The White Rock Region includes all of the town of White Rock and Pajarito Acres as well as the publicly-accessible LANL property south of town, east of NM 4, and west of White Rock Canyon. It also include the Tsankawi unit of Bandelier National Monument and anything visible from NM 502 east of the Y and NM 4 between the Y and White Rock. After the easier parts of the Los Alamos Region, this is the least physically demanding of the regions. Almost all of the hiking is reasonably flat and broken up into small portions. There are also numerous drive-up birding opportunities. Explore the interactive map below to see the major trailheads, birding hot spots, and recommended trails in this region. Descriptions of some recommended stops are below the map.
Lower Water Canyon / Lion Cave Canyon Loop Hike
Park at the Lower Water Canyon trailhead on the east side of NM 4. Follow the trail down hill (north) into the canyon for about 100’, then the trail makes an abrupt turn to the east and heads down-canyon. Head east for about a mile to the point where it crosses the central canyon wash just before entering a significant forest of tall ponderosa pines. Continue through the forest on the trail, keeping an eye on the mesa to the south. When the mesa ends, look for a trail heading to the south and follow it across the wash. This new trail (the Lion Cave Canyon Trail) curves back to the west and heads up Lion Cave Canyon for a mile back to NM 4. Turn right and follow NM 4 back to the car. Total hiking distance: ~2.5 miles
Drive through Overlook Park on the main road all the way to the overlook platform parking area at the end of the road. Park here and head out to the overlook platform. If you have a scope, this is a good place to use it. Please make a separate checklist for anything you see from here as everything in White Rock Canyon (including ducks on the river) belong on the River Region’s list.
Once finished scoping the river from the overlook platform, put the scope back in your vehicle and walk towards the waterfall, finding a trail that parallels the waterfall canyon’s southern rim. Follow this trail west to the water treatment plant. Walk a counter-clockwise route around the WTP and the adjoining baseball field to the west. Be sure to stop and bird the rim of the steep-walled canyon just downstream of the WTP, the riparian area around the effluent stream from the WTP, the dense shrubs around the NW corner of the WTP (look for White-crowned Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, and Lincoln’s Sparrow here), and the vines that grow along the western fence of the ball field.
If your team is not interested in a lot of walking, head back to the overlook platform by following the gravel trail on the south side of the main road. Otherwise, consider returning to the Canada del Buey wash behind the baseball field and following it upstream to just before Meadow Ln. Look for a dirt road that crosses the wash and turn left onto this road. Cross the main overlook road and find a trail that cuts south behind the row of houses. Follow this trail all the way to the Grand Canyon Bosque, then turn left and explore the bosque. From there, head generally northeast until you run into the rim of White Rock Canyon, and follow the trail along the rim back to the overlook platform and your vehicle.
Feederwatch @ 306 Donna
If arrangements with the Walkers have been made in advance, stop by 306 Donna and do a short feeder watch. In particular, try to get American Goldfinch and Common Grackle if the Walkers indicate that they’ve been around.
Estante Way Loop and Estante Rim Trail
Walk (or drive slowly with the windows down) the entire length of Estante Way and the little piece of Portrillo that makes it a loop. Total distance is about one mile. Try for Pinyon Jay, Curve-billed Thrasher, and Sage Thrasher. Several houses along this route have good feeders that are visible from the road. 406 Estante Way is birder-friendly and you can make a loop walk through their driveway. On the southwestern part of the loop, look for the poorly-signed trailhead for the Estante Rim Trail near a fire hydrant. Follow this trail out to the rim of Water Canyon, then turn left and follow the trail to its end at the overlook of Water and White Rock Canyons. Return the way you came. Total hiking distance on the rim trail is 0.8 miles round trip.
Feeders @ 6 Mariposa Ct.
If arrangements with the Shanklands have been made in advance, stop by 6 Mariposa Ct. and do a quick feeder watch.
Pigeons! Count the Pigeons!
As odd as it sounds, there are only three places in the count circle that are reliable for Rock Pigeons, and one of them is the intersection of NM 4 and Rover Blvd (the other two are Ashley Pond and the horse stables on North Mesa). There has been a group of roughly 15 pigeons that spend most of their time on the power lines near the gas stations here.
Grand Canyon Bosque
If you didn’t do the Grand Canyon Bosque as part of the bigger loop at Overlook Park, park at the intersection of Meadow Ln. and Grand Canyon. Look for a trail heading away from Grand Canyon between two houses. Follow this trail into a large patch of dense trees. Random trails work around the edges of this mini-forest, and a few poor trails work through the center of it. Total hiking distance: 0.5 miles.
Canada del Buey
Walk the Canada del Buey trail from Rover Blvd. to Meadow near Overlook Park. This is probably best done by dropping a car at one end then driving to the other and walking the trail one-way. Total distance: 0.8 miles.
Drive to the cul de sac at the end of Kimberley Rd. and hike the 0.1 mile out to the overlook. There is a reasonably dense thicket of trees and junipers immediately south of the cul de sac which is worth poking around in. Scope birds down in the Kimberley Plateau region (anything down in the canyon belongs in the River Region, so use a separate list, please). There is also a one mile trail that heads west from here and follows Pajarito Canyon all the way up to Grand Canyon Park, ending on Sherwood. Alternatively, there is a 1.25 mile trail from here heading east all the way along the rim to the Blue Dot Trailhead at Overlook Park (coincidentally, this path also takes you within spitting distance of the Grand Canyon Bosque). Either of these hikes would be good opportunities to use a car dropped off at the far end before beginning. For extra credit, do both hikes in sequence, starting at Grand Canyon Park and going all the way to Overlook Park in 2.25 miles, stopping to bird Kimberley Point half way through.
Portrillo Canyon Loop
Park at the Portrillo Canyon Trailhead just beyond Pajarito Acres on NM 4. Walk around the small mesa to the south on a network of good trails. Hike distances can be anywhere from 0.5 miles to 4 miles, depending on how far out on the mesa you want to go.
San Ildefonso Road Trip
Drive north on NM 4 out of White Rock into San Ildefonso lands. Look for raptors on the telephone poles. Stop at every pull out and do a point count for a minute or two (do not cross any fences). Stop at the Tsankawi parking area and do a point count there (there are some good deciduous trees around the park structure just inside the fence). Continue north on NM 4, merging onto 502 going towards Santa Fe/Espanola. Do a point count at the Totavi gas station and anywhere else you can safely pull off along this road. The circle boundary is reached at the big overhead sign just before the Espanola turnoff. Take the Espanola turnoff onto highway 30, find a place to turn around, then get back onto 502 going up hill and continue doing point counts at pull-outs.
Take the fork for White Rock and pull off at the “Y” parking area. Bird the little pond here. Drive back to White Rock. Since the primary thing to find on this excursion is going to be raptors on poles, it is a good choice for the afternoon slump in birding productivity.