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McCrystal (Creek) Campground

36 miles northwest of Cimarron via US 64 &FR 1950, Cimarron, New Mexico

Admin: Shara Bueler-Repka

The Valle Vidal (Spanish for The Valley of Life) Wildlife Management Unit of the Carson National Forest will be on the “must return” list for sure! Tucked in the heart of the Sangre de Cristo mountains, this valley is home to two campgrounds: McCrystal (Creek), elevation 8100’ and Cimarron, elevation 9300’. This quiet piece of paradise is well worth the 30 miles on dirt road to get there (no off-road vehicles are permitted on the 100,000 acre Unit). The road is good, although it has some steep grades (steepest was 10%). At the time, we had a 1 ton truck (2007), 4x4, pulling our 35’ living quarters horse trailer. We geared down to first and put it in four-low and chugged up the hills just fine. If it rains, though, be careful as the road in some places can get slick. Might be a good idea to call the ranger for the road condition. Other than that, enjoy the beautiful ride up there. When you saddle up and hit the trail, keep your eyes peeled for herds of elk and pronghorn antelope, and watch the skies for a variety of hawks, bald eagles, and golden eagles. There are awesome vistas to sit your horse and gaze across the abundant alpine meadows and mountain peaks that range upwards of 12,584 feet. And when the changing aspens, with their red and gold, mix with the lush abundance of evergreens? Breathtaking! We explored all kinds of historic remnants too: The Ring Ranch, a self-guided trail, starts at the camp’s entrance and leads to the old pioneer cabin and its outbuildings; Old mining and logging cabins, graveyards, and remains of 100-year-old ranch structures also dot the landscape in various places. There is also plenty of water on the trail. Streams, stock tanks, and natural ponds are in abundance with easy access. There is two creek-fed stock tanks in camp. However, people water is not available at McCrystal, so we loaded empty water jugs and drove the 9 miles (23 minutes) up the mountain to fill up at the Cimarron campground. But, no biggy, it was a gorgeous drive! (For more pictures of our stay, check out our Facebook page, Camping With Horses: https://www.facebook.com/campingwithhorses/?ref=bookmarks) DIRECTIONS: From Cimarron, N.M., drive 5 miles north on NM 64 to Cerrososo Canyon. Follow to the unit boundary and Forest Road 1950. McCrystal is on the right side of FR 1950. NATIONAL FOREST OFFICE: Questa Ranger District, P.O. Box 110, 184 SR 38, Questa, NM 87556. (575) 586-0520. https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/carson/recarea/?recid=44114

TRAIL HEAD

Ride out from the campground

TYPE OF DESTINATION

Camping / Lodging with Facilities - Campground
Effort level - Easy, Beginner|Moderate

AMENITIES FOR 2 LEGGED -

-- Room for Large Living Quarters Trailers

-- Porta-potty's / Pit Toilets

-- Garbage Containment

AMENITIES FOR 4 LEGGED -

-- Horse Corrals

MILES OF DESTINATION / ACREAGE OF PUBLIC LANDS / # OF DAYS’ WORTH OF RIDING

100,000 acres of public land

TYPE OF LAND

- Public Land

ACCESS TO TRAILS

- Trails right from location

WATER CROSSINGS

- Streams

Type of Footing on the trails

- Dirt

- Meadow, Grass

- Shoes / Boots Suggested

Type of Terrain

- Flat

- Hills

TYPE OF HORSE I WAS RIDING

- Non-Gaited

LOCAL WILDLIFE

elk, mule deer, pronghorn antelope, wolf, bear (heard him, didn't see him), bald and golden eagles, variety of hawk, coyotes, prairie dogs

PEAK RIDING SEASON / WEATHER

Campground is open from May through October 25. We camped for 10 days from September 22-October 1. The aspens were turning red and gold. The weather averaged in the seventies.

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