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New Mexico Trail Wheeling - Jaws Of Death

Posted in Events on November 19, 2008
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Jaws of Death lies within a sandstone canyon, with walls that range from tens to hundreds of feet. In the background, you can see the shelf road that bypasses an impossibly tall ledge.

As winter was setting in, many of our favorite trails were getting too cold or wet to traverse. New Mexico experienced an unusually warm autumn, though, so we met up with members of the New Mexico Virtual Jeep Club for some trail action. Our destination was a trail called Jaws of Death. The history is just as colorful as the name, which comes from two distinct obstacles that are barely wide enough for a Jeep and stick up like shark's teeth from the ground.

The trail was originally discovered a dozen years ago, when a member of the New Mexico 4-Wheelers was searching by air for a downed helicopter. He spotted the canyon and noted its location, returning by land with fellow Jeepers. Finding the trail is still a challenge today and requires navigating 18 miles of dusty two-track through remote cattle land. Apparently, few Jeepers ever make the trek, as the trail looks nearly unused.

The trip is worth it, as you are rewarded with excellent rockcrawling and breathtaking views of classic New Mexico scenery. Jaws of Death starts down a sandstone canyon that gets taller and narrower as you continue. The terrain is similar to Las Cruces, with easy arroyos interrupted by rock ledges of varying heights. It's necessary to come back up the ledges to get out of the canyon; some spots are easier, with gravity on your side, while others are harder. After traversing five of these ledges, you arrive at the signature Jaws obstacles.

We chose to have lunch at this location before turning around and heading out the same way we came in. The trail continues on and gets worse from this point, but with the short winter days, we did not have time to play in the big rocks. While it would have been fun, our feelings were not hurt, as we now have an excuse to return to Jaws of Death in the future.

For more info on trail rides in the area, check out the New Mexico 4-Wheelers' and New Mexico Virtual Jeep Club's Web sites ( and, respectively).

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