ElevationAscent: 361' 110 m
Descent: -364' -111 m
High: 4,357' 1,328 m
Low: 4,165' 1,270 m
GradeAvg Grade: 2% (1°)
Max Grade: 8% (5°)
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“Circle a volcanic crater tens of thousands of years old where astronauts once trained.”— Brendan Ross
The trail here features some brief up and down sections as it follows basalt cliffs along the crater rim. Sandy portions of the trail require endurance and perseverance; the loop feels longer than the eight miles that it measures. With no shade, no water, no facilities, no cell phone reception and the entire area typically all to yourself, this is a true desert hike.
Note that A011 is a single lane dirt road, with an sand embankment on both sides roughly three feet tall. If you're not in a four wheel drive vehicle and you meet opposite direction traffic, one of you'll be driving in reverse for some time.
Once on the rim, the trail is straightforward and easy to follow, circling the crater and rarely moving far from the rim. Outstanding views of the maar and basalt cliffs are present throughout the trail. Ascents and descents are generally gradual and brief. The challenge in hiking around Kilbourne Hole is navigating the sand. While not as loose or deep as a beach, the path here is less solid than hard packed dirt and saps energy at a faster rate than a typical trail.
Following the route to the north, eventually Kilbourne's lowest depression comes into view. After recent rains, a lake will sometimes form here, though it doesn't last long in the desert heat. The trail is consistent as it circles to the west side of the crater, moving further away from the rim at points due to eroded cliffsides. Reaching the southwest portion of the trail, it briefly joins the road before splitting off again. A separate dirt road descends into the crater here, though the BLM website notes that portions of the interior are private land. Continue along the trail, pausing at one of the two southern viewpoints for a final view of the crater before returning to the starting point.
Due to its unique nature and resemblance to craters on the moon and Mars, astronauts from Apollo programs 12 through 17 visited Kilbourne Hole as part of their geology field exercises. Today it continues to be used for training and scientific purposes; among those, the U.S. Border Patrol conducts helicopter training operations around and inside the crater.
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Family Friendly, ADA Accessible, Dogs Allowed
Land Manager: BLM New Mexico - Las Cruces District Office