Mangan Hill (highpoint) and Outlier Hill (bump on left flank)

Covid constraints getting tiresome? Near Socorro? This sunny, short and agreeably lonesome outing is exactly what the doctor ordered. An early start will get you back home in time for some well earned barbecue!

This is a real desert ramble. You will want to be comfortable navigating in this sort of environment and take your desert gear, especially extra water!

Driving Directions:

Drive to Socorro, NM on Interstate-25 (I-25)

  • If you are coming from the north (e.g. from Albuquerque) 
    • Take Exit 150 from I-25.
    • After 0.4 miles on the off ramp, at the stop light on the ramp end, go straight ahead onto California Street.
    • After 1.3 miles on California St, at a stoplight, go right onto Spring St.
  • If you are coming from the south (e.g. from Las Cruces)
    • Take Exit 147 from I-25.
    • After 0.7 miles the ramp “invisibly” segues onto California Street, reset your odometer as you go past the first gas station.
    • After 0.6 miles on California St, at a stop light, turn left onto Spring Street.
  • After 0.6 miles on Spring St, at the first stop sign, go left onto US-60 West (signed).
  • After 5.9 miles on US-60, at the end of a long guard rail on the south side of the road ( left), turn left onto road marked by a stop sign but without a street sign. The unnamed road is initially paved, but turns to gravel in about 50 feet, just after the first cattle guard. There you will want to bear left at a fork.
  • After 1.5 miles on the unnamed road, immediately past the second cattle guard, turn right onto an abandoned mine road (Minetop Road, unsigned) and park. 
Designated Routes

The unnamed road has a lot of clay and reports say it is a chore to drive when wet. Also, it crosses two arroyos that should be no problem on 363 days of a normal year. Beware of gully washers on the other two days. Roadbed washouts have been reported. 

A family sedan could drive another quarter mile on the mining road, but this land is posted with signs asking the public to stay on designated roads. It is unlikely that the old mining road retains any official designation, so please park at its entrance.


Mangan Hill Trailhead

The parking spot is a dirt pad at the junction of the unnamed main road and the mining road. There are no services. There is no water here! If other cars are already taking up the available space then pull up the mining road and park to the side.


  • lowest point: 5315 feet
  • highest point: 6175 feet
  • net elevation: 860 feet
  • distance: 3.9 miles (entire loop)

Hike Description:

Mining road on Mangan Hill

Follow Minetop Road as it heads straight at Mangan Hill. Enjoy the gentle grade and good footing as those features will not last long. After a quarter mile the grade steepens, but never demands more than what the mining trucks of yore could manage. After half a mile Minetop Road merges with a second road and continues its assault on the hill. (Looking at the map it appears that you could return to the trailhead by descending either road).

View to Socorro Mountains from Minetop Road

At 0.8 miles the road rounds the hill to the north and provides terrific views of the Socorro Mountains, just a few miles away. An old mining excavation slashes into the hard rock on your left. The road then angles up and becomes more of a challenge. Switchbacking to an almost level contour at 1.0 miles, Minetop Road ends by whipping back uphill to reach a turn-back loop next to the topmost mine. This is a dandy outing and could not be easier to follow to this point. If you are not certain of your back-country navigation skills then this would be a great place to turn back.

The Plains of La Jencia (Magdalena Mts on left)

Those with navigation experience will leave Minetop Road and follow the faint traces of a washed-out track that leaps to the first (of three) false summits. This is steep terrain and unforgiving of poor foot placement. Take your time; stop and look around. Views of the Socorro Mountains, the Plains of La Jencia and the northern Magdelana Mountains are amazing.

View from second false summit into the dry basin

The top of Mangan Hill is a zig-zag of false summits. From where you are, on the first false summit, zig southwest to the second false summit, zag northwest to the third false summit, then zig back southwest to gain the real summit. These are mere bumps on the top of the hill but are worth ascending. Blaze a path among the mesquite and prickly pear to drop down to the saddle between the first and second false summits, then climb the second false summit. This has a broad, flat top which the cattle seemed to find very pleasing. You will have to study your footing to avoid both the loose rocks and the enormous cow patties. It is worth going past the false summit a little to the south to look into the dry basin south of Mangan Hill. You will be crossing that basin on the return leg of this loop. 

