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; however this northern portion of the trail is now 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.
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 trail continues up the dry canyon bottom. Look for rock cairns on the north side marking a side trail that climbs steeply to the Los Alamos Natural Arch.
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.