Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument, New Mexico.

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Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument

Top choice in New Mexico

New Mexico's newest national monument consists of several separate components, totaling almost 500,000 acres and all lying within a 50-mile radius of Las Cruces. While much of it is not developed for visitors, the Organ Mountains, which rise to 9000ft east of the city, are definitely worth exploring. Several trails leave from the Dripping Springs Visitor Center, including the lovely Dripping Springs trail itself, a 3-mile round trip that passes the century-old remains of a sanatorium and a hotel.

On the back (east) side of the range are two more trails, as well as the only campground in the area, Aguirre Spring.

Other parts of the monument include the Desert Peaks segment, encompassing the Doña Ana Mountains, across the river northeast of Las Cruces and the site of some great mountain-bike trails, and the Robledo Mountains and the Sierra de las Uvas, stretching northwest along the western edge of the Rio Grande Valley as far as Hatch. The tiny Prehistoric Trackways National Monument, created in 2009 to protect a treasure trove of dinosaur footprints, is also part of the monument but not at all geared up for casual sightseers.

Finally, the monument also includes the Potrillo Mountains, an expanse of cinder cones and volcanic craters scattered through the desert southwest of Las Cruces.

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