“A primitive trail that climbs to Juniper Ridge and provides sweeping views of the surrounding countryside.”
— David Hitchcock
Features: Views — Wildflowers — Wildlife
Dogs: No Dogs
The trail is very primitive and rocky, making it very difficult to run along this trail. Cacti and spiky plants line the trail, so wearing long pants is a good idea.
The Juniper Ridge Trail is found along the one-way Desert Loop Trail, about a mile past interpretive marker 15. There is a small pullout opposite the trailhead that allows parking for 2-3 cars at most. The trail departs the parking area across the road and begins climbing up the side of the hill. The trail is narrow and marked with rock cairns to help guide you along the way.
The trail is not heavily used, as most of the visitors to Carlsbad Caverns come for the caves, so it doesn't get a lot of travelers. Cacti and other desert plants grow close to the side of the trail, making pants a necessity as they brush up against your legs. The trail climbs fairly gently for the first .4 miles. Take an opportunity to turn around and enjoy the view of the surrounding canyons as you climb away from the road.
The trail begins to climb more steeply as it passes half a mile. As the trail is difficult to follow, make sure you can see the cairns as you progress. At roughly .85 miles, the trail encounters the park boundary along a barbwire fence that separates the park from the surrounding countryside. Sweeping views outside of the park spread out before you, so take a moment to enjoy the view. Looking back towards the visitor center, you can enjoy views of the canyon and surrounding hillsides.
At this point, the trail cuts to the left and follows the fence for roughly a quarter of the mile. The trail continues to be little more than an animal path amongst cairns, but the going is level at this point making the journey easy. The cairns begin to fade, but you can continue to explore along the fence line for a while further. To get back to your car, you can follow the cairns along the path that you originally traveled or you can cut cross country making your way down to the road and follow that back to your car.
The trails in Carlsbad National Park are primitive, so make sure that you have enough sunscreen, clothing, food, and water for your run. Even though the distance is short, you never know what challenges you'll encounter.
Flora & Fauna
Lizards and snakes may be encountered during the day, so be careful where you step. In the morning and evenings, deer and barbary sheep may be seen feeding in the canyons or hillsides. Turkey vultures and hawks can be seen riding on the winds.