HIGH PLACES

Switching Back

Crossing the foot bridge near Cloudcroft

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If you’ve ever driven up to Cloudcroft from Alamogordo before, you’ve probably wondered about the little metal pedestrian bridge. I know I have. How do I get there? What trail do I have to use to cross it? Who put it there?

I finally decided to find out.

The trail is called the “Switchback and Old Cloudcroft Highway Trail.” I would rate it moderately easy, it is fairly flat, but over four miles long. Since you are not at the Cloudcroft altitude of over 9,000 feet, the habitat is not quite alpine yet in character. Think less pine trees, more open spaces, desert shrubs, and some meadowy areas. It does not provide quite as much shade as one would wish for in the summer months, but the higher altitude makes for pleasant temperatures.

The trail head is on Bailey Canyon Road, past the pedestrian bridge on the left as you come up the mountain, where the road makes a big sharp right curve. Drive on Bailey Canyon Road for a few hundred yards just past the cattle guard and park your vehicle there. Start on the marked trail leaving the dirt road to the left into the forest. The trail is never very steep but it does venture down the mountain first, staying fairly close to the main road. Several signs describe the logging and railroad activities here. Some are placed in the exact spot as the photo they depict and thus give a neat glimpse into the past.

And THEN you get to cross that bridge you’ve been thinking about for so long. And yes, you will find out who put it there and when. On the other side of the road you stay in a beautiful green meadow while making your way slowly back up the hill. The butterflies and squirrels were abundant in June. And then there was that one very tame deer. I couldn’t believe how close we could get before it turned away from us and headed for the woods. It gave me ample time to get his portrait. Overall the trail sticks fairly close to the main road here as well which makes this my only complaint: You can hear cars and trucks the whole time.

In that afore mentioned sharp right curve in the road you will go through a pedestrian tunnel under the road to return to your car safely. The whole route took us not longer than two and a half hours at a very leisurely pace.

If you decide to go, wear sunscreen, bring water and don’t forget to wave at the cars when you are on the bridge.

Of German origin, Gabriele Teich has called Las Cruces her home for more than 20 years — and loved every minute of it, hiking the mountains in the immediate surrounding area and all over this beautiful state.