Saturday, April 20, 2013

Going Back in Time on the Woodhaul Wagon Road

We've hiked and biked a number of trails in the Fort Bayard Trail System, just five miles East of Silver City, NM; mostly staying on the low, rolling hills in the Southern part of the System. On this day we decided to hike the Woodhaul Wagon Road, taking us up into the larger hills in the Northern portion.

This photo, taken on another hiking day, shows the typical low rolling hills of the Southern portion of
the Fort Bayard Trail System. To hike the Woodhaul Wagon Road we head up into the hills in the distance.

This excellent six mile hike started at the Fort Bayard Administrative Site Trailhead which is located on a dirt road a few miles beyond the Fort Bayard Historic Site. Our route was: Big Tree Trail, Woodhaul Wagon Rd Trail, with a short offshoot to Cameron Creek, a second offshoot to the Rut site, then return on Stevens Ranch Road.

Once we turned off the Big Tree Trail we started a gentle ascent into the hills following the Woodhaul Wagon Road. During the days of the Fort Bayard Military Reservation (starting in 1865), this road was used to transport wood from the Pinos Altos mountain range to the Fort by mule and oxen carts. Our goal was to see the wagon wheel ruts carved into rock over many years of heavy use.

As we headed up hill the trees and brush became thick and the road more defined.

After about a mile of gentle climbing, we came to an intersection and a gate. Taking the trail to the left we entered a lovely meadow bisected by a creek (Cameron Creek) where we saw several white tailed deer.

A meadow at about 7,000 elevation, with more hills of the Gila National Forest surrounding it.

A shady glen just beginning to show spring green along barely flowing Cameron Creek.

At this point the trail petered out and we headed back to the trail intersection and passed through the gate. Soon we saw a sign indicating the wagon wheel road continued up the hill to the left. After a short distance our persistence paid off and we were standing in the wagon wheel ruts!

Countless wagon loads of wood were hauled  over this route in the late 1800's, gouging ruts into the stone.

Hans walking down the wagon trail.

Here you can see how deep the ruts cut into the stone.

We hiked a bit further up the road and took in the view to the South East.

The light colored ridge in the distance is the Santa Rita Mine...
the second largest open pit mine in the world.

One of the things that has surprised me the most about our stay in Silver City is the lack of spring flowers. In my naivety, I just assumed that spring flowers were the norm everywhere. Not so at 6,000 ft elevation and a semiarid climate! So I was shocked and happy to see this splash of color all by itself on the trail.

One, single paintbrush plant!

We made our way back to the trail intersection and headed on down Stevens Ranch Road; talking of the conflicts between the native inhabitants and the newcomers intent on taking over the land and the incredibly rough life (compared to ours) they must have lived back in the days when these roads were in use.

At one point we were being watched by a local:

Back to the lowlands where we began.

This was very a enjoyable hike through a variety of terrain. The Woodhaul Wagon Road actually is an 11.5 mile trail that connects to the Signal Peak trail system.


  1. Great hike! I would love seeing the the rutted road. Things like that are very interesting to me. I can't even begin to imagine how many wagons had to travel over that area to carve the rock that deep. Glad you saw a touch of spring. We seem to be just ahead of the flowers everywhere we go.

  2. You two have certainly had some great adventures during your stay at Silver City.

  3. I too was disappointed by the colorless and flowerless springs in the high grasslands of Silver City. Ahh, but just wait until September, after a good monsoon season. The grass is tall and green, and there are flowers and thistles everywhere. It's a gorgeous month there.

  4. We got lost and didn't find the ruts. Guess we'll have to try again!

    1. I think this was my favorite hike in SC. And it was tricky to find the ruts! I hope you are successful next time around!