Beta - Breaker Box (3A II)

by Brett Kettering

Getting There

[This part of the directions is common to both Breaker Box and River Beach canyons]

I'll assume that everyone knows about NM 599 (the Santa Fe Bypass between I-25 and NM 285/84). All GPS coordinates are given in WGS 84 decimal format. Follow these directions to get out to River Beach, Breaker Box, Arroyo Montoso, Frijoles Opposite and Rock canyons. After step 6, your path will be different depending on your destination.

1) Take Exit 6 off NM 599 and get to the Frontage Rd. on the NW side (this is the exit for Co Rd 62). See this Google Map view. Go through the roundabout so that you are heading SW on the Frontage Rd. Reset your trip odometer just as you exit the roundabout. The GPS coordinate is N35.65974 W106.03824.

2) Proceed SW down the Frontage Rd. to Caja Del Rio Rd. (you can see it on the link above). Your trip odometer reading should be 1.3 miles. The GPS coordinate is N35.64750 W106.05567.

3) Turn right onto Caja Del Rio Rd. and go north past the Marty Sanchez Golf Course (on the west, your left) until you come to Co Rd 62 on the west (left). You will also pass Co Rd 62 on the east (right) before getting to the part that goes west. See this Google Map view. Make the left onto Co Rd 62 West. Your trip odometer reading should be 4.2 miles. The GPS coordinate is N35.68512 W106.07169. This is the first good place to leave some cars.

4) Go west past the dump. Here there will be a "Y" in the road. The left branch goes to a picnic area. The right branch is Nf-24. Take the right branch onto Nf-24. See this Google Map view. Your trip odometer reading should be 5.4 miles. The GPS coordinate is N35.68956 W106.09132.

5) Continue NW on Nf-24. It will start to bend and turn to head mostly west. You will cross over cattle guards with some branch roads off of Nf-24 at 6.4 and 6.6 miles.

6) When your trip odometer reading is 11.1 miles, you’ll be at GPS coordinate is N35.74151 W106.17324. To the right is a road that goes over a cattle guard and heads out to the northeastern part of the Caja del Rio. This is Nf-24N. See this Google Map view.

The Canyon

Breaker Box Canyon is west of River Beach Canyon on the Caja del Rio. It also empties into the Rio Grande, a bit south and opposite of where Ancho Canyon empties into the Rio Grande from the White Rock side of the river. There are high voltage power lines that cross over the Rio Grande between the White Rock side and the Caja del Rio side. They run just on the east side of Breaker Box Canyon. Staying in the water flow makes this canyon a 3AII. There are 6 rappels, the longest of which is ~45’.


While this canyon is normally dry, with a handful of avoidable water holes, it is obvious that at times a large volume of water flows through this canyon. The Chino Mesa area is a large watershed. If you can see thunderstorm activity, it would be wise to stay out of this canyon.


There are four entry ravines into Breaker Box Canyon, but we have only explored one thus far. This is the ravine on the east side and furthest north. There are a couple of parking options for using this ravine entry.

Getting to Breaker Box Canyon isn't difficult, but it takes a while. The dirt road has deep ruts in places, your car will brush some bushes and trees (so if you absolutely don't want to take a chance scratching your paint, don't bring that car), and you have to cross a couple of rocky washes. I made it in my Honda Element, but had to pick my path carefully at times. I haven’t been out there since the Monsoons of September 2013, but I hear that the roads are worse now.

After following the generic "Getting There" directions above, you should now be at an odometer reading of 11.1 miles and GPS coordinate N35.74151 W106.17324.

1) Turn to the right and cross the cattle guard. This is where the road really narrows, the deep ruts start to appear, the bush/tree rubbing begins, and you encounter the rocky washes. Just before this turn-off is another good place leave some cars.

2) Continue west to the "Y". Take the right branch (NNW) of the "Y". See this Google Map view. Your trip odometer reading should be 11.6 miles.

3) At 13.2 and 13.7 miles you will have to pass through some rocky washes. Pick your lines carefully, go slowly, but keep moving. Continue NNW past a branch west (left, Nf-24N-B). Your trip odometer reading should be 13.8 miles. The GPS coordinate is N35.75529 W106.19781.

Parking Option 1: To park near the exit ravine if you exit by coming back up Breaker Box Canyon.

