Organ Needles Monument – The Patagonia of the Southwest US
We’ve camped at the Organ Needles a couple of times, and still consider them one of our favorite areas. The Needles lie on BLM-maintained land near Las Cruces, New Mexico that boasts loads of free, dispersed camping, and the toughest hikes in the state. As an added bonus, they’re really close to the famous White Sands National Monument and missile range. It’s easy to find the free campsites; you just drive out of Las Cruces toward the Needles, and you’ll start seeing dirt BLM roads that you can pull off on. There’s also a BLM campground that you can stay at for $7 per night. It’s right up against the Needles and has hiking trail access, so it’s worth spending a night or two there.
On our first trip to the Needles, we hiked Baylor Peak and the Organ Needles Trail. Baylor Peak was a moderately difficult 5ish mile trail with around 2000 feet of elevation gain. Its trailhead started at the BLM campground. The Organ Needles trail, which takes you to the summit of the Organ Needle, was much, much more difficult. Considered by BLM to be the most extreme and difficult hike in New Mexico, it’s not to be taken lightly. The trail is only about 6 miles total, but you gain and then lose 4000 feet of elevation during it (so you ascend 4000 feet in 3 miles, then descend 4000 feet in 3 miles coming back). It requires a good bit of trail finding and bushwacking, so be sure to study and / or load a map before you go. It’s full sun exposure, and lots of scree, so the hiking is quite difficult. To add to this, the last push to the summit requires you to scale a 20 foot cliff face using a rope. I’d definitely do the hike again, but it’s one of the most difficult and mentally taxing hikes I’ve done in my life…