I'm hiking Dog Canyon this Saturday, meeting at 0930 at the parking area in the State Park. There is a vehicle fee at the park. We can meet at the park, or in Alamogordo if local or Cruces/ El Paso if over there, and then car pool and split the fee amongst riders.
This is what would be considered a Strenuous Hike up a steep and challenging grade. My expectation is to hike to the west side road, not to Sunspot, unless time allows and the group desires. Expect 7 to 9 hours of hiking, temps from near 90 in the afternoon near the bottom and in the 70s up high. Wind forecast unknown.
Expect about 12 miles round trip, with about 3000' of elevation gain. I did Organ Needle on 3/31, and had a round trip hiking time of 5 hour 15 minutes, plus 30 minutes on the summit, so this is not a beginner hike.
Here is Mike's HAZ write-up:
For a very simple and super scenic experience, simply enjoy hiking up as far as you desire and turn around to enjoy the downhill trek back to the car. The views in reverse are exceptional, and that is what the lower half of this hike is all about: fantastic views, ever changing with the elevation and more over, the weather.
The official trail departing from Oliver Lee State Park is T106... and it leaves from the visitor center, climbing steadily up the right side of Dog Canyon. A nice way to experience this hike is to arrive a day early and camp in the park, checking out the museum displays at the visitor center and the lower riparian area trails. There is a very interesting history to the canyon... including early settlers, Indians, armies and the like.
T106 gains altitude steadily as it winds up through what most consider the most scenic canyon in the Sacramento Mountains... with gradients up to 25%. 2.9 miles up the trail, the route drops down and crosses the canyon drainage, and you will encounter the ruins of an historic stone cabin. If the seasonal rains are in force, you will gifted with some spectacular waterfalls above the cabin site...
From this point on, the trail climbs more steeply up to and along the towering cliff edges of the canyon. Gradients may average 20% to 50%, with uncertain footing along some of the areas, but the climb is well worth the effort. As you move below the prominent cliff known as the Eyebrow, the views of the surrounding canyon and the valley far below reward you with a well earned vista.
The trail moves along and past then up and over and out of the canyon proper, taking you to a meadowed shelf above the cliffs... and climbing into scrub forests. At mile 5.5 you reach the end of T106, and turn right on to Forest Road 90B. Following F90B for 2.9 miles takes you to the intersection of F90 and the trail connection to T234 immediately across the road. This trail will climb you up through the Pines and mixed hardwoods to the very top of the mountain range. After 1.6 miles this very steep trail will terminate at the Old Sunspot Road (T105B) where you will turn left and follow the old roadbed around to a gated fence. At the fence, turn to the right, following the fence over to a pedestrian gate. At the gate you are in site of and 100 yds from the visitor center on top of Sacramento Peak.. and in the Sunspot Solar Observatory complex.