Black Canyon Trail

Trailhead and campsites 4 and 5
The Black Canyon trail is a short, easy lollipop trail through an aspen-fir forest. If you take this trail, you will see several types of wildflowers, and possibly lots of butterflies. This is a good trail for children or a family.

Hike data:

Controlling agency: Santa Fe National Forest; Española Ranger District
Official URL:Forest Service web page for this hike
Region: North-central; Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
start: 7680ft; 2341m end: 7680ft; 2341m
min: 7680ft; 2341m max: 8061ft; 2457m
elevation gain/loss: 380ft; 116m.
Because you return to your starting point, the elevation change is both a gain and a loss.

The hike from the parking area to the trailhead adds another about 30m/100ft to the elevation change.

The forest service says 305m/1000ft in an old (pre-campground rebuild) note at the entrance to the campground. This does not match our data.

Length: 1.18mi; 1.90km. The Forest service says 3 miles in the note at the entrance to the campground. Again, this does not match our data.
surface: mixed
condition: Good
ease of following: Easy except where the trail crosses an old road.
obstacles: None.
The trail surface is dirt, gravel, and/or rocks. The road crossing is BCY3.
Fee: $0.00. If you picnic in the campground, you must pay the camping fee.
Season: April 01 to November 30.
Dogs: Yes. On leash.
Bikes: Unknown.
Handicapped accessible: No.
General notes: Beware of thunderstorms in July and August. New Mexico has the highest per capita lightning strike rate in the US. Please do not add to the statistics.
Trailhead facilities: trash can(s), vault toilet(s), water.
Hike attractions: year-round access, wildlife, wildflowers.

When we hiked it:

Date: 2001-08-03 2004-08-29 2009-06-07
Time it took us: 1:45. 0:45. 2:10. We spent well over an hour looking at and taking pictures of plants, spiders, etc.
Usage (people/hour): 0.00. We had the trail to ourselves. 4.06. 4.10.
Cleanliness: 10. 10. 10.


Waypoint Type Description
BCTHTrailheadBlack Canyon trailhead
BCY2Trail junctionBlack Canyon trail split for loop
BLKCYNCampgroundBlack Canyon campground


Paper maps:
Map name Cartographer Year Scale Topo map? Online access Notes
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.
McClure Reservoir USGS 1976 1:24000 Y from (free)
Pecos Wilderness, Santa Fe and Carson National Forests US Forest Service 2004 1:54000 Y from Amazon (purchase)
Santa Fe BLM 1996 1:100000 Y from Amazon (purchase)
Santa Fe USGS 1954 1:250000 Y from (free)
Santa Fe National Forest US Forest Service 2004 1:126720 N from Amazon (purchase) East half
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 Santa Fe plaza, head north on Washington Ave. Just past the pink Scottish Rite Temple (pictured here), turn right on Artist road; the sign says that Hyde State Park and the Santa Fe Ski Basin are this way.
Scottish Rite Temple in Santa Fe
No short text
Drive about seven miles and you will see the sign for the Black Canyon campground on your right.
Trailhead parking is on the left as you first enter. You can also park outside along the railing on the highway. If you park in the campground, you must pay a $10.00 vehicle fee. The map here (from the entrance area) shows the trailhead parking and trailhead location in the campground.
Black Canyon campground map
No short text
Hike through the campground to the back left part of the loop at the end of the campground, between campsites 24 and 26 (as shown in the map above). The trailhead has a sign. The hike from the campground entrance to here is an additional 100ft/30.5m of elevation gain.

About the hike:

Hikers on the Black Canyon Trail
You start gently heading uphill, walking past wild roses, cinquefoil, nodding wild onions, clematis, geraniums and other wildflowers (not all of which will be in bloom). The trail is easy to follow, and is usually wide enough to walk two abreast.
Here is a Geranium richardsonii which was near the trailhead.
Geranium richardsonii
Diana Northup at the Y in the trail
After about half a mile, you arrive at a place where the trail splits. You can go either way; you will arrive back at this location. We went to the right.

Along this part of the trail, there are lots of thimbleberries. Unfortunately, we only found one ripe one---The one on the left was ripe and was tasty.

There are also several currant bushes, but the berries were just beginning to form, so they were a long way from being ripe.

False Solomon's Seal with unripe berries

Along this part of the trail, we saw some False Solomon's seal with unripe berries (do not eat these, even if they are ripe---they are poisonous).

The trail heads fairly straight for about 2/3 of a mile, and then turns. This is the far point of the trail. You are now beginning to loop back. At this point, you begin to climb a bit more steeply (but still not a hard climb).

Along this portion of the trail, we saw several butterflies. Also, we saw red gall (growth caused by insect(s)), called erineum felt gall. According to Suzy Orth of the UW Extension, Milwaukee Co, it is not uncommon on maples in North America. You can read more about these and other galls at a page at

Red fungus on a maple leaf
A crab spider on a <em>Chimaphilia umbellata</em>

A little way after the sign, we saw a crab spider on a Chimaphilia umbellata. The spider looks like part of the plant, but look closely. You can see its legs sticking out to either side of the upper right side of the open flower.

Here is one of the many butterflies and day-active moths we saw.

As you walk along, you will come to an area where a trail has been closed by many logs being placed on it and a sign indicating you are to stay on the trail. Along the closed trail is the Santa Fe Watershed; if you go in there, you will be fined. This sign is also an indication that you are almost back at the Y. Once you get to the Y, turn right and return to the campground.

A day-flying moth

Plants we saw along the trail:

Reader comments about this hike:

On Wed Aug 10 12:58:13 2005 Suzy O from somewhere said:
Just FYI I thought I'd mention that the red, fuzzy growth on the maple leaves is not "fungus?", but a type of gall (growth caused by insect(s), called erineum felt gall. It's not uncommon on maples in North America. Here's a site describing these and other galls:

Suzy Orth
UW Extension, Milwaukee Co.

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