Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, established on May 21, 2014, is one of the largest expanses of Bureau of Land Management wilderness.
This BLM land in New Mexico is over 500,000 acres and encompasses diverse natural landscapes, including deserts, steep mountains, canyons, open woodlands, and even volcanic terrain that make for some truly wondrous natural features.
Parts of this vast terrain are as high as 9000 feet above sea level, and this BLM land is so vast that it spans over four different ecological zones: the Doña Ana Mountains, Organ Mountains, Potrillo Mountains, and Desert Peaks.
Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Park contains numerous biological, geological, prehistorical, historical, and cultural sites. Within the boundaries of this vast expanse of land, visitors can find over ten wilderness areas where they relish in several outdoor activities. These wilderness lands are a very recent addition to the monument and were signed into law by The Conservation Management and Recreation Act of 2019 that took effect in March of 2019.
Some of the most significant and popular sites at the Organ Mountains include 22-miles of the Butterfield Stage Trail, The Kilbourne Hole National Historic Landmark, Billy the Kid’s Outlaw Rock, Geronimo’s Cave, 243 known petroglyphs, more than 5000 archeological sites, historic aerial targets from World War II, and Apollo mission astronaut training sites.
Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument isn’t exactly in Las Cruces, NM, but it is closest to it, a mere 20-minutes’ drive from the city. For those traveling from beyond, Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument is just a few minutes away from Interstate-10 so you should have no problems getting there.
The road from Las Cruces is also pretty straightforward and well-maintained. Once you step out of the city limits, you’ll begin to see the beginnings of the Organ Mountains landscape featuring desert-like terrain, steep mountains, and winding canyons.
On the east side of the Organ Mountains on BLM land lies the Aguirre Spring Campground. The high bulwarks and needle-like spires of the Organ Mountains curve around a semicircle of Chihuahuan Desert habitat, and this scenic campground is nestled at the base of these cliffs. Campers here have an uninterrupted view of the Tularosa Basin. Interestingly, this campground is located just forty-five minutes from White Sands National Monument.
In addition to the well-treed and sheltered campsites, the campground also has a picnic area and the four-mile Pine Tree Trail, that begins and ends at the campground. Vehicle, bus, tent, and group campsites are available at the Aguirre Spring Campground.
There is a total of 55 individual campsites at the campground assigned on a first-come, first-served basis. Then there are two group campsites that can be reserved via a phone call. Facilities at the campground include pit toilets, fire rings, and picnic tables. Campers can only find water at the entrance of the campground by the Camp Host Site Area.
One of the most popular activities at Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument is hiking, and there are so many trails that one can easily lose count. Some of the most popular trails at the monument are Baylor Pass, Achenbach Canyon, Aguirre Springs, Pine Tree Trail, Valles Canyon, Picacho Peak, Lookout Peak, and northern Robledo Box Canyon. The hiking here is a year-round activity since the area generally experiences desert-like climate; hot and dry for most of the year. Make sure to bring plenty of water during the summers, and plenty of layers for the winters.
Birdwatchers will have a splendid time at Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument because the area is home to over 210 species of local and migratory birds.
The presence of springs in the area attracts plenty of wildlife that come to these nourishing waters to quench their thirst. Golden eagles, owls, hawks, Montezuma quail, and peregrine falcon are some of the most frequently spotted birds in the region.
The Aguirre Spring is situated in a beautiful spot at the base of the peaky cliffs and overlooking the Tularosa Basin. Grabbing one of the picnic tables here will allow you to have one of the most peaceful experiences of your life. Dripping Springs Natural Area is located on the west side of the Organ Mountains and has 12 picnic sites, in addition to one large picnic site for groups. The Dripping Spring is quite picturesque and named so for its ‘weeping-wall’-like looks.
While there are so many things to see and explore at the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, one site that can absolutely not be missed is Billy the Kid’s Outlaw Rock.
Henry McCarty, better known as Billy the Kid, was a notorious and infamous outlaw of the Old West. In New Mexico, he was the most wanted man at the time, and one of his most famous hideouts was located at the western foothills of the Robledo Mountains.
Regardless of the type of recreational activity you may be occupied with at Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, you are likely to come across plenty of wildlife. Exotic animals like mule deer, mountain lions, desert bighorn sheep, Colorado chipmunk, and different species of endemic mollusks, among many others, reside within these vast lands and are simply a spectacle to behold when spotted in the wild.
During your hiking adventures, make sure to step inside the caves you come across and you might just find one of the many ancient Petroglyphs that are abundant in this region. These petroglyphs can date as far back as 7,000 years and are some of the oldest art in North America. If you are a fan of history, these carvings will satisfy your thirst for knowledge, or perhaps increase it even more.