Q: Would it be an overdo to drive the Ladrone leg and end up at Bosque for sunset?
A: There are a couple of things to consider before driving around Ladron between I-40 and Magdalena. It’s dirt roads all the way. There are almost no signs. At most places where two dirt roads meet, it is *probably* obvious which way to go but people react differently in such situations. I drove for many miles thinking “am I on the right road?” At one point I had trouble with the truck and thought I would be stuck miles from nowhere.
The lack of signs was particularly a problem in finding Riley, which I passed several times, seeing it on a high point I couldn’t seem to reach.
Finally, one has to drive through the Rio Salado a few times on this route (only once, if one can’t find Riley). It may be completely dry right now. When I crossed, I was hesitant more because of sand than water.
If I were recommending a more cautious approach, I’d come up from Magdalena and turn back at the Rio Salado — that’s the prettiest stretch. Sadly, even here I had the complication of not being able to find the route directly out of Magdalena (but then, of course, I was unwilling to ask for directions), so I went too far west and wrapped around to the east to hit that route north of town. Ask at the Ranger Station on the main street (which is never open when I pass through).
All those things aside, I found it a wonderful drive. Still, it would be impressive to time it so well as to hit Bosque del Apache at the right time.
There is another option altogether (many others). Go towards Bosque del Apache. Get off at San Antonio, but don’t turn south to the Bosque (yet). Instead, keep heading east-southeast towards Carrizozo. Stop at the Valley of Fires lava flow — there are a couple of short hikes right there by the campground. One could go on to Carrizozo — I hear there is at least one great burger place there (plus two good ones in San Antonio). Although from Carrizozo one could look for ghost towns to the north (White Oak) — another long loop back to Albuquerque– or the Lincoln Nat’l Forest to the east or Three Rivers Petroglyphs to the south, these require longer days. Regardless, double back to San Antonio and then head south to Bosque for sunset (allowing a half hour or more for that last part before Bosque).