In the lush alpine meadow that serves as the setting for KP Trailhead, there is little indication you could possibly start here and, in a reasonably short time, find yourself deep in a desert canyon.But that's exactly what happens.
Like all Wilderness and Primitive Area trails, the KP Trail (# 70) is open to hiking and livestock use, but all types of motorized and mechanized transport are prohibited.
From KP Cienega, with its stately spruces and emerald grasses, this 9 mile long trail traces the wandering course of the South Fork of KP Creek as it drops toward the Blue. As the trail switchbacks from meadow to stream, upland vegetation gives way to riparian community of Douglas fir and moisture loving hardwoods. About 3 miles into the trip, the trail drops sharply into a picturesque canyonscape where the South Fork and the North Fork join to form KP Creek. Each tributary celebrates this get-together with its own ten foot waterfall.
Below the confluence, the canyon deepens as steep cliffs rise from the floor of the gorge. Stream and trail descend together here, between red and gray rock walls, as clear pools alternate with shallow riffles. Crossings become too many to count. At a few points, the trail climbs out of the inner gorge to avoid difficult going, and in the process offers access to broad views and a number of prospective campsites.
For its last three miles, the KP Trail climbs out of the canyon to offer more great views. Riparian vegetation is replaced by high desert plants including prickly pear, cholla, yucca and scrub oak as the trail leaves behind the sheltered environment of the canyon for dryer, more exposed surroundings. Higher ground also brings broader views of Sawed-Off Mountain as well as of KP Canyon The vista widens to include Bear Mountain and the surrounding ridges of the Blue Range as the trail tops the ridge that separates KP and Steeple Creek Canyons. Views stretching into New Mexico form a panorama as KP Trail ends at its junction with Steeple Creek Trail atop the red, stony mesa.
0.0 KP Cienega Trailhead. Trail crosses meadow into the timber.
0.9 Trail crosses creek after two switchback descent.
2.7 Trail climbs out of canyon on north side.
2.9 Junction with North Fork KP Trail (# 93). Two waterfalls are directly downstream.
5.6 Junction with Blue Lookout Trail (# 71).
6.5 Junction with McKittrick Trail (# 72).
6.6 Trail crosses creek for the last time as it contours out of drainage bottom to the north.
9.4 Junction with Steeple Trail (# 73) at a gate. Mud Springs Corral is 1/8 mile away in Steeple Canyon.
At a Glance
May through October
No mechanized vehicles (including mountain bikes) permitted in Primitive Area.
Drive south from Alpine 28 miles on US 191 to the 1.3 mile road leading to KP Cienega Campground and the trailhead marked by a parking area and information kiosk.
There are trout big enough to fish for in the pools downstream of the confluence.
The KP Trail is accessible via a number of trails, including the North Fork KP Trail (# 93), the Blue Lookout Trail (# 71), and the McKittrick Trail (# 72), all of which provide additional access from US 191. The Steeple Trail (# 73) ( offers access from either US 191 or the Blue River Road, Forest Road 281. The first three trails combine with KP Trail to provide strenuous but manageable day hikes. A Steeple Creek/KP hike in one day would be long for most hikers at 17.2 miles.