David Canyon, Turkey Trot Trail, Manzanita Mountains, Cibola National Forest, New Mexico
The bottom of David Canyon, with the Turkey Trot Trail at the extreme right.

David Canyon in the Manzanita Mountains


The Mars Court parking area is the starting point for the south end of the trail system in the Manzanita Mountains. The trails are obvious and easy, there's plenty of shade, and the terrain is forgiving. The trail intersections are carefully marked, so if you bring the local trail map you don't need a GPS. In other words, a great place for beginning hikers including kids. Many Manzanita Mountain trails are open to motor bikes but those at the south end of the system are for non-motorized travel only (horses, mountain bikes, hikers). The forest slopes west of Mars Court have been thinned, and are a pleasant mix of shady and park-like areas. Much of the bottom of David Canyon is a meadow.


To reach the parking area, get to Tijeras and then head south on NM 337. At the first safe spot past the intersection with NM 333, reset your trip meter to zero. About 8.6 miles later, at 34 deg. 59.317 min. N, 106 deg. 19.793 min. W, turn right onto Raven Road (for the previous 120 meters, there's a turn lane to decelerate in). 


Once safely past the turn, reset your trip meter to zero. Raven Road heads southwest but then curves west (right). Later it curves southwest (left), then northwest (right), then southwest and finally south (left). The street intersections are signed, so it's easy to stay on Raven Road despite these twists and turns. About 1.5 miles in, turn west (right) onto Mars Court. A bumpy 100 meters later you'll be at the parking area (at 34 deg. 59.045 min. N, 106 deg. 21.000 min. W). 


David Canyon, Manzanita Mountains, Manzano Mountains, Guadalupe Peak, Mosca Peak, Cibola National Forest, New Mexico
Looking down David Canyon to the Manzano Mountains. Mosca Peak on the left, Guadalupe Peak on the right.


Once parked, you have three immediate choices. The steepest and fastest route to the bottom of David Canyon is the Wild Turkey Trail (5161). For a gentler route to the canyon bottom, follow FR 530 northwest out of the far end of the parking lot. The third option, the Turkey Trot Trail (5162), heads south from the near end of the parking lot and maintains its elevation for a while, then drops into David Canyon about a mile and a half (as the raven flies) from the trailhead. You can combine these and other trails, all shown on the local hiking map, to create a variety of loop hikes. 


The photos shown on this page were taken on May 27, 2018. We headed south on the Turkey Trot Trail, crossing the bottom of David Canyon, and headed north on the More Turkey Trail (5643). We then took FR 530 back to the trailhead. West of the canyon bottom there were multiple spots recently charred by a forest fire, but not enough so to make the hike unpleasant. According to my Garmin, the hike was 7.7 miles long and included 900 feet of ascent and descent. Even though it was the Memorial Day Weekend, in five and a half hours of hiking we encountered only four other people: two solitary mountain bikers and a pair of hikers.


The only water we saw was at a rain collector and wildlife drinker at 34 deg. 57.953 min. N, 106 deg. 21.509 min. W, about 250 meters north of where the Turkey Trot Trail crosses the bottom of David Canyon. The collector/drinker setup was interesting enough to warrant the minor detour, but the water was quite skanky. For humans, this is an emergency water source only; this close to the trailhead, if I was out of water I'd simply walk back to the car.


Turkey Trot Trail, Manzanita Mountains, Cibola National Forest, New Mexico
The Turkey Trot Trail snakes through the center of this photo, among mature Ponderosa pines and young oak scrub.


Be sure to respect the boundaries of the military reservation to the west and Isleta Pueblo to the south. In the bottom of David Canyon, you can hike south about a mile before reaching the Isleta Pueblo boundary.