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Using Trails

Southern New Mexico’s Cloud-Climbing Trestle Trail Photo Essay

By: Cindy Barks
July 26, 2021

Photo by Cindy Barks
Photo by Cindy Barks

Experience the Cloud-Climbing Trestle Trail, sometimes referred to as the Mexican Canyon Trestle Trail for the landmark feature at its end, a moderately challenging, but beautiful, climb through the Trestle Recreation Area in Cloudcroft. Along with the Crossover Trail and Switchback Trail, it makes for a stunning out-and-back hiking/mountain biking/horseback riding experience in Otero County, New Mexico.

For more information, read our companion blog about the trail.

The 122-year-old Cloud-Climbing Trestle, also known as the Mexican Canyon Trestle, is visible from an overlook along Highway 82 just outside the mountain Village of Cloudcroft, New Mexico. The trestle was built in 1899 as a part of the Alamogordo and Sacramento Mountain Railroad. | Photo by Cindy Barks
The 122-year-old Cloud-Climbing Trestle, also known as the Mexican Canyon Trestle, is visible from an overlook along Highway 82 just outside the mountain Village of Cloudcroft, New Mexico. The trestle was built in 1899 as a part of the Alamogordo and Sacramento Mountain Railroad. | Photo by Cindy Barks
A network of trails takes hikers and horseback riders to the site of the historic Cloud-Climbing Trestle near the high-elevation Village of Cloudcroft. Although the trestle is also visible from above at a Highway 82 overlook, getting to the base requires a 2.6-mile round-trip hike into the steep Mexican Canyon. | Photo by Cindy Barks
A network of trails takes hikers and horseback riders to the site of the historic Cloud-Climbing Trestle near the high-elevation Village of Cloudcroft. Although the trestle is also visible from above at a Highway 82 overlook, getting to the base requires a 2.6-mile round-trip hike into the steep Mexican Canyon. | Photo by Cindy Barks
A sign at the base of the Cloud-Climbing Trestle notes that crossing the original structure was an unforgettable experience for passengers on the Alamogordo and Sacramento Mountain Railway (A&SM). Today, a network of trails takes hikers to the base of the trestle, but walking onto the trestle is prohibited. | Photo by Cindy Barks
A sign at the base of the Cloud-Climbing Trestle notes that crossing the original structure was an unforgettable experience for passengers on the Alamogordo and Sacramento Mountain Railway (A&SM). Today, a network of trails takes hikers to the base of the trestle, but walking onto the trestle is prohibited. | Photo by Cindy Barks
Hiking to southern New Mexico’s Mexican Canyon Trestle comes with a number of beautiful scenes, such as the wildflowers growing along the Village Spur Trail near the town of Cloudcroft. The trestle is located in the Sacramento Mountains in Lincoln National Forest. | Photo by Cindy Barks
Hiking to southern New Mexico’s Mexican Canyon Trestle comes with a number of beautiful scenes, such as the wildflowers growing along the Village Spur Trail near the town of Cloudcroft. The trestle is located in the Sacramento Mountains in Lincoln National Forest. | Photo by Cindy Barks
At about 1.3 miles one way, the hike to the Mexican Canyon Trestle is short, but it includes a number of steep sections featuring stairs and switchbacks. A sign at that trailhead cautions that the hike takes at least an hour and a half to complete. The trailhead’s high elevation of 8,684 feet contributes to the difficulty of the hike. | Photo by Cindy Barks
At about 1.3 miles one way, the hike to the Mexican Canyon Trestle is short, but it includes a number of steep sections featuring stairs and switchbacks. A sign at that trailhead cautions that the hike takes at least an hour and a half to complete. The trailhead’s high elevation of 8,684 feet contributes to the difficulty of the hike. | Photo by Cindy Barks
Summer brings lush greenery, wildflowers, thistles and butterflies to the area around the Cloud-Climbing Trestle Trail in southern New Mexico. The overlook along Highway 82 near Cloudcroft offers sweeping views of the surrounding terrain. | Photo by Cindy Barks
Summer brings lush greenery, wildflowers, thistles and butterflies to the area around the Cloud-Climbing Trestle Trail in southern New Mexico. The overlook along Highway 82 near Cloudcroft offers sweeping views of the surrounding terrain. | Photo by Cindy Barks
The hike to the Mexican Canyon Trestle passes through beautiful forest terrain. Benches and signs are located all along the route. | Photo by Cindy Barks
The hike to the Mexican Canyon Trestle passes through beautiful forest terrain. Benches and signs are located all along the route. | Photo by Cindy Barks
