Day 3: Lost Lake trail. We drove uphill (and some downhill) on NM 538 from Red River, east and south, 6 miles to the end of the pavement, then another mile or more on a gravel road to the trailhead parking area. When we got there, about 7:30 am, there were two cars in the lot, and both had obviously been there overnight, so we had the trail to ourselves, apart from backpackers who were on the trail before us.
The first part of the trail is a former jeep road, and used to be accessible to ATVs, but the Forest Service has closed it to motorized vehicles, which is good because they are not really compatible with hikers. This stretch of the trail goes along, or at least near, the Middle Fork of the Red River, which is the main tributary. In 1.7 miles (according to the trail map), we reached the junction with the Middle Fork trail. It took us a bit less than an hour to walk that stretch. There is a small waterfall where the Middle Fork trail crosses the stream.
The Lost Lake trail heads the other direction, and continues more or less northeastward, switching back and forth up a mountain. The trail is steep, but not that steep – less steep than the Pioneer Creek trail. We decided the switchbacks were a good thing.
Eventually the trail skirted around the east side of the mountain we were climbing and headed south. There were great views of the surrounding mountains.
The trail guide that we got from the visitor information place in Red River said the trail was 5 miles total, so after 2 ½ hours on the trail, I started thinking we were nearly there. But the trail kept going. I had hiked this trail once before, but that was in the summer of 2000, so 18 years ago, and I didn’t remember much about it. We eventually passed a group of backpackers (who appeared to be older than I am) who said, yes, you are nearly there. By the time we got there it had taken 3 ½ hours, so Jeff and I decided it was considerably more than 5 miles – more like 6 ½ miles. It took us only 2 ½ hours to go down.