Mudgetts WSA  Madrone tree at the Mudgetts WSA

Welcome to Wilderness Wednesday, our weekly posting to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act.
This week, we are highlighting the Mudgetts Wilderness Study Area (WSA).  This WSA is located in the Chihuahuan desert region:  rocky, dry, and spiny with little shade, and a wonderful winter hiking destination.  The Mudgetts WSA is contiguous with the Carlsbad Caverns Wilderness, located within Carlsbad Caverns National Park.  This scenic desert area is characterized by steeply rolling limestone hills and canyons, covered in desert shrubs and cactus, with scattered sotol, agave, madrone (pictured), and juniper.  We are directing you to the Juniper Ridge Trail, which begins on Carlsbad Caverns National Park, and connects to a primitive route passing through the Mudgetts WSA and ending at a scenic vista.
Wilderness Study Areas are areas which were inventoried and found to be roadless, having a minimum size, being natural, and having outstanding opportunities for solitude or primitive recreation.  Roads are, by definition, improved and maintained by mechanical means to ensure relatively regular and continuous use.  Routes maintained solely by the passage of vehicles are not considered “roads” and so their presence does not exclude an area from being identified as “roadless.”  In other words, there may be some primitive routes in a WSA used by motor vehicles.  However, the BLM does not designate primitive routes as part of a motorized transportation system. Motor vehicle use of primitive routes may only occur to the extent that physical impact is no greater than existed when the area became a WSA.  In the case of the described hike, you may encounter a vehicle, but vehicle use here is slight.

To get to the trailhead, drive Highway 7 in Carlsbad Caverns National Park to the Desert Loop Road (a one way road).  Drive Desert Loop Road to the Juniper Ridge Trailhead, about one mile past interpretive marker #15.  Hike the trail about 1 mile to the ridge top and a fence.  Continue west (left) about 1¼ mile on a faint trail paralleling the fence to a primitive route.  Continue west about ¼ mile on the primitive route to a gate in the fence.  The BLM land, and the Mudgetts WSA, is on the other side of the fence.  Continue through the gate (please close the gate), northwest on the primitive route about ¾ mile to an intersecting route.  Turn left and hike on this primitive route about 2 miles to its end overlooking Dark Canyon. Make sure to bring sufficient drinking water. For more information, please visit the Mudgetts WSA website or the National Park Service website.

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