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West Malpais WildernessWelcome to Wilderness Wednesday, our weekly posting to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act.

This week we are highlighting the 39,540 acres West Malpais Wilderness, which was designated in 1987.  This is a flat landscape created by volcanic lava flows and covered by grassland and ponderosa pine forest.  We will direct you to the Hole-in-the-Wall, a 6,700-acre kipuka (a Hawaiian term meaning island of fertile ground).  Hole-in-the-Wall is a grassland, surrounded by lava flows of jagged surfaces with well-established ponderosa pine.
The Hole-in-the-Wall Trail is an old ranch road that provides access to a current ranching operation, including privately-owned water developments, corrals, and buildings.  The Wilderness Act prohibits roads and motor vehicle use, but there are a few exceptions.  Two exceptions are found in this area.  First, the Wilderness Act permits ingress and egress (i.e. the legal right to enter or exit a property) to valid occupancies.  Second, the Wilderness Act allows grazing in Wilderness; and Congress has specified that motor vehicles may be used in the management of the grazing program.  In both cases, there are limitations to the amount of vehicle use that is permitted.  A visitor to the Hole-in-the-Wall Trail will see the evidence of some motor vehicle use.

To reach the Hole-in-the-Wall Trailhead, Drive NM 117 south of Interstate 40, approximately 34 miles to CR 42.  Drive northwest on CR 42 approximately 2¼ miles to the intersection with a road (a West Malpais Wilderness sign is located at this intersection).  Turn right (north) and drive approximately 4.4 miles to a locked gate, which is the Trailhead for the Hole-in-the- Wall.  Note that at 3½ miles you will encounter an intersection with a road leading to the right, which looks better maintained.  This road leads to a private residence and only authorized vehicles are allowed on it.  These are dirt access roads that, when wet, can become impassible.

For more information about the Hole-in-the-Wall Trail, please visit the West Malpais Wilderness website

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Last updated: 07-30-2014