Fall is the perfect time of year to visit one of the Borderland’s hidden gems. Dripping Springs Natural Area, located just outside of Las Cruces, makes for an easy day trip that seems a world away from everyday stress.
The Bureau of Land Management has administered this area for years, but it was incorporated into the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument when it was created by President Barack Obama in 2014.
Dripping Springs gets its name from a spring that drips water most of the year, even in this dry climate. During the fall, temperatures are cooler, making it much nicer to do the 3-mile loop hike, said ranger Rico Smith.
The fall also can bring some wet weather, which causes the springs to go from a mere drip on most days to actually gushing.
“Word gets out. Someone texts or posts a Facebook picture or video of the water and people come out, which is great,” Smith said.
The springs are at the far point of the loop trail. Along the trail, there are plenty of opportunities to view desert cacti, flowers and other plants and if you are lucky, some wildlife, like deer.
Of course, in a high desert environment, you always need to be on the lookout for rattlesnakes, especially on warmer days.
During the fall, the snakes rarely show themselves, though, Smith said.
Also, along the trail are three sets of ruins dating back to the 1800s — a tuberculosis sanatorium, a mountain camp and a livery stable. Dripping Springs includes several other trails.
The 1-mile La Cueva trail leads to a cave where an eccentric hermit once lived in the 1800s. The trail can be started at the picnic area or at the Dripping Springs visitors center.
A more strenuous 2-mile hike heads out to Fillmore Canyon. There is the possibility of seeing a waterfall on this trail, but the area needs to get about a week’s worth of rain for it to flow, Smith said.
Still, the hike is worth it, even when the waterfall is not running, he said.
“I think the big attraction is the accessibility,” Smith said. “You come in from town (Las Cruces) and just drive straight up the road. There is nothing twisty, nothing windy. It’s not a long drive.”
Here’s what you need to know before you go
Location: From El Paso, head to Las Cruces. Take Interstate 10 to I-25 and exit at University Avenue. Take a right and go about 10 miles east to the base of the Organ Mountains.
Fee: There is a $5 fee per carload. Only cash or checks are accepted.
Pets: Pets are allowed on the Dripping Springs Trail up to the Crawford Trail intersection. Pets are not allowed beyond that point. They must take the Crawford Trail. Dogs are allowed on the Fillmore and La Cueva trails. All dogs must be on a leash.
Hours: 7 a.m. to sunset seven days a week. Starting in November, hours shorten to 8 a.m. to sunset. The visitors center is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can pay the fee at the visitors center or one of the self-serve “iron rangers.”
Tips: Bring plenty of water, even on cool days. Wear athletic or hiking shoes. A hat and long-sleeved shirts can help protect against the desert sun.
Information: Visitors center, (575) 343-2492; Bureau of Land Management, Las Cruces District Office, (575) 525-4300; and online.
Author: David Burge – Special to the El Paso Herald-Post
David Burge is a news producer with ABC-7 in El Paso. He has more than three decades of experience working at newspapers in California, New Mexico and West Texas.