A replica Cloudcroft Train Station is the centerpiece of the Mexican Canyon Trestle trailhead. Along with the restrooms in the building, the trailhead also includes picnic tables and interpretive signs telling the history of the area. | Photo by Cindy Barks
A replica Cloudcroft Train Station is the centerpiece of the Mexican Canyon Trestle trailhead. Along with the restrooms in the building, the trailhead also includes picnic tables and interpretive signs telling the history of the area. | Photo by Cindy Barks
Numerous viewpoints are available along the trail to the Mexican Canyon Trestle. Located near the scenic town of Cloudcroft, the route cuts through Lincoln National Forest. | Photo by Cindy Barks
Numerous viewpoints are available along the trail to the Mexican Canyon Trestle. Located near the scenic town of Cloudcroft, the route cuts through Lincoln National Forest. | Photo by Cindy Barks
A steep section of terrain known locally as the Devil’s Elbow was excavated in 1899 to make way for the new Alamogordo and Sacramento Mountain Railway. Today, the Devil’s Elbow overlook is among the scenic spots along the route. | Photo by Cindy Barks
A steep section of terrain known locally as the Devil’s Elbow was excavated in 1899 to make way for the new Alamogordo and Sacramento Mountain Railway. Today, the Devil’s Elbow overlook is among the scenic spots along the route. | Photo by Cindy Barks
The trail to the Mexican Canyon Trestle winds through heavily forested terrain in Lincoln National Forest and includes a number of switchbacks, such as this one at the intersection of the Crossover Trail and the Cloud-Climbing Trestle Trail. | Photo by Cindy Barks
The trail to the Mexican Canyon Trestle winds through heavily forested terrain in Lincoln National Forest and includes a number of switchbacks, such as this one at the intersection of the Crossover Trail and the Cloud-Climbing Trestle Trail. | Photo by Cindy Barks
The “S” Trestle was one of the intriguing features of the Cloud-Climbing Railroad near Cloudcroft. The supporting structure featured two 30-degree turns and was 338 feet long and 60 feet high. It was one of 58 timber trestles along the Alamogordo and Sacramento Mountain Railway (A&SM). Today, the remains of the “S” trestle can be seen along the trail to the Mexican Canyon Trestle. | Photo by Cindy Barks
The “S” Trestle was one of the intriguing features of the Cloud-Climbing Railroad near Cloudcroft. The supporting structure featured two 30-degree turns and was 338 feet long and 60 feet high. It was one of 58 timber trestles along the Alamogordo and Sacramento Mountain Railway (A&SM). Today, the remains of the “S” trestle can be seen along the trail to the Mexican Canyon Trestle. | Photo by Cindy Barks
A historic overlook along Highway 82 features interpretive signs that tell the story of the Cloud-Climbing Railroad, known as “a gateway into the clouds.” A lookout platform provides a spot for viewing the restored Mexican Canyon Trestle far below. | Photo by Cindy Barks
A historic overlook along Highway 82 features interpretive signs that tell the story of the Cloud-Climbing Railroad, known as “a gateway into the clouds.” A lookout platform provides a spot for viewing the restored Mexican Canyon Trestle far below. | Photo by Cindy Barks
The railroad construction that took place in a section of steep terrain near Cloudcroft was described as “slipping through the Devil’s Elbow.” Through the use of blasting, hand labor and draft animals, the railroad from Alamogordo to Cloudcroft was completed in less than two years. The overlook at the Devil’s Elbow is one of the best spots to take in the views of the mountainous terrain along the Cloud-Climbing Trestle Trail. | Photo by Cindy Barks
The railroad construction that took place in a section of steep terrain near Cloudcroft was described as “slipping through the Devil’s Elbow.” Through the use of blasting, hand labor and draft animals, the railroad from Alamogordo to Cloudcroft was completed in less than two years. The overlook at the Devil’s Elbow is one of the best spots to take in the views of the mountainous terrain along the Cloud-Climbing Trestle Trail. | Photo by Cindy Barks
The first half-mile of the 1.3-mile Cloud-Climbing Trestle Trail is paved, and the remainder has a dirt surface. The trail winds through the pine and fir trees before ending at the base of the 1899-era Mexican Canyon Trestle. | Photo by Cindy Barks
The first half-mile of the 1.3-mile Cloud-Climbing Trestle Trail is paved, and the remainder has a dirt surface. The trail winds through the pine and fir trees before ending at the base of the 1899-era Mexican Canyon Trestle. | Photo by Cindy Barks
The trailhead for the Cloud-Climbing Trestle Trail is located in the midst of Lincoln National Forest and is frequented by a variety of wildlife. | Photo by Cindy Barks
