for free!

The Best Hikes in White Mountain Wilderness

33 Triplog Reviews in the White Mountain Wilderness
Most recent of 10 deeper Triplog Reviews
9.25 mi • 2,700 ft aeg
With last weekend's storm in Colorado, Santa Fe Baldy was not to be. I ended up deciding that I should pay another visit to Sierra Blanca. I'm glad I did. This is a pretty nice little hike, and the top is a lot of fun. It feels like a true mountain summit.

For some reason, I wore shorts. I had planned to hike the south slope, as I did the last time, and descend the trail, but the wind was up, and I was not doing that when I got out of my car at the Windy Point scenic overlook on 532. With the trails open, and the cold air, I opted for a more enjoyable way. I was fine until near Lookout Mountain, as even in shorts the cold air was tolerable while moving with wind protection. After Lookout the wind made things a lot harder than I wanted. It was probably in the 30s on top. The wind really wasn't too bad, but the saddle accelerated it, and well...SHORTS!!

Snow in the trees was an unexpected find. It was like a freezer in the shade with the ice while hiking down. The summit is very green, very different from the Peaks, but being so steep and rocky, not like alpine in northern NM. Also, I spotted Elk mowing the south ridge, when I hiked a few hundred feet off the summit.

I added in some extra for Lookout, and the top excursion. I may not yet be over 12,000' for the year, but this was a fun hike and summit.
17.2 mi • 5,920 ft aeg
Three Rivers to Lookout Mountain 11580'
Of the three long hikes I did last Autumn, this was the one I did not repeat and I wanted to do again. It was a wait, but it was worth it, despite the high winds up high. It was also my first time at high altitude (>10,000') since my last hike here in early October. This was also a good fitness test hike for Santa Fe Baldy, which I hope to hike next week.

The lower parts are always enjoyable with the flowing water, the smells of the pine and the bird calls in spring. After I left US 54 I saw and heard no one for the entire time I was out, until I got back to 54. This might be a beautiful area, but it is lonely.

Higher up the smells transition to Doug and White Fir, and then Spruce and Elk, or their feces; hard to tell as they go hand in hand. I spotted several Elk, both in the upper end of the canyon and well below me in the same area as last fall. Evidence of herbivory is everywhere. I also saw what must have been a fox, not coyote, judging by it's tail, posture and huge ears, trotting across the ridge near the ski resort.

It was cold and windy on top, but the views were pretty good. I never planned on Sierra Blanca today, but the south views would not have been that great anyway, as there was dust from the basin hazing things out. Lots of snow still on Blanca, and you can really see just how rocky that peak is, despite trees nearly to the summit on the NE aspect. If it were not so windy here, it might be covered in trees.

Travel time was about the same as last time, but I started at 1125. Got back to my car at 805. It took me almost 5 hours to reach the top, but 15 minutes less than 4 to get down. Might have been faster, except my Altras are totally worn out.
17.2 mi • 5,920 ft aeg
Three Rivers to Lookout Mountain 11580'
I thought this was going to be longer in mileage, but I am happy with the elevation gain. I trust the GPS, and the map elevation readings, but it didn't feel like close to 6,000'. I trust it.

I started at 10 of 11 this morning. Even with the shutdown, I was able to park at the trailhead, as had numerous other vehicles. Wind was up slightly, but not too bad. I enjoyed the smell of the pines and the running water. It took longer than I thought it would to make the crest trail, close to 3 hours, but a lot of the elevation gain is made on this section.

Rounding on to the Crest Trail and exposed to the wind, the hiking was harder, but not due to the trail. I encountered a flowing spring on the ridge, which is incredible given how high up it is. Flowing to a gallon+ per minute, I say.

Much of the views from the Crest were destroyed by the Little Bear Fire in 2012, but it is still very scenic. The grass is lush, and some erosion has roughed things up a bit, but overall it is in good shape. Had it not been for the wind, and the grass and herbaceous vegetation bothering my legs and getting in to my shoes, this was my favorite stretch of trail. Well, except for the end.

When you reach trail # 78, most of the hike is done, and in reality the real hike is up to this point. This may be the nicest of the hike. It has a Kendrick Mountain (Flagstaff) feel to it. The spruce is very nice, and the grass short and shady, for the most part. Very nice to walk on. Reaching the ski lift marks just about the end, and then it is a short hike up to the 11,580' summit, with a round wind break and views. I summited at 15:35.

On this day, I started too late to do Sierra Blanca, and the wind was nasty enough that I wouldn't have wanted to summit. Views were pretty good, and dust wasn't up much at all. Up from Monday's flawless sky, but not bad considering.

