Dripping Springs Trail | Organ Mountains – Desert Peaks National Monument
Las Cruces, NM | 04/04/21 | 3.99 miles | 1,187′ gain
We decided to take it easy on the last day of our trip; sleep in, hike a little, and then slowly make our way back down to El Paso for our 6pm flight. There’s plenty to do around Las Cruces but we only had so much time (and energy). Allie found a short hike that was packed full of ruins and cool scenery, a fun conclusion to a quick but awesome trip.
Dripping Springs Natural Area has a handful of trails but the Dripping Springs Trail is by far the most popular. We started hiking at 9:30 and the place was swarming with people. The trail starts out flat through desert scrub but gains elevation as it heads up into the Organ Mountains.
The Dripping Springs Trail heads into Ice Canyon, passing numerous ruins on its way to Dripping Springs. After 1.25 miles we reached The Livery, the first of the ruins. This site consists of a livery (or stable), a chicken coop, and a mercantile. Guests came in stagecoaches to visit Eugene van Patten’s Mountain Camp (just ahead). The drivers, stagecoaches, and horses would all stay at The Livery while the guests continued to their feast up at camp.
After The Livery, we hiked another 0.4 miles into the canyon, following signs for the van Patten Mountain Camp. Eugene van Patten ran the camp from the late 1800s through the early 1900s. It was popular with the elite and boasted 32 guest rooms with murals, a full-size piano in the dining room, muslin covered ceilings, and an outdoor garden with gazebo. In other words, not your typical “camp”.
Just around the corner from the mountain camp are the Dripping Springs. They were in fact “dripping” during our visit, and that’s about all there is to say about that. Numerous signs warned visitors to stay on trail through this area so we were unable to get any closer.
Above Dripping Springs is Boyd’s Sanatorium. Dr. Nathan Boyd, a physician and businessman, built the sanatorium to treat patients with chronic illnesses like tuberculosis. The main building pictured is the kitchen and dining hall. The Boyd family and guests stayed in cottages and tents. A feud between Boyd and van Patten lasted for nearly 15 years and began when Boyd refused to pay his $25/year rent to van Patten. There were numerous property disputes and while van Patten won in court, Boyd refused to budge and after years in court, van Patten went bankrupt and sold Dripping Springs to Boyd for $1.
Some local teens tipped us off to a nearby “pond” after we found and returned their cell phone. We followed an unmarked trail up a steep slope above the sanatorium and Dripping Springs. There was in fact a man-made pond here though it was so dirty we couldn’t believe the teens had gone for a swim.
We maintained a relaxed pace back to the car and then down to the El Paso Airport. We had the entire afternoon to make a one-hour drive so we ate, shopped, and explored along the way. Our trip may have been short but we saw a ton in just three days and did everything we really wanted to do. Now I can’t wait to go back!