PD-FIT Hike Report
Sandstone Bluffs Long Loop - El Malpais Region

Hike Distance (mi): 5
Elevation Change (ft): 305
Total Uphill (ft): 380
Total Downhill (ft): 380


April 4, 2022 marked Opening Day for Palo Duro Sports and Fitness Hiking Program! Our first hike of the season was out west to the Sandstone Bluffs in the El Malpais Region of our state. 19 Eager hikers left the fitness center at 7:20 – after implementing “Plan B”, because a van didn’t start due to what appeared was a dead battery! Jared to the Rescue! We unloaded and reloaded into another waiting van and proceeded west on I-40 to exit 89, (the old Stuckey’s) for a break, before arriving at our Trailhead about 9:15!

The temps were cool enough to wear a jacket and perfect for hiking. We followed the rim North for about a mile and a quarter, enjoying the vast views to the west and the incredible sandstone bluffs at our feet. Our trail continued Northwesterly and gently downward to the base of the immense rock towers. We wandered north again, following some boot prints, but often Elk trails through the valley. We passed the remains of a person-created structure, looked up to see a Rock Arch, and then found the Rock Art mentioned in the hike description, on a rockface in the welcome shade. This was our lunch spot.

Looking west, a cloud bank began to rise over the horizon. It was a fair distance away. It was past the eleven-mile stretch of lava flow and even beyond that, behind the Zuni mountains that lined the western sky. We continued our hike north through the valley, anticipating a narrow passage between the lava flow and the bluff which marked our “way up” to the rim again. In route, we spotted a (mostly) gradual draw from the valley up to a low part of the rim and decided we could do it! We took our time getting to the top, and everyone managed just fine. We then headed south and hiked back along the rim about 2 miles to the van.

As we watched the clouds move across the mountains in the west and across the lava flow, the almost-cold Spring wind blew! As is always a possibility in New Mexico, the weather was Dramatic! And wonderful! Because we made it! We made it back to the van and loaded and then the rain came!! We had to use windshield wipers for a little while! But as is also ‘very New Mexico’, we were in sunshine by the time we hit I-40 and we were back at the center by 3:30!

Hike mileage was 6.3 and hiking time was about 5 hours. Thank you to Lori Dittmer for your safe driving and getting us to and from our hike destination! Thank you to Bob Cornish for sweeping and keeping us together and safe on the trail! And last but Far from Least, Joyce O’Connell for capturing the beauty of our hikes in your photographs! You all make our hikes the best hikes!!

It’s good to be back on the trail! It’s good to see some new faces and … those familiar faces of our Senior Hiker friends!

Web Album 1 Name: Fitness Centers Web Album
Web Album 1 Link: link
Hike Report Status: Published

Hike Leader(s): Cindy McConnell   
Hike Coordinator(s):