The DOT Loop Classic is an annual beer hike for me in White Rock Canyon of northern New Mexico. White Rock Canyon could well be described as the Grand Canyon of the Rio Grande River. It is a spectacular canyon stretch between Santa Fe and Los Alamos Counties. Bandelier National Monument flanks one side of the lower section of the canyon before the Rio Grande reaches the massive dam at Cochiti.
What I call the Dot Loop Classic route descends to the river from the West rim at Overlook Regional Park at White Rock, New Mexico then follows downstream for a way before a steep ascent back to the rim. From there, a rim trail loops back to the starting point. “DOT Loop Classic” is my name for the route that derives from its use of two popular trails – one called “Blue Dot Trail” that is used for the descent and the equally popular “Red Dot Trail” used to ascend back to the rim. The “classic” part comes from my judgment that this should be considered one of New Mexico’s classic hikes. In terms of setting, scenic quality, and thirst provoking challenge there are few others I know of in the same league.
The entire loop is a bit more than seven miles and there is a bit more than 1000 feet of altitude change between rim and river. The “DOT” trails are named for spray-painted dots the mark (mar?) rocks along the way on each of the trails. These aren’t my idea of very nice trail markings and I’ve always thought them to be overdone, particularly on the Red Dot Trail. Following them will keep you on route when going up and down though. Both trails are steep and challenging and neither should be taken lightly. It seems like it’s about every year that search and rescue retrieve someone from the canyon.
Blue Dot is said to be an early 1900’s livestock route. The River Trail connecting Blue Dot/Red Dot, the Canyon Rim Trail on top, and the Red Dot itself all feature an array of interesting petroglyphs scattered along the way. Red Dot is also known as Pajarito Springs Trail for the springs, small stream, and swimming hole near the bottom.
For a well-deserved beer after the Dot Loop Classic, we retired to Bathtub Row Brewery in nearby Los Alamos. It must be history month there because a couple of the current beers were throwbacks. I started with a Primo Pils which is described as “a recreation of the classic American Pilsener brewed just after prohibition.” They also had a very interesting historic-based beer on tap called Magdelena Beer. The brewer created this beer to emulate a popular beer brewed at the Illinois Brewing Company in Socorro, NM prior to prohibition. As I understood it, he found an unopened bottle of the beer at a private museum and became intrigued to research the recipes of those times. Magdelena Beer is a refreshing, light lager using 6-row malt, corn, and cluster hops.
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