Dog Canyon Overlook • Highpoint: Eddy County
• Guadalupe Mountains

Date Climbed
March 17, 2000

7,480 feet

4 miles round trip

4 hours

900 feet
(One way gross)

Warm and dry

380 feet

Click on the thumbnail to see a full-size version

The summit from the last saddle

The highpoint cairn and stick

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Eddy County sits in the transition between the mountainous central spine of New Mexico and the deserts and rangelands toward the east. The highest point of Eddy County is an unnamed peak barely on the New Mexico side of its boundary with Texas, where it crosses the Guadalupe Mountains, not far north of the Texas state highpoint at Guadalupe Peak. The Guadalupe Mountains National Park sit within Texas and come right up to the state border. The Eddy County highpoint sits atop a knoll overlooking Dog Canyon, a remote northern entrance into the Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

I was well into a multi-day county highpoint run in New Mexico, mainly seeking out the various eastern plains highpoints, which weren't too much trouble other than for the weather. Yesterday I had awoke in the little town of Vaughn to a late-Winter snowstorm. Not wanting to be stuck in Vaughn for the day in snow, I hightailed it south toward Carlsbad. I spent most of the day exploring the main rooms of the Carlsbad Caverns National Park, plus some county highpoints inside Texas. I spent the night in Kermit, Texas. No highpoints for me today, but an interesting day nonetheless.

Today dawned crystal clear and about 20 degrees warmer than yesterday. What little snow had fallen this far south had melted and the day was gorgeous. From Kermit I went west through Mentone then north via Orla back into New Mexico, with the Eddy County highpoint explicitly on my agenda. I backtracked north up US-285 through Carlsbad, then a few miles north of the city, went left on state route NM-137, a nearly 50-mile "dead end" highway that leads to the Dog Canyon (North) Entrance of the Guadalupe Mountains National Park. This highway is very scenic as it passes through the hills of the Guadalupe Range, with many side roads leading every-which-way, including some notable waterfalls in the area, so I have read.

My goal was Lincoln Forest Road 540, located 38 miles in from the US-285 exit. I went south on FR-540 about 9 miles, following the well-tended gravel road but being sure to take it slow as there were many deer out today. Finally, I came to a big turn-around not far north of the Eddy County highpoint. I drove another half-mile or so south on very rough road, parking at a convenient spot. It was 9 a.m. when I parked in warm (high 60s) and very sunny, very dry weather.

I walked the south road about another mile to a point where it turned west. Here, I had two options: (1) drop 800 feet into a canyon, then re-ascend the other side and work my way up cliff bands to the highpoint, or (2) walk west on the road then side-hill past an intervening peak, then try for the highpoint. Either way, I would be going entirely cross-country through moderate vegetation and sections of forest. The trick would be to watch my bearings and waypoints carefully. The distances were short but getting lost here would be bad, so I was super-duper-extra careful.

I decided to go mainly with the first option. From the road I went through some trees, then within minutes had entered into the open again, overlooking the little canyon separating me from the highpoint. I stayed west of the spot elevation 7,413 shown near the road, and descended along a ridge to a small knob at elevation 6,880 feet, then down into the canyon itself. The terrain here is mainly limestone, with its tell-tale tendency to make lots of little cliffs to get up, around or over. It was fun to eyeball a descent route and see how it would go. The brush was thick but not too bad. I was mostly concerned about snakes.

I ascended out of the canyon bottom and achieved the saddle north of the highpoint and south of another peak listed at 7,138 feet on the map. The saddle's elevation is about 6,820 feet, or about 200 feet above the canyon bottom. As I walked up the hillside south of the saddle I noted a very old fence, and arbitrarily decided to stay on its east side. I followed game trails that often petered out, and often found myself hiking directly up the brushy slopes in intermittent tree cover. As I neared the top, I encountered small bands of limestone cliffs, none more than 10 feet high, but just high enough to force me to do some scrambling to get past them.

Finally I found what appeared to be a path, and after a short scramble up minor chutes, was on top of everything. Now I just needed to seek out the highpoint. It's a small area of 7,480+ feet atop a football-field sized summit plateau. I got confused by a slight rise to the southeast and headed to it, but decided to place my trust in the map and seek out the western area first. Finally, I found it, marked with a wooden fencepost leaning amid a rubbly cairn. I found a sign-in register, and I knew I had the right place. Only four names had been entered since 1998, and I knew all four, wouldn't you know. With mine, the register now held five names. The higher point was actually some rises inside Texas.

It had taken me two hours to reach the top, encompassing about 2.5 miles of walking and a gross gain of nearly a thousand feet. I had made a lot of effort to memorize my route and reference points so that I could return without undue trouble. The only variation I took was to descend to the saddle at 6,820 feet by staying west of an old fence, which proved to be far easier and less obstacle-ridden. I simply followed my visual waypoints back down into the canyon and up the other side, finding the road no problem and from there, back to my truck. I was back to my truck at 1 p.m., and retraced my steps out to the main highways. It's not a bad hike along a well-chosen route, but paying close attention to a map is vital. I thought the whole area was very pretty.

After a stop in Artesia for lunch, I went west toward the bigger hills. Later in the day, I visited One Tree Peak, the Chaves County highpoint.

(c) 2000, 2011 Scott Surgent. For entertainment purposes only. This report is not meant to replace maps, compass, gps and other common sense hiking/navigation items. Neither I nor the webhost can be held responsible for unfortunate situations that may arise based on these trip reports. Conditions (physical and legal) change over time! Some of these hikes are major mountaineering or backpacking endeavors that require skill, proper gear, proper fitness and general experience.