The trailhead for the Cloud-Climbing Trestle Trail is located in the midst of Lincoln National Forest and is frequented by a variety of wildlife. | Photo by Cindy Barks
Restoration work took place in 2009/2010 on the 1899-era Mexican Canyon Trestle in Lincoln National Forest. The trestle is part of the Alamogordo and Sacramento Mountain Railway’s 7.5-mile extension from Toboggan Canyon to Cloudcroft and Russia Canyon. According to a sign at the site, the final section of the railroad rose 2,000 feet and included 27 major timber trestles. | Photo by Cindy Barks
Restoration work took place in 2009/2010 on the 1899-era Mexican Canyon Trestle in Lincoln National Forest. The trestle is part of the Alamogordo and Sacramento Mountain Railway’s 7.5-mile extension from Toboggan Canyon to Cloudcroft and Russia Canyon. According to a sign at the site, the final section of the railroad rose 2,000 feet and included 27 major timber trestles. | Photo by Cindy Barks
In the 1890s, the logging industry was booming in the Sacramento Mountains of southern New Mexico. A sign at the Highway 82 Cloud-Climbing Railroad Vista Overlook tells the history of the industry in the area. | Photo by Cindy Barks
In the 1890s, the logging industry was booming in the Sacramento Mountains of southern New Mexico. A sign at the Highway 82 Cloud-Climbing Railroad Vista Overlook tells the history of the industry in the area. | Photo by Cindy Barks
Dense forestland surrounds the Cloud-Climbing Trestle Trail. There are many vantage points along the 1.3-mile trail for taking in the surrounding mountains and valleys. | Photo by Cindy Barks
Dense forestland surrounds the Cloud-Climbing Trestle Trail. There are many vantage points along the 1.3-mile trail for taking in the surrounding mountains and valleys. | Photo by Cindy Barks
A display at the Cloud-Climbing Railroad Vista Overlook illustrates the steep terrain that the Alamogordo & Sacramento Mountain Railroad followed on its route from Cloudcroft to Alamogordo. At 8,650-feet in elevation, Cloudcroft is among the high-elevation communities of the United States | Photo by Cindy Barks
A display at the Cloud-Climbing Railroad Vista Overlook illustrates the steep terrain that the Alamogordo & Sacramento Mountain Railroad followed on its route from Cloudcroft to Alamogordo. At 8,650-feet in elevation, Cloudcroft is among the high-elevation communities of the United States | Photo by Cindy Barks
A network of trails winds through Mexican Canyon and connects up with other trails in the area, including the Crossover Trail and the Switchback Trail. Maps are available along the way to direct trail users. | Photo by Cindy Barks
A network of trails winds through Mexican Canyon and connects up with other trails in the area, including the Crossover Trail and the Switchback Trail. Maps are available along the way to direct trail users. | Photo by Cindy Barks
While the first half-mile stretch of the Cloud-Climbing Trestle Trail is paved, the remainder of the 1.3-mile route (one way) has a dirt surface and a steep grade. | Photo by Cindy Barks
While the first half-mile stretch of the Cloud-Climbing Trestle Trail is paved, the remainder of the 1.3-mile route (one way) has a dirt surface and a steep grade. | Photo by Cindy Barks
(Off the trail) Western style hotels, shops and restaurants line the streets of the Village of Cloudcroft, located less than a mile from the trailhead for the Cloud-Climbing Trestle Trail. | Photo by Cindy Barks
(Off the trail) Western style hotels, shops and restaurants line the streets of the Village of Cloudcroft, located less than a mile from the trailhead for the Cloud-Climbing Trestle Trail. | Photo by Cindy Barks
(Off the trail) White Sands National Park is a 45-minute drive southeast of the Cloud-Climbing Trestle Trail via Highways 80 and 70. The sandy dunes of the national park offer a dramatic contrast to the thick forestland of Cloudcroft. | Photo by Cindy Barks
(Off the trail) White Sands National Park is a 45-minute drive southeast of the Cloud-Climbing Trestle Trail via Highways 80 and 70. The sandy dunes of the national park offer a dramatic contrast to the thick forestland of Cloudcroft. | Photo by Cindy Barks
The snowy-white dunes of White Sands National Park take on a pastel hue at sunset. | Photo by Cindy Barks
The snowy-white dunes of White Sands National Park take on a pastel hue at sunset. | Photo by Cindy Barks
Cindy Barks
Cindy Barks

Cindy Barks is a freelance writer/photographer and Arizona newspaper reporter who has covered trails extensively in her community and in the southwestern U.S. She writes a travel and hiking blog at nearandfaraz.com.

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