Dripping Springs: A Mountain Escape
by Stephanie J. Montoya
Ten miles east of Las Cruces lies a nature escape like no other – Dripping Springs. This majestic nature area offers more than four miles of easy hiking trails giving visitors an opportunity to get up-close and personal with the majestic and spiring Organ Mountains.
The Organs, named for their extraordinary needle-like peaks said to resemble large church organ pipes, tower 9,000 feet above sea level. They are home to three life-zones including 80 species of mammals, 185 species of birds, 60 species of reptiles and amphibians, and more than 800 plant species.
After enjoying the insect collection and natural exhibits at the A.B. Cox Visitor’s Center and chatting with one of the friendly rangers, fill your water bottles, put on your sunscreen, and head South on the scenic Dripping Springs Trail. Be prepared to see lizards sunning themselves on the rocks, tarantula’s crawling about, and even families of mule deer scampering across your path. The desert brush is the perfect habitat for these creatures. Be sure to bring your camera!
Further along the scenic winding trail is a Carriage Stop and Livery, where guests of Van Patten’s Mountain Camp Resort were dropped off more than a hundred years ago. Continue on this path and you’ll find what remains of the resort itself, which once stood two stories and had 16 rooms. Try to imagine the scene with famous guests Pat Garret and Pancho Villa having a drink in the dining hall.
Past the ruins, you’ll come to the much awaited dripping spring. The spring is an overflow of a cistern built to supply water for the resort, but is now a natural watershed. Depending on recent moisture, the spring ranges anywhere from a slow drip to a constant trickle. A further trail provides views of the cistern above the spring.
Looping past the spring is the ruins of the Boyd Sanitorium, where Dr. Nathan Boyd and later Dr. Sexton housed patients of Tuberculosis back in the early 1900s. The main sanitorium and doctor’s home still sand.
For more experienced hikers, trails branch off from various points along the main road, allowing for access to higher peaks and rockier areas. Most of these trails are well trodden, but are more difficult. They do, however, offer spectacular views.
Before you head out, there are a few things to remember. Firstly, enjoy yourself, but don’t push yourself past your limit or try hikes that are too difficult for your level or experience or equipment. Never hike alone, and leave word of where you are going and when you plan to be back. Bring plenty of water and sun protection, and take frequent breaks. Be safe, be smart, and most of all, have fun!
Dripping Springs is open year-round from 8 am to 7 pm April through September and 8 am to 5 pm October through March. The visitor’s center is open from 8 am to 5 pm. Parking passes are $5 per vehicle. For more information, call the A.B. Cox Visitor Center at 575-522-1219 or visit www.blm.gov/nm/st/en/prog/recreation/las_cruces/dripping_springs.html