San Lorenzo Canyon is a surprising little canyon tucked into high desert landscape on BLM land northwest of Socorro, New Mexico, and south of the Sierra Ladrones
. The canyon backs up to the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge to the west, and can be easily accessed from the small town of Lemitar. Despite its proximity to I-25, it is lightly visited due to its remote location in New Mexico.
A Small Slot
The canyon itself, although seemingly small, has so many nooks and crannies that one could easily spend hours here and not see it all. The canyon is home to arches, shelter caves, interesting rock formations, dry-fall pour-offs, and slot canyons. Jutting off of the main road through the canyon are several slot canyons, trails to caves, and dry washes that yield their own interesting finds. The main cliffs have been eroded into interesting sculptures and even pillars. The cliffs can be scrambled to reach the top for a bird's eye view, and for other secrets to be revealed.
In addition to the geologic formations, wildlife abounds. There is evidence of ungulates such as Mule Deer, smaller mammals such as foxes, numerous bird species (watch for falcons soaring around the rock pinnacles), and various reptiles (including rattlesnakes, so keep your eyes peeled in warmer weather). There are several springs in the area, as well as a grove of trees indicating the presence of life-sustaining water.
The road running through the canyon is part of the 730-mile trekking route through the southwestern desert from Phoenix to Albuquerque named the Grand Enchantment Trail. The Grand Enchantment Trail uses segments of the Arizona Trail, the Continental Divide Trail, maintained USFS trails, and primitive 2-track roads. This particular segment of the trail is part of the section between milepoints 562-633 coming from Magdalena and heading towards Mountainair.
Hiking here can be dangerous. In 2007, a young woman from NM Tech was rock climbing at night and fell to her death. Another woman fell 25 feet off of one of the cliffs to her death on Easter, 2011. Despite the canyon rock's solid appearance, much of it is loose. Great care needs to be taken when ascending to the top of the cliffs with all of the loose dirt, crumbling rock, and gravel covered rock. Stay well back from the edges.
The mild temperatures make hiking in San Lorenzo possible at all times of the year, although summer may be hot. In winter, there may be snow, but it melts fast. This canyon is non-technical, unless attempting to climb up or down various dryfalls. The American Canyoneering Academy rating for this canyon would be 1A I
meaning that it is non-technical and can be done in a few hours. Remember to stay out of any canyon if there is any inclimate weather in the watershed area. Flash floods in canyons can be quick and deadly.
Sculpted Walls Near the Entrance Stone Pillar
From Albuquerque, head south on I-25 towards Socorro. Take exit 156 at Lemitar (about 7 miles north of Socorro) and head west. There is a Phillips 66 station here for fuel, food, or a restroom break. Take the frontage road on the west-side of the freeway north for about 5 miles. When the road takes a 90 degree turn to the right under the freeway, you will see a signpost for San Lorenzo Canyon and a maintained dirt road heading due west. Follow this road for 2 miles. Keep your eyes peeled for another dirt road and signboard for San Lorenzo that turns to the right. Take this road and follow it 2.2 miles to the canyon mouth. The road has spurs, but the main road is easy to follow. It also goes in and out of washes with sand. I had no problem navigating the road in a two-wheel drive vehicle. However, when there have been heavy rains, the road may require a four-wheel drive vehicle.
Looking Back Through the Main Canyon
There are no fees for use of this area. The Canyon backs up to the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge to the west. The Refuge is off-limits without permission. The Refuge boundary is marked by a large pile of boulders on the road a mile and a half from the entrance to the Canyon.
Mule Deer Tracks
Camping is allowed for up to 14 days. Please do not camp within 300 yards of any water source.
A View from Above
The Large Slot CanyonBLM San Lorenzo Canyon Site
Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge
American Canyoneering Academy
The Grand Enchantment Trail