Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks NM--Aguirre Spring RA

Tips for Birding

Located on the east side of the stunning Organ Mountains, Aguirre Spring Recreation Area offers unique access to montane habitat and bird species not found elsewhere in Dona Ana County. This site is a property of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and requires a $5.00 day-use fee per vehicle, which can be paid at self-pay kiosks throughout the location (federal land passes are also accepted). Dry camping is permitted year-round for a $7.00 per-night fee, though spaces fill up quickly (especially on weekends). Like Dripping Springs, open hours are 7:00 am to 8:00 pm in the summer season (March-November) and 8:00 am to 6:00 pm in the winter season (November-March), so those wishing for an early start or a chance to detect nocturnal birds would benefit from camping overnight. Make sure to hike with the proper gear, and plenty of water, and keep an eye out for rattlesnakes.

Be aware that much of the bird diversity at this location occurs in the lusher habitats in the upper reaches of the Organs, accessible only by moderate to strenuous hikes with a decent amount of elevation gain. In addition, all the montane bird species that may be encountered at Aguirre Spring can be found with significantly less effort elsewhere in southern New Mexico, such as in the Sacramento Mountains or in the vicinity of Silver City. Aguirre Spring offers the only chance for birders to add many of these species to their Dona Ana County list.

If you are not in the mood for a long hike, it may be worth walking the paved loop road through the campground to at least pick up some of the more abundant species at this site. The scrubby habitat around the campground sites is characterized by shrubs such as gray oak, mountain-mahogany, and juniper, and offers a mix of both desert and upland species. Common resident birds in the campground include Gambel’s Quail, Black-throated Sparrow, Cactus Wren, Juniper Titmouse, Canyon and Spotted Towhees, Bewick’s Wren, and Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay among others. Summer brings Scott’s Oriole, Blue, and Black-headed Grosbeaks, and Virginia’s Warbler, while winter visitors include Townsend’s Solitaire and Western Bluebird.

About this Location

The high wall, needle-like spires of the Organ Mountains curve dramatically around a semicircle of Chihuahuan Desert habitat at the Aguirre Spring Campground. The campground, nestled at the base of spectacular cliffs, overlooks the Tularosa Basin and White Sands National Park. Alligator juniper, gray oak, mountain mahogany, and sotol are a few of the abundant plant species here. Seasonal springs and streams occur in the canyon bottoms, with a few perennial springs that support riparian habitats.

Entrance Gate Hours (change with Daylight Savings Time)
Winter Hours (Nov – March): 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Summer Hours (March – Nov): 7:00 – 8:00 p.m.

The Aguirre Spring Recreation Area and Campground are located on the east side of the Organ Mountains, east of Las Cruces in Dona Ana County. Take US-70 for 14 miles east of the I-25/US-70 interchange in Las Cruces, then turn south on the Aguirre Spring Road (1.1 miles after San Augustine Pass) for six miles. At mile 4 the road becomes a one-way loop and climbs steeply.

About Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument

See all hotspots at Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument

The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument was established to protect significant prehistoric, historic, geologic, and biologic resources of scientific interest, and includes four areas: the Organ Mountains, Desert Peaks, Potrillo Mountains, and Doña Ana Mountains.

The Organ Mountains are a steep, angular mountain range with rocky spires that jut majestically above the Chihuahuan Desert floor to an elevation of 9,000 feet. This picturesque area of rocky peaks, narrow canyons, and open woodlands ranges from Chihuahuan Desert habitat to ponderosa pine in the highest elevations. Located adjacent to and on the east side of Las Cruces, this area provides opportunities for photography, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, camping, and wildlife viewing.

The Desert Peaks include the Robledo Mountains, Sierra de las Uvas, and Doña Ana Mountains, characterized by desert mountains rising steeply from flat plains.

The Potrillo Mountains are the most remote section of the Monument located a distance to the southwest from Las Cruces and are comprised of a volcanic landscape of cinder cones, lava flows, and craters.

The Doña Ana Mountains have extensive pedestrian trails, equestrian trails, mountain bike trails, rock climbing routes, and some limited routes available for motorized use.

Notable Trails

The first trail you will encounter while driving the one-way loop through the campground is the Baylor Pass Trail, which switchbacks up the slopes of the Organs and connects with Baylor Canyon Trail on the west side of the Organs. This arid, scrubby trail offers the same species found in the campground and is generally not worth the effort for birders. In addition, this trail offers no shade during the scorching summer months.

Continuing counterclockwise through the campground, the Pine Tree Loop trail will appear on your right; it is well-signed and offers good parking. This 4.6-mile loop trail is a moderate hike with significant elevation gain (1135 feet) and rocky terrain, though it is fairly well-marked. The highest elevations of this loop trail offer access to pockets of pine-oak habitat that harbor montane species such as Mountain Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, Acorn and Hairy Woodpeckers, Hepatic Tanager, and Grace’s Warbler. Lucky observers may also come upon the more elusive Olive Warbler or exceedingly shy Montezuma Quail. The trail can be hiked in either direction, though a counter-clockwise route is generally preferred by birders as it provides quick access to the habitat of interest. The Pine Tree Loop is Aguirre Spring's busiest trail and can be crowded on weekends, so start early for the best experience.

Finally, the Indian Hollow Trail is a 5-mile one-way hike with 1893 feet of elevation gain and a poorly marked trail that offers the best access to the pine-oak habitat. To find this unsigned trail, continue driving the loop road through the campground past the trailhead for Pine Tree Loop until you see a sign for “Group Sites” on your right. Turn into the group site lot and park there. In the lot for the group sites, you should see a large yellow warning sign describing the potential dangers of hiking in the Organ Mountains; the trail begins directly behind this sign. Indian Hollow Trail is rocky, strenuous, and can be difficult to follow at times, and is only recommended for more adventurous and well-prepared hikers. Once you reach the pine-oak woodlands in the vicinity of Sugarloaf Peak at the trail’s highest reaches, the path becomes difficult to follow; the assistance of a GPS-based hiking app may be helpful to navigate. Though it is a strenuous all-day hike, this trail offers better access to remnant pine-oak woodland of the upper Organs and may be of value for those wanting to flesh out their county list. The bird species here are like those encountered on Pine Tree Loop, though their numbers are higher, and rarer finds such as Olive Warbler and Williamson’s Sapsucker are more likely. Those adventurous enough to set up a tent in this habitat and camp here on a spring night may be treated to the songs of Mexican Whip-poor-wills and Western Screech-Owls, which are very challenging to find elsewhere in Dona Ana County.


  • Restrooms on site

  • Entrance fee

  • Wheelchair accessible trail

Content from Official Website, Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument Official Website, Joel Gilb, and John Montgomery

Last updated April 25, 2023