Rio Grande del Norte National Monument : Wild Rivers, River Trail Loop

On Saturday, I returned back to the Wild Rivers area of Rio Grande del Norte National Monument with plans to do the best hike I could. I did a large loop, including the entirety of the River Trail.

This is my second time having visited Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. Before I go any further, at the time of this writing, this is one of the national monuments under President Trump’s “review” process. Have a look at my own public comments published previously on this blog.

Waking up early Saturday morning, I packed up and headed out to the Wild Rivers section of the monument again. After driving around the weekend before, I had a good idea of the different hikes I could do in the area, and I decided to do a full loop based on the River Trail.

I parked at the day use area of La Junta Campground and headed down the La Junta Trail. This was a steep but remarkably rewarding way down into the gorge where the Rio Grande and Red River join together. I loved the views all of the way down and stopping to rest right at this junction was simply special in its own right.

Continuing on, I then followed the River Trail. With the river on one side and the magnificent cliffs of eroded lava flow all around me, it was consistently impressive. Although relatively level on its own, there is a lot of up and down on this trail. The views from the high points and the wonder of the review at the low points; it’s hard to really say which I liked more!

Alas, after a good couple miles of hiking, I found myself at the Big Arsenic Springs camping area, where I decided to keep going until the trail went no further. Several other people on the trail seemed to stop and not continue onward, but by going further, I got rewarded with some petroglyphs and other native artifacts.

Finally, it was time to make the steep climb back up to the top of the rim. I followed the Big Arsenic Trail to the top, watching the views just seem to get ever better as the trail got steeper and steeper along the way. Although short, that climb is not what I would call an easy hike, for sure. Just the sort of thing I enjoy!

Back at the top, I had a good moment of being confused as to how to get back to the car at La Junta. After wandering for a moment around the area, I hopped onto the Rinconada Loop Trail, following this easy, actually quite level trail back to the car.

Overall, analyzing the GPS track from my eTrex 30x, I made it 8.31 miles with 2955.22 ft of cumulative elevation gain. That makes it a generally “difficult” hike. It’s been a little while now since I really did a good hike reaching on that level, so I have certainly been feeling it!

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