The Rio Medio Trail is 9.5 mile long trail that begins at the Borrego Mesa Campground and ends at the Skyline Trail – Trail #251 on Trailriders Ridge.
Trail Condition: Moderate to Poor.
Borrego Mesa Campground to Joe Vigil Trail – Trail #351:
From the trailhead, pick up the Rio Medio Trail – Trail #155. The trail will quickly drop into the large burn area, slowly descending southeast toward the Rio Medio below. Despite being severely burned, the trail here is in good condition with fairly few downed trees. This area is exposed, but there’s regeneration occurring with aspens and ponderosas starting to pop up.
After about .5 mile, the trail will enter unburned ponderosa forest as you near the creek. The trail briefly hits the bottom of the canyon before climbing slightly above the water to bypass some small cliffs. For the next 5 miles, the trail will remain on the north side of the creek. At times, it remains close to the water, but for much of this section, it remains on a bench, 100 feet or less above the water. There are at least 4 side canyons that the trail contours around taking you further away from the water.
Throughout this section, there are a few downed trees, but for the most part, the trail is in good condition and is easy to follow – probably the easiest of the entire route.
After 5.5 miles or so, the trail drops down to the water one final time. It follows along the southside for a short while before appearing to cross the creek. In fact, you will remain on the same side, but must shuffle along a small rock wall. Even with the high water in late June, I was able to complete this maneuver without getting my feet wet.
Shortly after this, the trail will actually cross the creek, but luckily there is a large tree down across the creek, making for an easy crossing:
NOTE: There are trees purposefully felled across every major stream crossing. Most of them were in good condition, but at least one was old and starting to rot, so be sure to test them before trusting them with your weight.
The trail will remain on the southside past the junction with the Capulin Trail – Trail #158. As the trail approaches the side canyon hosting the Capulin Trail, the trail will fade. Continue upstream, with the stream about 100 feet away on your left, and you should pass the sign marking the trail junction. As you continue past the junction, the trail should reappear and become easier to follow.
About 1/3 of a mile past the Capulin Trail, the Rio Medio Trail crosses the creek and enters a grass meadow. Cross over the small knoll to leave this tributary and pick up the trail, marked by a cairn, which continues to follow the main stem of the Rio Medio. The trail starts in good condition, but will disappear for a moment. You should be able to find it again quickly however.
The trail crosses the creek again soon after this and turns right to continue upstream. Throughout this section, the riparian area along the creek is grassy, which means the trail frequently fades, but the canyon is narrow, so it is difficult to get “lost”.
Eventually, you’ll reach the junction with the Joe Vigil Trail – Trail #351. There is no trail sign, but there is a large pile of rocks where the trail sign used to be.
For more information on the Rio Medio Trail, see my trip report from Jose Vigil Lake and the Dome.