Tapia Canyon Hike – 04/06/2020

I’ve been looking forward to hiking Tapia Canyon with Pat. It’s time to go there before the higher temperatures of summer.

The Drive In

Just off of US 550, heading into Rio Puerco on CR 279.

The drive in is straightforward: US 550 to CR 279/San Louis Road. Continue through San Louis, stay on 279 as it turns from pavement to a Class 3 road (‘New Mexico pavement’), about 8 miles. Resist turns at 11.5, 16.8, and 21 miles. The road descends into the Rio Puerco valley; along the way it crosses two deep arroyos – the road to the bottom and out is -very- steep .. interesting to drive thorough. At 29 miles from US 550, the road climbs over a sharp saddle, below the Guadalupe Ruins up on the adjacent mesa. From there its .4 mile to the turnoff into Tapia Canyon on a Class 5 road (two-track). Park at the end (there is ample room to turn around).

The Hike

Tapia Canyon Hike.Pat.2020-04-06

The entrance to Tapia Canyon.

The first challenge is to find a path down into the wash of the canyon. Pat led the way, through the fence 50 yards from the truck, then along the sometimes narrow shelf above the wash, avoiding the sandy/rocky bottom of the wash. We passed through side ravines along the way that were too steep for us to enter the wash, until the shelf ended about a mile along. From there we alternated between hiking -in- the wash and on the margins.

An example of the many petroglyphs in Tapia Canyon.

Special features of Tapia Canyon are petroglyphs on the canyon walls. We encountered the first gallery on the left wall 1.6 miles into the hike. The first that we saw appeared to be ‘modern’, a la graffiti. But nearby were others that appeared to be genuine (Gallery #1 on the GE track). About 300 yards further we found a 2nd gallery, then 250 yards to a 3rd gallery, and another 300 yards to the 4th gallery. These last three are on walls above elevated margins on the right (north) side of the canyon. And from Gallery #3 we caught a glimpse of the Torreon on the ridge above the south side of the canyon.

We continued up the canyon for another 300 yards to the Arch, another feature of interest. On the right side of the canyon, it is the entrance to a slot canyon going north from Tapia Canyon, another feature to explore some day. We paused there to enjoy the first of our two-part lunch. While water was heating, Pat went looking for a way to get up on the mesa south of the canyon. She located a scramble that looked doable, ‘tho there was a possibility that a wall too steep was beyond view. We took the chance, she scrambled ahead and discovered – nope, no way to make the last 20′ or 30’. So it was back down into the canyon and head back to the truck. We continued to look for places where we could ascend, spotted a couple of possibilities and one that looked like an easy ascent (“Access to south Mesa” placemark on the GE track)  .. we left that for our next visit.

Continuing down-canyon we detoured into a side canyon that had attracted our attention earlier, where we had our 2nd half of lunch. Than back into Tapia, choosing to stay in the wash until an easy climb out, a few yards beyond the parking area and the truck. Another great day, hiking in another fascinating place in New Mexico.


Total Distance:  5.62 miles
Elevation: start  5,961 ft, maximum  6,145 ft,  minimum  5,929 ft
Gross gain:  216 ft.  Aggregate ascending  925 ft, descending  927 ft
Maximum slope: 33% ascending, 38% descending, 3.9% average
Duration: 6:36

GPS Track Files for Download
I urge you to explore our hiking tracks with Google Earth. With the virtual 3-dimensional presentation, achieved by panning and tilting the view, you can get a much better idea of the hikes and terrain than you can get from the 2-dimensional screenshot above. For assistance: Using Google Earth Track Files.

References and Resources

AllTrails: Tapia Canyon Trail
ondafringe: Day Hike: Tapia Canyon and Tower Ruin
CargoVANConversions: Guadalupe Ruin & Tapia Canyon
Doug Scott Art: Cañon Tapia
Dog of the Desert (great video):
      Petroglyphs of Tapia Canyon, New Mexico – YouTube
City of Dust (Facebook): Juan Córdova Store & Home
My Other Posts: Tapia Canyon

This entry was posted in 2020, Rio Puerco, Ruins, Years and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Tapia Canyon Hike – 04/06/2020

  1. Amy Regan says:

    Thank you for this website in its entirety. You have done some interesting hikes and have done a nice job of recreating the important spots for those who want to follow in your footsteps. And the gpx with Waypoints were extremely useful on this one. We would have definitely missed a number fo the panels otherwise. Fabulous hike!

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