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black Cuates (Mars) Canyon and Rim Route


2.0 mile 3.1 kilometer point to point
68% Runnable


Ascent: 1,497' 456 m
Descent: -14' -4 m
High: 6,611' 2,015 m
Low: 5,128' 1,563 m


Avg Grade: 15% (8°)
Max Grade: 53% (28°)


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Trail shared by Tristan Smith


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A steep, technical run up a narrow canyon ending in an exposed ridge run.

Tristan Smith

Features Fall Colors · Waterfall · Wildlife

The canyon privately owned, however, access is guaranteed under easement. Please respect the area so that access is not lost!

This run includes sections of unmarked or off-trail travel. Please ensure you are equipped and well prepared before venturing beyond official and mapped terrain. These areas may or may not be regularly patrolled and access to help may be limited.

Need to Know

The parking area is best accessed by truck or jeep/SUV; most sedans do not have adequate clearance or traction.

Use of drones for any purpose is prohibited due to the proximity of the White Sands Missile Range.


The trailhead begins at the parking area/terminus of a jeep trail that runs east off Ladera Canyon Road. On foot, follow the jeep trail to the north, passing through a fence gate, and continuing towards the canyon. The trail will narrow into singletrack a few hundred yards after passing through the fence gate and begin to make its way up the canyon.

The route is a non-maintained, social path that is marked with cairns along the way, so be mindful of a few poorly marked turns and forks. Between mile 1.0 and mile 1.2, there are two (typically "dry") waterfalls, each 10-15ft in height, that require some climbing and scrambling skills to navigate; there are plenty of holds and cracks so climbing equipment is not necessary.

The canyon tops out in a col around mile 1.28 with an excellent view of Soledad Canyon and Chimney Rock. The route then continues to the right and wraps around and up the backside of a prominence that overlooks the canyon; this section of the route is composed primarily of loose sand and scree, so proper foot and pole placement are very important.

From here, continue south towards Achenback Canyon following the open ridgeline, as there does not seem to be a worn or marked trail. At approximately the 2.0 mile mark, there is a large rock formation that is not easily navigated over, however, the north slope of the ridge provided stable enough footing to run around. From this formation, continue back along the ridgeline until you summit the ridge's high point after a brief scramble.

Flora & Fauna

New Mexico Buckeye trees; Mule Deer; Tarantula

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