A challenging climb to the Tortugas Mountain Observatory.”
— Brendan Ross
Desert mountain trails are rugged and rocky. Trail shoes with rock plates are strongly recommended. Cacti, ocotillos, and Spanish daggers can all pose a hazard to trail users as well, so stay on the trail to avoid getting scratched up.
Southern New Mexico weather can be hot, windy, dusty, or all three at once. Summer heat is usually in the high 90's, and afternoon thunderstorms are common. Make sure to check the forecast and bring more water than you think you'll need. There is very little shade, so morning runs are preferable in the summer months.
Almost identical to the western half of the Turtleback Trail
a few hundred feet away, North Turtleback is one of several steep ascents to the top of Tortugas Mountain.
The trail starts just before the picnic canopy near the Sunset Parking Lot. The rocky, rugged singletrack wastes no time in making a steep ascent, passing a few short segments and the main Tortugas Trail
on the way up. Look for an interesting boulder field to the left near the Tortugas crossing.
Most runners will find themselves power hiking large segments of the trail for the first half mile. The combination of a steep grade, large rocks, and loose dirt make this a challenging climb. As the trail turns south, it flattens out considerably and provides a nice breather. A steep shortcut to the Altura parking lot branches off at North Tortugas Connector
to the left.
As the path nears Turtleback Trail
, it once again becomes a steep, difficult climb for its last segment. North Turtleback ends next to the New Mexico State University observatory at the top of the mountain.
Flora & Fauna
Desert plant life is best seen in the spring and early summer, when there's more precipitation, but the heat hasn't dried everything out yet. Animal life includes roadrunners, jackrabbits, lizards, hawks, and, of course, snakes.