Hiking down went a lot faster than I thought. Then again, the hike was 3 miles shorter than I originally expected. I was down in 3 hours 38 minutes, total. Nothing impressive, but I thought I would be out later.
2.6 mi • 1,170 ft aeg
I left Tucson Monday and drove to Carrizozo by way of Safford, Mule Creek, Datil, Socorro, and US 380 from San Antonio (New Mexico). This was done to make a loop out of the trip, plus I wanted to hit Socorro Springs Restaurant in Socorro to see if they had the beer I missed last trip back on tap. Unfortunately no. :( The trip was in conjunction with the longer adventure that Cindy and Bobby were on, with the focal point for our get together being the fireworks show at the New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamogordo on the 4th (We got onto the grounds for the show/tailgate with my VIP pass from being a museum member).

After a fun evening in Carrizozo, I checked out of the motel Tuesday morning and drove the short distance to Capitan for a stop at the Smokey Bear Historical Park (where Smokey is buried). This was a bit heavy, in lieu of what had occurred in Yarnell two days previous. From there it was down to the Ruidoso area via NM 48. This is where I got to see the extent of the 2012 Little Bear Fire that scorched about 44,000 acres and took out 254 buildings. I decided to try and find Cindy & Bobby, so turned up NM 532 and headed toward Ski Apache. Saw their tent at Oak Grove CG and played a hunch they might be attempting Sierra Blanca, so headed up toward the trailhead. A lot of the area along this road was burned, plus you could see the fire really torched Monjeau Peak (this area is still closed). To my surprise I ran into them at Windy Point Vista (nice to finally meet Bobby at 9800 feet in the middle of New Mexico :) ) They were indeed going to try for the peak, but a sign about a trail closure along the Crest Trail near Lookout Peak turned them back. Bobby's fallback plan was to do Nogal Peak (9957), which is very inviting with its conical shape. With it being late morning and not knowing what the weather would deal us, this was a good choice as we could make it a short hike from the northern terminus of Crest Trail #25 from the high point on FR 108. I loved this one: short and direct along a ridge with excellent views! :y: The weather cooperated (not so later in the day).

After the hike, they headed back for a 4th night of camping at Oak Grove, while I decided to follow FR 108 & 400 down through Nogal Canyon and back to the paved highways 37 & 48. By the time I got down to Ruidoso to eat and get some supplies, storms cut loose and made it impossible for me to go up and camp with them, so I got a room in Ruidoso instead. Next morning we regrouped at the ranger station in Ruidoso to gather information on the area, before heading to Cloudcroft. Some of my Tucson hiking friends are planning on going over there for camping/hiking later in July, so I needed to get information for them. The good news is that much of the fire damage was to the lower elevations, and the upper parts in the White Mountain Wilderness were mostly spared. And most everything was open with the exception of around Monjeau, as well as Bonito Lake and other City of Alamogordo owned/managed areas in Bonito Canyon. :)
8.4 mi • 1,865 ft aeg
Argentina - Bonito Loop
to start our week of new mexico fun, we decided on argentina canyon. there were two springs near our planned route, as well as a peak, a cabin, and a geocache for bobby. and oh, the flowers! :budrose: :kf: i was in serious tibber mode with all those flowers. the flowers were not only in the canyons, but on the ridge as well. so pretty!

we started up along argentina canyon trail #39 to artentina spring, where we didn't see a spring, but a pretty fenced off area. then we made our way on the crest trail. bobby wasn't counting on going up to argentina peak, but it was right there! i had to have somewhere for my peak beer. there isn't an actual trail up to the peak, but it wasn't a hard bushwhack, either. we came back down and continued on the crest trail to another junction, where we headed toward spring cabin spring. after that we bushwhacked for a while to get back up to the crest trail. we followed that to the junction with little bonito spring trail, then big bonito trail, and back to the trailhead.

great day! :FG:
12.6 mi • 2,375 ft aeg
Meetup Group hike out of Las Cruces... nice to finally get over and see a new area. Lots of burn damage, but the vista views were exceptional. Lung issues stopped me short of the peak; I guess it may not have been the flu in Hawaii... to linger this long... bacterial? Irritating to have to figure out what is going on... and to delay the fun training. Oh, well. Back up to the area Monday for another hit! I'll just go slow.
12.5 mi • 3,800 ft aeg
White Horse Hill 10255'
A really nice trail in an area I'll have to spend more time. Hiked to the top of White Horse Hill using trail #44. I think this is preferable to Sierra Blanca, as I can access it from the valley, it isn't 20+ miles RT, and the hill is seldom visited. I think Blanca in summer sees a few visitors. Also, the hill is milder/ warmer. Good views all the same.

