with Bill Johnston
Amatista Ledges is a trail in the Robledo mountains just west of Las Cruces, New Mexico. It is listed as a 'moderate' trail because it has some technical parts that require a spotter and a locker. This is not a hard core buggy trail, so it makes a great afternoon ride with some wonderful scenic views of the surrounding area. The trail head and air down area is shared with many of the other trails in the Chile Canyons. It is even close enough to a couple of the extreme trails to allow you to walk down and observe some of the 'big dogs' in action.
During this ride we had some Zooks and a couple of Jeeps to make the ride fun. The vehicle capabilities went from basically stock to moderately built. Everyone made it through with only a single flat tire to show for it. Since that happened on the stock Jeep, we just figured it was bound to happen anyway... (grin) The road in is almost as fun as the actual trail. The drop in from the high ridgeline snakes through the canyon trail known as Big Jim. It has a few twists and some boulder fields along with some decent sized waterfalls that can cause some serious rear bumper damage if not taken carefully. Although a vehicle with plenty of clearance is really helpful on these ledges, there are bypasses for most of the rougher stuff. The photos of these ledges really don't do them justice.
The trail leaves Big Jim to end up on a part of Hopping Jalapeo (another of the 'Chile Trails'), and this leads up to the actual Amatista Ledges trail. The most technical obstacle on the trail is the 'Bathtub'. This is very aptly named as it fills up with water when it rains. Long wheelbase vehicles with full width axles would walk right through this without a second thought, but the short wheel based vehicles can have fun with the challenge. If you drive a stock width Jeep or Zook, it is exactly wide enough to get you into trouble if you don't watch your spotter!
The trail is approximately 5 miles long, and climbs right back up the mountain to the ridgeline that will take you back to the trail head. It is a fun trail that only takes a few hours to run. As I said, it is a great afternoon run. This is one of the trails that is offered during the Chile Challenge every February, so if you want to check it out, come try it with guides that know the area!