Dog Canyon Overlook • Highpoint: Eddy County
• Guadalupe Mountains

The summit from the last saddle

The highpoint cairn and stick

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Date: March 17, 2000 • Elevation: 7,480 feet • Prominence: 380 feet • Distance: 4 miles • Time: 4 hours • Gain: 900 feet • Conditions: Dry and warm

The highpoint of Eddy County is a small hilltop along the main ridge of the Guadalupe Mountains, which extend into Texas. The highpoint is barely north of the Texas-New Mexico state line, overlooking Dog Canyon, a remote entrance into the Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

I was in New Mexico visiting county highpoints. After a lucrative day two days ago, when I visited five county highpoints, I was forced to lay low for a day (yesterday) as a fast-moving storm moved through the region, dumping snow. I took advantage of the free day and visited the Carlsbad Caverns National Park. I spent the night in Kermit, Texas.

I was actually going to visit the highpoint of Loving County, Texas (which is why I placed myself in Kermit). I spent an hour or so futzing with bad roads and oil-field gates before giving up on Loving Couynty's highpoint. I returned to the highway and went north on US-285 past Carlsbad the city, then going left (southwest) on NM-137.

This highway leads to the aforementioned north entrance to the National Park. It is essentially a 50-mile long "dead end" highway. It is uncrowded and scenic, passing through high desert rangeland and small hills.

My goal was Lincoln Forest Road 540, located 38 miles from where NM-137 branched from US-285. I went south on FR-540 about 9 miles, following the well-tended gravel road but being sure to take it slow due to the deer. More than once I had to stop quickly as one would leap in front of my truck. Finally, I came to a big turn-around not far north of the Eddy County highpoint. I drove another half-mile south on very rough road, parking at a convenient spot. It was 9 a.m. when I parked in warm and dry weather. The temperature was about 70 degrees.

I walked the south road about another mile to a point where the road 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 with the first option. From the road, I barged into the trees, then within minutes had left the trees, now back in the open, 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 petered out, and 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 use hands to scramble past them.

Finally, I found what appeared to be a path, and after a short scramble up easy 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 rise to the southeast and headed to it, but decided to place my trust in the map and seek out the western area first. Soon, I found it, marked with a wooden fencepost held up by 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. With mine, the register now held five names. The higher point was actually inside Texas.

It took me two hours to reach the top, covering 2.5 miles of walking and a gross gain of nearly a thousand feet. I memorized my route and reference points so that I could return without 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, 2016 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.