Organ Mountains—Desert Peaks National Monument, New Mexico
Rugged rocky spires, volcanic cinder cones and expansive desert landscapes beckon the adventurer
What You’ll Find
The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks area was designated a National Monument in May 2014 and is located near Las Cruces, New Mexico. The monument possesses a rich diversity of Chihuahuan Desert wild lands and unique pre-American, New Mexican and American history that includes training sites for the Apollo Space Mission, the Butterfield Stagecoach Trail, Billy the Kid’s Outlaw Rock, Geronimo’s Cave, World War II aerial targets and thousands of Native American petroglyphs and pictographs. Four distinct areas are included in the monument: the Organ Mountains, Desert Peaks, Potrillo Mountains and Doña Ana Mountains.
- The Organ Mountains are a steep, angular mountain range with rocky spires that extend majestically above the Chihuahuan Desert floor to an elevation of 9,000 feet. It is so named because the needle-like spires resemble the pipes of an organ. Located adjacent to and on the east side of Las Cruces, this part of the monument provides many opportunities for photography, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, camping and wildlife viewing.
- Desert Peaks rise steeply from flat plains and are located northwest of Las Cruces. Grasses and mixed desert shrubs are characteristic vegetation for this area. This area also includes the Picacho Peak Recreation Area.
- The Potrillo Mountains are the most remote section of the monument southwest of Las Cruces. Numerous cinder cones jut out prominently from otherwise broad desert plains, including Cox Peak, the largest of the cinder cones. The Aden Lava Flow is a flat, rocky and vegetated plain of pressure ridges, lava tubes and steep walled depressions. The Kilbourne Hole National Natural Landmark is a large crater, known as a Maar, resulting from an ancient volcanic explosion which emitted mostly volcanic gas.
- The Doña Ana Mountains are the smallest of the four distinct areas and offers extensive pedestrian, equestrian, and mountain bike trails, rock climbing routes and some limited routes available for motorized use.
Located in Las Cruces, ten miles east of Interstate 25, the Drippings Springs Visitor Center offers interpretive displays about the Organ Mountains, the most developed portion of the monument. The Visitor Center is open year-round, except winter holidays, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
The Aguirre Spring Campground is nestled at the base of the spectacular cliffs of the Organ Mountains and overlooks Tularosa Basin and White Sands National Monument. Primitive camping is allowed throughout the monument without a permit or fee.
Make Sure You
Take in the historical sites of the monument. La Cueva rock shelter, which was occupied for thousands of years and where about 100,000 artifacts were recovered in the mid-1970s, provides a fascinating glimpse into the lives of its past habitants.
The ruins of Dripping Springs Resort, built in the 1870s by Colonel Eugene Van Patten, lie scattered along the canyon. In the early 1900s the resort was sold and then used as a sanatorium for many years.
Explore the 29-mile Sierra Vista National Recreation Trail. This is a non-motorized trail allowing horseback riding, bicycling and hiking (leashed pets allowed). This route connects Las Cruces with Franklin Mountains State Park in Texas and travels along the west slope of the Organ Mountains.
Sites and artifacts dating back many centuries are located within the monument. It is illegal to remove or disturb these artifacts, which would destroy valuable information about our past.
Visit the Dripping Springs Visitor Center for maps, attractions, recreational opportunities and exhibits about the area.