I can't say enough positive about this trail and area. I even ran into a pretty big bear. It didn't seem to mind me, even after looking at me while I whistled at it. It ran away, which was good. It was my first sighting since Yellowstone in 2010, but really my first sighting since 2008 in Colorado. This was the closest I've ever come, 25 feet at most.

Time spent on the trail went fast, but was really, really enjoyable. Lots of birds, and the mixed conifer forest smelled great. Reminded me a little of the Dry Lake Hills, but the river was flowing. Flowing water is something you don't see here very often. The river was really washed out, probably from the big run-off 3 years ago. It would be nice to see that thing roaring in a big snow melt. Perhaps 2014 will be a bumper winter?
7 mi • 3,200 ft aeg
I couldn't live with myself if I didn't summit this before the year was out. I would have like to have done it while still dry, but it was a really nice day even with the ice and snow. The Little Bear Fire closure has the trails normally used to access the area closed, as well as the ski area-Ski Apache, but I came down that after dark. I don't think walking through the burned forest would have been that nice anyway, so I think I had a preferable hike. It was all off trail, and rough in spots, so I won't do a write up for this peak.

I parked at a side road that leads to Buck Mountain near 10,100, dropped down to the creek at 9600, crossed that and hiked to the summit across a steep wooded slope. I lost and regained a lot of elevation on the ridge coming up to the peak, and a GPS would have been great to track that. Oh well. I do not know if I would do that route again, as I think there might be better ways to access this off trail. Judging by the vegetation, it would be poor for a snowshoe summit, as the snow likely blows off, and the steep forest section reminded me a lot of La Plata Canyon in Colorado last winter, which was terrible for snow shoeing.

Great summit views, but I came down the north ridge and it was icy. Not fun without the right gear. Down through the ski area to one of the snow water lakes, and back to the car. Lots of up and down, and far colder than I hoped for. I might come back this winter to snowshoe in the spruce forest, but I am unsure of summiting the peak. Partly due to the nature of the ridge, but partly due to the ski area and what I have heard about access. There are other peaks, so I can still do something, but it won't be a Humphrey/ Peaks replacement.

This mountain feels a lot bigger than you might think, but it has been a while since I was up high. The drop off to the west is immense at nearly 8,000'! It was nice being back on volcanic rock. I would have liked to see the area before the fire, but what can you do. It is not as convenient as I had hoped, taking almost 2 hours for me to get to the area, and with the closure, access may be an issue for a while. I was reminded of how friendly and inviting the Peaks are, but they are too far away for a day hike. How often will I come up here? Only time will tell, but I doubt it will be a new Humphrey. Maybe more like a Fremont.
9.25 mi • 2,107 ft aeg
A climb to a magnificent peak with hiking buddy Crepuscular Ray from Tucson in 2004. We camped the night before at Oak Grove Campground at 8400 feet, only a few miles from the trailhead. The trail starts at the Ski Apache ski area and heads in a generally southerly direction to the summit.

Sierra Blanca is just shy of 12,000 feet at 11981. The mountain has a powerful presence and stands out for miles from most directions. It has the greatest prominence of any peak in the state, rising nearly 8000 feet above the adjacent Tularosa Basin and White Sands.

The hike is not difficult and rewards you with wonderful views. The weather was perfect on our day up.
19.25 mi • 7,000 ft aeg
living in Ruidoso at the time, I headed off towards the mountain on a whim... cross country, off trail. I took only a small pack with my sleeping bag and one Payday bar. Really, that was all the gear. No canteen, no nothing. It was a great hike. I sipped from streams or ate snow... and up higher simply licked water out of tiny pockets in the rock. Highlight of the hike was spending a number of hours stalking a group of deer seeing just how close I could get to them. I was proud of the fact that I made it to within about 20-30 yds. Finally deciding to move on I stepped out and they scattered. About 45 minutes later I got this very strange feeling, and turning found all seven deer walking right behind me in a nice line, within 20 feet of me! Scared the bejeezus out of me. To this day I can't figure out what was going on...

I continued to promise myself the reward of that Payday bar, but on the final day, reaching the summit, ended up being to dingy to remember I had it. Also, I was distracted because I'd projected hitting the ski lift for a ride down to the road to hitchhike home... turns out that the ski lift is on the adjoining mountain, not Sierra Blanca. I had an interesting snow bound traverse to make it over to the lift area.

The personnel over at the lift rewarded my efforts by evacuating me off the mountain in a sled pulled behind one of their skiers... with me strapped in, head downhill. They were not happy to see a hiker wandering onto the mountain in November... sans gear. My description of crab walking on all fours to keep from crashing through the snow was not a reasonable winter season technique... in their opinion.

It was a great outing... likely done in a very stupid manner. This year I'll return to the peak via the western trails... fully equipped. Doubt if it will be as much fun.

end of page marker