Archives for posts with tag: hiking in new mexico
View from Mesa Trail: Timber Peak (left), South Baldy (center) and North Baldy (right).

This 9-mile, figure-8 trail offers a splendidly shaded workout in the Magdalena Mountains. Going counter-clockwise, the lower loop ascends a canyon to reach the mesa top. There you can either stroll up a connector onto the mesa-top loop or you could just descend the lower loop (for a shorter day). Either way, the return path bounces down between vertical cliff bands – a workout! Go if you are introducing a newcomer to New Mexico’s mountains, training while the crest lies under snow, or simply need to stretch out your legs.

There are at least five unsigned trail junctions, do bring maps.

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San Gregorio Reservoir (extreme right) and Nacimeinto Peak

HIke to a high-country pond on a new and splendidly engineered portion of the Continental Divide Trail (CDT). Streams rush, deer abound, pines tower and the views amaze.

Never worry about being lonesome. Forest Road 70 brings travelers to a campground near the reservoir. On most weekends you will finish the last half mile in the company of fishermen, youth groups, CDT thru-hikers and more. 

Some peaks in New Mexico are “sky islands”, whereas the San Pedro Mountains offers a “sky subcontinent”. There is so much to see – it can be wrenching to return after just one day’s exploration!

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View to North Baldy (second from left) from the North Baldy Trail


Topping out at 10,673 feet the Magdalena Range offers a variety of life zones, cool canyon bottoms, a sunny crest, views across the immensity of mid-state New Mexico and even an astronomical observatory – providing much to contemplate. All of this (except for the observatory) is on display in this long, lasso-shaped trek.

The word “long” is the operational superlative. The hike covers 20 miles with a summed-ascent of 6,800 feet. Through-hikers may not be impressed, but most folks will want some training-up before making the attempt.

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shows the highpoint of the hike
South Baldy summit block seen from the Magdalena Crest

This loop route climbs east in Copper Canyon, bops north on the Copper Canyon Spur Trail, traverses south on the crest of the Magdalena Mountains, bags South Baldy, and plummets down Water Canyon. Access is easy, the views are fantastic, the route is well shaded and the trails are in good shape.

A caveat: there is some road walking. It begins at the trailhead with a two mile stroll on FR 235 and ambulates the Water Canyon Campground roads for a mile to the Copper Canyon trailhead. This, the dullest part of the hike, is over quickly. The second road walk descends FR 235 from South Baldy for 1.3 miles to the South Baldy Trail departure. The views on the second stretch are great.

This is a terrific workout. Grab those boots and go!

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Abrigo Peak (far left) and Redondo Peak (right) seen from the road up to the rim


The Valle Caldera National Preserve (VCNP) occupies a tremendous bowl cupped by the Jemez Mountains. One and a quarter million years ago a large volcano underwent a super-eruption and left this vast footprint behind. In subsequent years the slopes mellowed, forests cycled through fire and regrowth (fire now ascendent) while broad montane grasslands open to wide-sky vistas. 

There are some designated horse-riding trails in the caldera but few hiking trails. The rule for hikers seems to be, “pick a direction and go”. For that reason your hike will likely differ from the stroll described here. My target was to get to the high point on the Caldera rim. The plan was to cross the Caldera, hike up to the rim and camp, summit Chicoma Peak on the second day and return to the trailhead on the third. Some dry creek beds and monsoon weather rubbished this plan, but that is a trivial complaint. Being in the Valle Caldera is its own splendid reward. Go.

Edit: a reader has pointed out a recently published guide to the VCNP. Could be useful although I haven’t seen it yet. A description cab be found here: My thanks to mtngrrl!

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Approach to Chupadera Peak ridgeline


This easily accessed, moderate, out-and-back hike propels you into the heart of the Chupadera Wilderness Area. The eye could be captured by the many surrounding mountain ranges: the Magdalena Mountains, Socorro Mountains, Manzano Mountains, Oscura Mountains and the Fra Cristobal Mountains. For most, however, the Rio Grande River will ensnare the eye – a slender green filament fluttering against New Mexico’s sere heartland. The trail traverses river bottom, winds through dramatic cliffs and summits on a windy ridge line. Tuck a few family members in the car for a sunny march and a great break from covid confinement.

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