Columbine Canyon to the Meadows
|This easy hike is notable for the wildflowers, ending in meadows of flowers. The flowers attract butterflies and other insects. In contrast with many hikes along streams in New Mexico, the stream crossings are on bridges, not slippery rocks.|
|Hike data||Waypoints||Maps||Getting to the trailhead||About the hike||Plants along the trail||Comments|
When we hiked it:
|Time it took us:||4:22. Expect to spend 2-5 hours on this hike.|
|Usage (people/hour):||7.79. Some of the people were with llamas.|
|CLMBNTWNTH||Trailhead||Columbine Canyon trailhead|
|Map name||Cartographer||Year||Scale||Topo map?||Online access||Notes|
|Carson National Forest||US Forest Service||2002||1:126720||N||from Amazon (purchase)||Camino Real and Questa ranger districts and Valle Vidal Unit side of the map|
|Guide to Indian Country of Arizona Colorado New Mexico Utah||Automobile Club of Southern California||1998||1:0||N||from Amazon (purchase)||Good overview road map for northwest NM. No scale is given on the map. The corner coordinates are approximate.|
|Valle Vidal Unit, Carson National Forest||US Forest Service||1999||1:63360||Y||from Amazon (purchase)|
|Wheeler Peak||BLM||2001||1:100000||Y||from Amazon (purchase)|
|Wildernesses of New Mexico||US Forest Service||1981||1:1000000||N||No online copies.||Base map with national forests, wilderness areas and highways.|
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Getting to the trailhead:
From the stoplight in Questa where NM 522 and NM 38 meet, head east on 38, toward Red River. After about 3.8 miles, you should see the campground on your right. The entrance to Columbine Canyon campground is right after a collection of privately-owned buildings (a motel and a store). The trailhead is at the back of the campground. Parking at the trailhead is free. There are parking places at the trailhead for 14 cars and two motorcycles.
About the hike:
The trail starts along the Columbine Creek, where you may find sights like this one---An American Lady, Vanessa virginiensis, butterfly on a sunflower in the sun.
Butterfly identification courtesy of Bruce Neville.
The trail is relatively flat, with a gentle climb. If you turn around, you will see a view similar to the one in this photo---The pine/fir forest, and the Molycorp mine tailings.
The trail never strays far from Columbine Creek.
This trail was the first that we had hiked that had real bridges over the stream. You will cross four on this hike.
Diana also liked that the bridges gave access further up the tree for looking at leaves, flowers, etc.
This Sapello Canyon Larkspur was one of the many wildflowers along the trail.
Unfortunately, many of the aspen have been the victim of graffiti. Besides being unsightly for years, cutting the tree like this opens it to pests, especially when it is stressed in years of drought.
This insect was checking out the geranium.
Because you are walking along a wet area, you will also see sights such as these butterflies drinking. They are after minerals.
This cowparsnip has giant (for NM) leaves. They are up to 18in (46cm) across.
This monk's hood flower is aptly named. You can easily imagine this being part of a monk's robe.
Talus slopes like these are good places to see animals such as pikas. unfortunately, we did not see any on this hike.
After hiking for about 1.6 miles, you reach this junction. It is a sign that you are almost at the meadows.
If the conditions have been right, the meadows will be full of flowers.
If you have not already, turn around when you get to the second junction (the trail to Gold Hill). You have hiked about 2.1 miles so far. After this point, the trail gets much steeper.
When we reached this point, it had begun to rain. Later in the day, it hailed and poured buckets of water. We were glad we had stopped hiking when we did. Unfortunately, since we put the camera away to avoid soaking it, we did miss some nice photos of the return scenery.
Here, you can see the storm clouds that were to get us after we made it back to the trailhead. You can also see the Molycorp Questa mine tailings.
Plants we saw along the trail:
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