View to Mangan Hill’s true summit and to distant Timber and South Baldy Peaks

For now, turn northwest and drop into the saddle connected the second and third false summits. The ascent to the third false summit is trivial, but it overlooks a complex mining operation on the west side of the Chupadara Hills. From this last false summit drop down to the southwest to get to the foot of the summit block and ascend to the true summit. There is a summit cairn, but I did not find any summit register. From this local high point you’ll find an unparalleled view into the rough terrain that breaks up the Plains of La Jencia to the south, to the east lies the green stripe of the Rio Grande and then more rough terrain in the form of the Quebradas (“broken”) Backcountry. The west is dominated by the Magdalena Mountains. It may appear as if a dark, broad peak (Timber Peak) is the high point of the Maggies, but the true highpoint in the Magdelanas is the open slopes of South Baldy just to the right of Timber. 

Outlier Hill from southerly ridge

Cross the summit and follow the long ridge that descends to the south. As you descend take a few moments to study the dry basin on your left. You are descending on the basin’s west side. When you get to the low point on the west rim you will cross the basin and rise to a saddle on its east rim. This rim is anchored by a distinctive, conical hill. On this date it helped to think of it as “Outlier Hill” since it was prominent enough to be distinct from the main mass of Mangan. Watch for the rare desert sheep that frequent these hills. I did not see any but reports say that you can sometimes find them if you make the hike early in the morning.

Outlier Hill from bench above the dry basin

At two miles from the trailhead arrive at the west saddle. Pick a path and drop down into the bottom of the bowl. Raptors love to find you out here, since you’re scaring the local prey animals. One large hawk circled for about 15 minutes but gave it up a bad job when I started climbing to the east side saddle. Drought seems to be making the hunting difficult. 

Abandoned mine

Once you’ve gained the eastern saddle turn east (right on ascent) and follow the rim towards Outlier Hill. There are several abandoned mining claims on this ridge. Apparently none of mines produced enough to warrant road building, but a staggering amount of earth and rock was moved in these trenches and holes. I did not see any that were deep enough to be a concern, but there are others in the lower part of the hike that could be traps for the unwary.

Remains of a windbreak on Outlier summit

On the summit of Outlier Hill, 2.6 miles from the trailhead, find the remains of an old windbreak. The miners may have enjoyed their lunch breaks up here. Just below the summit of Outlier Hill on the east side there is a mystery cairn. I scouted around a bit but never found out what the cairn was meant to flag. The descent to the east from Outlier is on terrain that shelves-and-drops repeatedly. The drops tend to be covered with loose rock but the shelf portions can be pleasant walking. At 3.2 miles, as you near a small arroyo, there is a second mystery cairn. Again, it was not obvious exactly what was flagged. You regain views north to the Socorro Mountains, proving that you’ve circled around Mangan Hill and now only need to cross the valley bottom to get back to the car. The terrain is so open that you will probably spot the car before this, but if you are a little uncertain then head north where Minetop Road will return you to the trailhead.


As mentioned above, a ramble in the desert is a sovereign cure for covid claustrophobia. 

Navigation in this open terrain is not especially hard, but it would still pay to have a GPS with you.

These hills are windy. Toasty in the spring and summer, but doubtlessly cold in the winter months.

It is a short hike, so I only went through a single liter of water. Bring more in the warmest months. 

I heard nothing that rattled on this trip, but this terrain might, in other years, be home to rattlers. Ballistic gaiters are a comfort in that regard and also offer terrific protection against mesquite and cacti.

A shovel could be handy if the County has recently graded the unnamed road and left a berm.


The Lists of John has a photo of a USGS marker that names the hill as “Mangan Benchmark”. I did not find the marker on this date.

Peakbagger lists three previously recorded ascents of Mangan, but there isn’t any detail in the trip reports.

Driving directions and a brief description of hiking Minetop Road is available at: BLMCrossCountry.Home.Blog

The Diggings website lists copper, lead, manganese, silver and gold as minerals mined in Socorro County. Conceivably, miners may have found manganese on Mangan hill.