Sanchez Falls Hike

Sanchez Falls hike route
click on image for interactive route map

Sanchez Falls is a 100-foot waterfall in a remote desert canyon that very few people have ever heard of.  As the quarantines drag on and have precluded far away travels, I’ve continued to search out interesting places to beer hike in my own back yard.  When I think about why I never searched these places out before I think of too many other things to do and places to see.  But every time I check another one of these spots out, I come away feeling grateful for where I live.  The hike to Sanchez Falls is yet another example.

To get to the trailhead from my base in Los Alamos, NM required many miles of rough road – I wouldn’t recommend it without high clearance and a sturdy suspension.  Much of the trail is in the Dome Wilderness of the Santa Fe National Forest which snuggles up to the western backcountry of Bandelier National Monument.

I’ve seen the trail labeled several different ways on different maps – Capulin Trail, Dome Trail,  FS116, FS118?   The sign at the trailhead says Dome Trail so I’ll go with that.  I did not see many signs of recent use and parts of the trail were a bit overgrown with bushy weeds.  A contour map makes everything on the route look steep, but it’s really not too bad (altitude ranges from 6600 feet to 6800 feet (2000 to 2060 m)).  It is a fairly even contour around a flat crossing of Eagle Canyon before rising over a flat mesa top and across a bench on the south side of Sanchez Canyon.  The trail leads to the top of the waterfall which drops 100 feet or more off a sheer cliff face.  The terrain is steep such that the falls are never visible from the trail on the south bench.  You only see them after crossing the small stream at the top and continuing on the trail on the north side of the canyon for at least a quarter-mile or so.  It’s an impressive cliff-face and drop, but it gets swallowed up in the immensity of Sanchez Canyon.

anniversary lager
Bathtub Row Brewing Anniversary Lager

The whole area was burned off at least ten years ago so limited shade is to be found anywhere on the route.  It worked out great for working up a thirst and I satisfied that with a post-hike beer at Bathtub Row Brewery in Los Alamos.  Their fifth Anniversary Lager is a hoppier the typical lager that comes in at 5.1% ABV.  This is a SMASH (single malt and single hop) lager made with 100% Proximity Vienna Malt from Monte Vista, Colorado, and Sabro Hops.  I’d describe the hops influence as pleasantly citrusy and cedary.  This is a clean-drinking, thirst quencher.  Bathtub Row has been slogging through the COVID restrictions just like everyone else.  Until recently, they were limited to socially distant outdoor service so they did a nice job expanding and enhancing their outdoor space this summer — that makes for a pleasant place to enjoy a beer after the hike.

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