Distance: 10 miles (or as long as you want)
Season: Fall, Winter, Spring
Trail Condition: Excellent
When the Sabinoso Wilderness was designated in 2009, it was the only Wilderness area with no public access. That was finally resolved in 2017, when the Wilderness Trust donated a recently purchased parcel to the BLM that provided a single access point to the Wilderness.
The single trail that travels towards the top of Canon Largo to the confluence with the Canadian River travels through sandstone canyon featuring juniper and ponderosa forest interspersed with large cottonwood galleries along the riparian corridor. The out and back hike is unique not only to eastern New Mexico, but the entire state.
From Las Vegas, take NM-104 east for 32 miles until it takes a large bend to the right. Here, you will continue straight onto a dirt road, C51A. Notice the small, brown sign noting ‘Sabinoso Wilderness 10 miles.’ Continue on this road. You will pass through a gate after about 4 miles. Leave it as you found it.
After that, you will reach a fork in the road. The right fork is marked ‘private road’. Take the left fork and after another couple of miles, the road will fork again. This fork is marked by another brown sign indicating 3 more miles to the Wilderness. Go left to follow the sign. You will encounter one more gate. Make sure to leave it as you found it. After the final gate, you will see one more sign as the road curves to the right, heading down hill. This is the only rough section of road and as long as your vehicle has a decent amount of clearance, you should be fine. The road eventually dead ends at a small parking area.
From the parking area, pass through the gate and follow the road downhill. This is by far the steepest part of the hike, which you will only truly appreciate on the way back out. The road curves to the bottom of the canyon where you will pass through another gate before following the canyon downstream.
The trail continues to follow the old two-track as it criss-crosses the stream back and forth to remain on the small bench adjacent to the river. There is some water at the top of the canyon when you first hit the bottom of the canyon. Rarely, is there significant flow and the water will always require treating.
NOTE: It is recommended to filter the water as opposed to just purify.
After about a mile, the stream typically goes completely dry until about 4.5 miles down canyon where there are a series of reliable pools. These pools are located just before the trail turns away from the creek onto a bench much higher above the water.
On this trip, we turned around at this high point at roughly 5 miles from the trailhead providing views up a large side canyon, but the trail keeps going all the way to the Canadian River.
The entire trail is in good condition and easy to follow, just prepared yourself for the final climb out of the canyon and back to the parking lot.