Organ Mountain-Desert Peaks
National Monument Overview
Exploring Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, you will discover stunning chapters in the story of our restless earth. You will find plant and wildlife communities remarkably suited to the hard desert environment. Although you must – must! by law – leave the artifacts undisturbed, you may find lithic and ceramic debris and campfires left behind by hunting and gathering peoples and agriculturists hundreds to thousands of years ago. You may come upon images, or rock art – scribed or chiseled or (rarely) painted on stone surfaces – of human figures, wildlife, mythical creatures and symbols, many of them recalling, archaeologists suspect, the rich spiritual life of the Jornada Mogollon Puebloan people a thousand years ago. You will visit the sanctuaries of Mescalero, Chiricahua and other Apache groups who laid in wait for opportunities to raid and pillage Hispanic and Anglo caravans and settlements.
In mountain alcoves, you will find secret places such as a hideout used by Billy the Kid and his buddies and a cave allegedly used by the famed Chiricahua Apache Geronimo. In mountain foothills and sequestered canyons, you may come upon ruins and long-forgotten graves that testify to the hardships and isolation borne by early immigrants, stagecoach operators and passengers, cattle drovers, hard rock miners, settlers, cattle rustlers, soldiers, renowned lawmen and just sheer drifters. You will hear the legends of lost treasure, adventure and survival.
It was this potential that led a coalition of organizations, communities and citizens to propose the establishment of the Organ Mountains – Desert Peaks National Monument, which was then created by the proclamation of President Obama on May 21, 2014.
Reflecting the vision of its backers, the monument encompasses some half million acres, or nearly 800 square miles, divided into several areas within southwestern New Mexico. These include the 9000-foot-high Organ Mountains, east of Las Cruces; the sprawling Portrillo Volcanic Field, west of El Paso; and the Sierra de Los Uvas, Robledos and Dona Ana ranges, north and northwest of Las Cruces. It is a land largely sculpted by the colossal forces still at work along the Rio Grande Rift. For those interested in earth’s story, desert plant and animal life, prehistoric peoples and western history, the monument offers a powerful inducement to explore and discover—a veritable mecca for adventure travel.
The National Monument includes four distinct areas: the Organ Mountains, Desert Peaks, Potrillo Mountains, and Doña Ana Mountains.
The Organ Mountains are a steep, angular mountain range with rocky spires that jut majestically above the Chihuahuan Desert floor to an elevation of 9,000 feet.
The Desert Peaks include the Robledo Mountains, Sierra de las Uvas, and Doña Ana Mountains and are located northwest of Las Cruces. This landscape is characterized by desert mountains rising steeply from flat plains.
The Portrillo Mountains are the most remote section of the monument located a distance to the southwest from Las Cruces. This is a volcanic landscape of cinder cones, lava flows, and craters.
Doña Ana Mountains
The Doña Ana Mountains have extensive pedestrian trails, equestrian trails, mountain bike trails, rock climbing routes, and some limited routes available for motorized use.
The Dripping Springs Visitor Center offers interpretive displays of the Organ Mountains. It is located 10 miles east of Interstate 25, Exit 1, on the western edge of the Organ Mountains in the Dripping Springs Natural Area.
It is open all year, except winter holidays, from 8:00 A.M. to 5:00 p.m.
Click here for a map of the area (pdf)
The Dripping Springs Natural Area has a visitor center, handicapped-accessible restrooms, 12 picnic sites, and one large family/group picnic site that can be reserved through the BLM Las Cruces District Office. There is no camping, and no pets are allowed.
The primary access areas for the Desert Peaks area are the Robledo Mountains WSA and Las Uvas Mountains WSA. (WSA - Wilderness Study Areas)
The primary access areas for the Portrillo Mountains area at this time are the Kilbourne Hole Volcanic Crater NNL, the West Portrillo Mountains WSA, Mount Riley WSA, and Aden Lava Flow WSA.
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