Experience Renowned Beauty at Dripping Springs Natural Area

My weekly travel article for the Fort Bliss Bugle is now in print!  This week I issue a travel guide to the beautiful Dripping Springs Natural Area in New Mexico.  The virtual copy of the article is here.  Enjoy!

Experience renowned beauty at Dripping Springs Natural Area

 A couple takes a stroll along the Dripping Springs Trail. There are benches for resting under many of the trees along the way.  

A couple takes a stroll along the Dripping Springs Trail. There are benches for resting under many of the trees along the way. 

Around the time of the Civil War, the Dripping Springs Resort was established on the west side of the jagged Organ Mountains near Las Cruces, New Mexico, as a playground for the rich and famous in the late 1800s. Now it stands as nothing more than a hollowed-out memory and a glimpse of what life may have been like about 150 years ago.

At the base of the Organ Mountains just 10 miles east of Las Cruces lies the Dripping Springs Natural Area, which is only an hour from El Paso. There are four wonderful hiking trails suitable for all ages and fitness levels along with a rich history to be explored.

The name “Dripping Springs” refers to the waterfalls or springs that drip down from the top of the mountain next to the old abandoned resort. Depending on the season and the weather, the springs may be a trickle or a full-fledged series of two waterfalls. The water flow is heavier as snow melts down the mountain as well as during the rainy season in summer, but even the light “dripping” during spring is quite pretty as you can hear the water hit the small pools below.

  The “coach stop,” an old abandoned series of small huts and fences, served as the pick up center for affluent guests at the old Dripping Springs Resort in the late 1800s.

The “coach stop,” an old abandoned series of small huts and fences, served as the pick up center for affluent guests at the old Dripping Springs Resort in the late 1800s.

What attracts visitors to the Dripping Springs area are the beautifully kept trails, which meander peacefully through open fields of golden grass, under canopies of green trees and into the mountains themselves. Everyone from a large family with small children to individuals looking for some solace can enjoy the natural area immensely.

At the park’s entrance to the left of the Visitors Center are the Needles, or the “backbone” of the Organ Mountain range. Both the Fillmore and La Cueva Trails follow the length of the Needles’ dramatic and rugged outline, and the Fillmore Trail leads to the eventual ascent into the mountain range. Traces of Native American rock art can be found occasionally along the picturesque mountainside.

The most popular trail is the Dripping Springs Trail, which leads from the Visitors Center south into the old resort area to the location of the Dripping Springs. The variety of plant and wildlife is quite amazing as the changes along the trail shift back and forth between dramatic and serene, desert-y and lush within the 1.5-mile trek (three miles round-trip). Almost everyone brings a camera, and for good reason. If anyone wanted to take a one-of-a-kind selfie, this would be the place to do it.

  The old Dripping Springs Resort lies empty at the end of the Dripping Springs Trail, which is the parks most popular path.

The old Dripping Springs Resort lies empty at the end of the Dripping Springs Trail, which is the parks most popular path.

The Dripping Springs Trail proceeds past the Dripping Springs waterfalls and ends at a loop at the ruins of the resort, also known as the Van Patten Mountain Resort, as it was built by former Confederate Army officer Col. Eugene Van Patten in the 1870s. This area is truly beautiful and haunting as the juxtaposition between several abandoned stone structures resembling a ghost town, which are snuggled into the rich and vibrant green vegetation, becomes very clear. And lucky for visitors there are several covered picnic tables right there in the end of the loop so anyone can enjoy the gorgeous views.

Things to know

   Hiking trails in the Dripping Springs Natural Area are easy to read and clearly marked.  The four  trails within the area are very well kept and easy to follow.

 Hiking trails in the Dripping Springs Natural Area are easy to read and clearly marked.  The four  trails within the area are very well kept and easy to follow.

– The trip is incredibly easy. Just take I-10 West to Las Cruces and bear right onto I-25. Simply look for Exit 1 and take a right onto University Avenue/Dripping Springs Road until it ends.

– Be prepared for some brutal unpaved driving on Dripping Springs Road as you make your way to the park. For about a mile and a half, the road is rocky, dirty and very bumpy. The real fun is being passed by an oncoming vehicle and entering its dust-cloud, then wondering how you’re managing to inhale the soot even with your windows up.

– There is a very reasonable $3-per-vehicle entrance fee.

– Maps of the trails are available at the Visitors Center. Be sure to pick up a brochure as well to learn about the fascinating history of the area.

– You can hike, bike and picnic … but no pets allowed.

– There are plenty of nice benches and picnic tables along the trails so you can rest if needed, but you must bring your own water and food. None is sold on the premises.

Visit http://www.blm.gov/nm/st/en/.html or call (575) 525-4300 for more information.