This was our first foray into visiting Pueblo ruins in the Jemez Mountains based on a report from ondafringe, “Day Hike: Stable Mesa to Kiva Ruins“. The drive to our trailhead was up NM 4 from San Ysidro, left onto NM 485 and up the Guadalupe Canyon (along the Guadalupe River), and through the Gilman Tunnels onto FR 376. Beyond the Tunnels about 7 miles, we parked just across the bridge at Porter, then hiked south on the east side of the river, starting a climb up the face of the mesa in about a mile. It was then up a rough, steep two-track to the top of Stable Mesa; that was quite a climb – steep, long, very rough and rocky two-track.
The mesa top is quite flat and level; starting north on a two track we encountered a very interesting rock formation with a large window looking west across the Guadalupe Canyon. And the views across, up, and down the canyon are awesome. I had only coordinates for our destination, the Kiva Ruins (also known as the Tovakwa Ruins). We continued in a northeast direction along a nice two-track until I decided we needed to head more south and east towards the Ruins. ‘Twas easy hiking in open ponderosa forest, generally level with a small valley (in Kansas we would call it a ‘draw’) to cross. (In the bottom of this draw we came across a collection of modern artifacts, like someone held a birthday party here. We conjectured over the reason – maybe really a party? someone’s GeoCache site? We’re still puzzled.)
As we followed the GPS pointer, I first saw some mounds of earth that didn’t look like something Mother Nature would have produced. Then, looking down (thanks, Vince, for teaching me to look for things ‘under our feet’), I saw what, on further inspection, proved to be sherds of pottery. I then suspected we were in the vicinity of Tovakwa. As we proceeded I saw a circular depression, thinking it was the site of a kiva. Continuing further we found more ‘unnatural’ mounds, more shards, and then the Great Kiva. All of this on the edge of Stable Mesa overlooking Canyon Cebollita. We also visited more ruins, these rectangular in shape, about .1 miles north of the Great Kiva.
Noting that we had an unnecessary excursion to the north in our track inbound, I turned to the GPS to shoot for a shorter track out. We returned to the draw, than followed it downhill until it fell off steeply towards Guadalupe Canyon. At that point we made the short climb back up onto Stable Mesa, then found our way to rejoin our inbound track and headed down the two-track and back to parking.
This remains one of our longest hikes to date, and one of the more strenuous – the climb up was challenging. It remains one of my favorites.
Total Distance: 8.07 miles
Elevation: start 7,175 ft, maximum 7,916 ft, minimum 7,175 ft
Gross gain: 741 ft. Aggregate ups & downs: ascending 1,676 ft, descending 1,669 ft
Maximum slope: 35% ascending, 48% descending, 6.9% average
GPS .KML file for Google Earth: Stable Mesa and Kiva Ruins Hike.Jay.2015-05-03
I urge you to explore our hiking tracks with Google Earth. With the virtual 3-dimensional presentation, achieved by panning and tilting the view, you can get a much better idea of the hikes and terrain than you can get from the 2-dimensional screenshot above. For assistance: Using Google Earth Track Files.