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Mitchell Trail #69

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 4.7 (3)

The Mitchell Trail offers access to some of Los Alamos County’s most popular trail destinations.


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Map Key

2.5

Miles

4.0

KM

Point to Point

8,814' 2,686 m

High

7,498' 2,285 m

Low

1,358' 414 m

Up

44' 13 m

Down

11%

Avg Grade (6°)

25%

Max Grade (14°)

Dogs Unknown

Features Birding · Fall Colors · Views · Wildlife

Description

The Mitchell Trail (Forest Service #69) offers access to some very popular trail destinations such as the Perimeter Trail, Rendija Canyon Trail, a challenging climb to the Los Alamos Natural Arch, and the spectacular Guaje Ridge Trail #285. The Mitchell Trail was Los Alamos Boy Scout David Mitchell's Eagle Scout project in 1974 and was designed to connect Los Alamos with Guaje Canyon.

The trail ascends 1,500 ft. in 2.4 miles to reach the top of Guaje Ridge. It originally continued along a very steep descent to Guaje Canyon; this northern portion of the trail was, for many years, considered impassable due to the affects of the Cerro Grande fire (May 2000) and the June 2011 Las Conchas fire and subsequent flooding/erosion damage. In late 2018, volunteers worked with the USFS to restore this northern portion, a.k.a North Mitchell Trail, and it's now a great way to access Guaje Canyon and the old Guaje Reservoir from the town of Los Alamos.

From the trailhead on Arizona Street, travel uphill a short distance to meet the Perimeter Trail coming in from the left, proceed over a low ridge and continue straight when the Perimeter Trail heads to the right. Skirt below a water tank and make a crossing of a dry stream channel. The original trail use to stay in the canyon bottom but flooding in the canyon after the 2011 Las Conchas fire, more or less wiped out the trail. Circa 2014, the Mitchell Trail was officially re-routed by the USFS up out of the canyon and onto the ridge to the west of the canyon. There is an official sign marking the left turn up out of the canyon bottom. There is still a decent use trail in the canyon bottom used by hikers heading to the Natural Arch Trail and this use trail continues through the canyon to the intersection of the "new" trail where it heads up the steep switchbacks to Guaje Ridge.

After about a mile, the Mitchell Trail turns north and steeply ascends to a saddle. Guaje Ridge, hidden until now, is still one half mile and 400 feet of elevation gain ahead. The intersection with the Guaje Ridge Trail #285 is near a plaque honoring the late trail builder, David Mitchell.

Proceeding west on the Guaje Ridge Trail leads to Pipeline Road and the Guaje Canyon Trail near the eastern border of the Valles Caldera National Preserve. Proceeding east on the Guaje Ridge Trail descends to the Cabra Loop Trail and Rendija Canyon. All offer spectacular panoramic views.

Contacts

Shared By:

Bill Blumenthal with improvements by Jason Halladay

Trail Ratings

  4.7 from 3 votes

#2

in Los Alamos

#7161

Overall
  4.7 from 3 votes
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4 Star
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Trail Rankings

#2

in Los Alamos

#95

in New Mexico

#7,161

Overall
11 Views Last Month
2,647 Since Aug 15, 2016
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Photos

The small sign pointing to the start of North Mitchell Trail where it leave Guaje Ridge trail.
Aug 12, 2020 near Los Alamos, NM
Running along the ridge of the re-routed Mitchell Trail. Prior to 2014, the Mitchell Trail used to be in the canyon to the right in this photo. May 2019.
Aug 12, 2020 near Los Alamos, NM

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May 28, 2017
Kelsey Nelson
Walked some on Gauje Ridge trail 7mi