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Potato Canyon

New Mexico > Socorro Area
Access Issue: COVID-19 New Mexico Requirements - Updated Nov. 16, 2020 Details


Potato Canyon, in the Withington Wilderness of the San Mateo Mountains of west central New Mexico, is named for the rounded rock formations on the ridge northwest of the canyon. The biggest of these formations is called the Great Potato. A handful of smaller spires, the spuds, surround the Great Potato (a.k.a. Mount Ore Ida.)
The Great Potato and the Spuds are exotic pillars composed of reddish-brown, relatively crystal-rich ash-flow tuff erupted from the Mt. Withington cauldron. This tuff is densely welded and commonly contains numerous lithic inclusions; breccia containing andesite boulders present locally. For climbers this means relatively chossy rock with very few cracks or other opportunities for natural protection. But it does climb. The summit of the Great Potato is an intricate, super cool series of small bowls and has only been visited by a couple climbers ever.

Getting There

From the town of Magdelena, NM, drive west on Highway 60 for about 12 miles. Turn left onto the signed FR549 towards Mt. Withington. After about 4 miles go left onto FR138, following signs for Mt. Withington. About a mile short of the Mt. Withington lookout, park at the saddle at Cooney Gap at about 9,600’. This is the head of a side canyon of Potato Canyon. Head down this canyon cross-country and eventually intersect with a decent trail lower in the canyon for a total of about a about a mile to the 8,400’ level. Keep your eyes open for the Great Potato as you’ll get a good view.
At ca. 8,400’, leave the trail and contour to the S/SE to the formation (33.8793, -107.4661).
Alternatively you could do a much longer hike up Potato Canyon (4.5 miles) from Big Rosa Canyon to the east.

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Potato spotted on the approach from Cooney Gap
[Hide Photo] Potato spotted on the approach from Cooney Gap