New Mexico Rails to Trails: Grand View Rail Trail

Grand View Rail Trail
by Judy Henry

Six-year-old Robert new that when he heard the whistle of the Alamogordo and Sacramento Mountain train as it came around the bend in upper Fresnal Canyon; it would pass in front of his parents’ High Rolls store in approximately twenty minutes. Any resident expecting someone or something on the train would have plenty of time to meet it.

The train did not run every day, but on days when it did run, it was a source of great entertainment for the children, who created imaginative ways to use it. In the mid 1940’s, young Robert Calkins tagged along after his older brothers and copied what they did. One favorite activity was placing double-headed nails on the railroad tracks. When the train ran over them, they were flattened into miniature swords and used as toys. Pennies were also put on the rails to be turned into novelties.

At that time, the name “Grand View” was used to describe a part of the railroad bed that overlooked the Tularosa Basin. One could enjoy that view by taking the train, or riding a bicycle down the tracks, or hiking along the railroad bed. From a distance the great curve of the tracks appeared to be suspended over the valley. To the west were wide vistas of the desert, white sand dunes, and the San Andres Mountains. Black lava fields appeared as shadows, while real shadows of clouds flew across the basin floor.

In February of 1995, the grown-up Robert Calkins attended a New Mexico Rails-to-Trails meeting in High Rolls. One topic discussed was a name for the new rail trail that NMRTA was creating from the abandoned railroad bed nearby. Robert stood up, and told the group what his family, friends and neighbors had always called that section of the railway:  “The Grand View.” NMRTA adopted the name.

The Grand View Trail is one of three NMRTA hiking trails located in the Fresnal Canyon area; the other two are the Salado Canyon Trestle Trail and the Bridal Veil Falls Trail. (All these trails are especially well-used in the winter, when high mountain trails may be covered with snow, and the temperatures may be in the teens.) The 1.3 mile Grand View Trail has a shelter, a bench, and an interpretive sign located in the large bend that offers an unlimited view of the Tularosa Basin—the “Grand View” that Robert Calkins has known all his life. Two more interpretive signs are located at other sites along the trail.

Grand View is  a fairly level trail located at about 6,200 feet above sea level. Access and parking are easiest at the lower entrance. To reach this trailhead from Highway 82, turn north at the High Rolls convenience store onto Cherry Blossom Lane, left on Cottage Row, and right on Fresnal Canyon Road.  The upper end of the trail is Çon the left at 0.5 miles, the lower end on the left at 0.9 miles. Park at the lower end and climb a stile over a fence; when you reach the upper end of the trail return to your car by way of Fresnal Canyon Road.  Signs mark both entrances.
NMRTA workdays are held on the third Saturday of each month from 9:00 a.m. until 12:00 Noon. You do not need to be a member to attend the workdays.  Adult volunteers of all skill levels are welcome. There’s something to do for everyone.  Just bring your own water, work gloves, sun protection, and sturdy footwear. The Sacramento Ranger District of the Lincoln National Forest provides the tools.

The location of each workday is announced a week in advance. If you would like to receive these announcements via email, please send a message to nmrta@tularosa.net with the word, “Workday” in the subject line.

Give A Membership
Do you need a gift for someone who has everything? Or perhaps you are looking for a stocking-stuffer? Consider giving a one-year membership to the New Mexico Rails-to-Trails Association. Go to www.nmrailstotrails.org

This article originally appeared in the December 2010 print edition of the Mountain Monthly.