One of the many short trails leading to the top of Tortugas Mountain, Turtleback Trail is the only one connecting to the mountain's eastern side. The trail begins at the Sunset Parking Lot. After crossing the Tortugas Trail
loop a few hundred feet in, it begins a steep, challenging climb straight up the hillside. Rocks, generally small but some as large as basketballs, add some technicality to the mix. The primary challenge is in the grade, though, and many hikers will need to power hike the last half mile to the top. Exercise caution if descending this portion, as moving too fast can make it easy to lose control.
Two interesting features are found at the top: an observatory run by the nearby New Mexico State University (whose "A" adorns the hill to commemorate their mascot, the Aggies), and a small Catholic shrine. Pilgrimages to the shrine occur on a semi-regular basis, though most people visiting for this purpose take the easier Geothermal Road to the top.
The trail continues south for a few hundred feet before turning east. Descending down the eastern side is marginally less steep than the western slope, but it tends to be more technical. Larger rocks and boulders require some scrambling.
Turtleback crosses Tortugas Trail
again a little after the mile point. The remaining portion of the trail is an easy descent to the flat Arroyo Loop
Flora & Fauna
This trail features typical Chihuahua Desert Flora. Yuccas, agaves, creosote and on top of the mountains there are many big clumps of haystack cactus. They are really beautiful in May when they are in bloom.
Shared By: Brendan Ross