the south facing slopes.
The best part of the Climax Canyon Trail is the breathtaking view of Raton-Clayton Volcanic Field. The ridges on the green mesas as well as nearby dormant volcanoes really pop. It reminded me of nearby Capulin Volcano National Monument.
Overall, Climax Canyon Trail is an easy stroll which takes around an hour. It’s perfect for an early morning walk before it gets to hot.
Also nearby Climax Canyon Park is Goat Hill, which features the Raton sign and may be reached in any type of vehicle. It is a good place to watch the sunset or Fourth of July fireworks. ETB