4) Stay on the left fork (Nf-24N-B) and it will turn west. Continue a short distance until you are on the road that runs under the power lines. That road will head NNW. Drive under the power lines until you reach the point where the road descends into a ravine, N35.76427 W106.20644. If you have a high clearance 4WD you could go down into the ravine and up the other side to a parking near the entry ravine. If not, park before descending into the ravine and then hike under the power lines until you reach the entry ravine at N35.76779 W106.20855.

Parking Option 2: To park near the River Beach Canyon exit if you exit by hiking up the Rio Grande to River Beach Canyon’s end point.

4) Stay on the right fork (Nf-24N) and it will turn north and then NNE. Continue until you come to a “Y”. The right branch, Nf-24-N-G, goes to the River Beach Canyon entry point. The left branch goes to the trailhead where you will exit River Beach Canyon. The two end-points are not far apart. Your trip odometer reading should be 14.6 miles. The GPS coordinate is N35.76636 W106.19769.

5) Take the left branch and go to the River Beach Canyon exit. The GPS coordinate is N35.77359 W106.19492.

From here, turn south and hike down that road for a bit over a mile to where you reach the high power wires overhead, N35.76699 W106.20725. Navigate to the entry ravine entrance at N35.76779 W106.20855.

Endeavor to stay in the water line from this point on. Shortly you will come to the first rappel at N35.76659 W106.21088. Those comfortable with their down climbing skills can down climb this directly (in fact, all the rappels can be down climbed, though for most of them you have to go out of the water line and up one side of the canyon or the other). It's only about a 10' rappel, but hey, it's rappelling and it's fun. The anchor we built is in the water line. It is a knot chock in a crack and backed-up with a loop through a pinch point on which we stacked other rocks.

Not too much further down canyon you'll come to rappel 2 at N35.76645 W106.21130. This is ~20' off a tree.

Shortly following this rappel you'll encounter the 3rd and highest rappel for this route at N35.76635 W106.21150. It is ~45' and anchored by a wrap around a large boulder that allows you to stand on a nice flat shelf to start the rappel. The edge is a bit sharp, so you may want to pad the edge with something or move the contact point for each rappeller.

Now you'll work your way down canyon for a bit. The 4th rappel is at N35.76566 W106.21315. This one is anchored with a wrap around a really solid pinch point. You can get on rappel right at the anchor or at a couple of easily accessed shelf stances below the anchor. The vertical part of the rappel is only ~15', but it takes about 25' of rope from the anchor to the bottom. The wall is pretty crumbly mud and rock. So, once you're down, step back away from the bottom of the rappel.

Looking down canyon you can see the tree near the edge of the 5th rappel that deposits you into the main canyon. The rappel is anchored on this tree at N35.76555 W106.21334. This is ~10' and again the wall is crumbly mud and rock.

Head down canyon. You'll encounter an easy down climb over some boulders, then another that is a high angle slope with plenty of rocky protrusions to provide good traction. Finally, you'll come to about 8' wall with a small pothole at the bottom. To LDC, face the wall and climb down onto the face and work your way further to LDC and onto the ground.

Just a little further down canyon you'll come to the last rappel. There are several large boulders to use for anchors. We picked one the size of a large tortoise and rappelled off of that. It took 50' of rope to reach the bottom, but the vertical part of the rappel itself is maybe 30' - 35'. If you return by coming back up the canyon, you can climb around this rappel. On LDC you can easily climb the wall 10' onto a shelf. Keep going to the right and you'll see a crack just the right size for a human body. Climb up in that crack to the next level. Finally, one more small pitch puts you at a point where you can walk behind a large mound and down the other side to the top of the rappel.

After this rappel you'll go through a small slottish portion of the canyon, then it will open up and you'll just walk down the water line until you reach the Rio Grande.

There are two options for exiting this canyon: 1) Back up canyon; and 2) Up the Rio Grande to the River Beach Canyon exit.

For option 1, just hike back up Breaker Box Canyon. The trickiest part is up climbing around the last rappel that I previously described. Keep going up canyon beyond where you did the 5th rappel to enter the main canyon. Not too much further, you'll take a ravine on LDC (or RUC, depending on perspective) at N35.76470 W106.21359. Just walk up this water line and exit at N35.76526 W106.20769, which is the ravine you walked (or drove) through to reach the entry ravine. You should be pretty near to being under the high voltage lines and be able to see your car.

For option 2, hike up along the river until you reach the point where River Beach Canyon empties into the Rio Grande, N35.78450 W106.20206. Walk up River Beach Canyon until you reach the established trail at N35.78344 W106.19851 that exits the canyon to the top of the mesa. Head back to where you parked or left a shuttle car.