New Mexico June 28, 2017
9 Untamed Places In New Mexico You Need To Explore This Summer
Have you ever wondered what the world was like before the presence of humans? Obviously, it’s impossible to experience that. However, visiting our nation’s wilderness areas provides a taste of untamed and untouched land. If you’re tempted to veer off the beaten path this summer – and then keep going – consider visiting one of New Mexico’s pristine wilderness areas.
1. Apache Kid Wilderness (near Magdalena)
Named for a US Cavalry scout turned renegade, this wilderness area spans 44,626 acres between Socorro and Truth or Consequences. It’s one of the most untamed spots in New Mexico - you’ve probably never even heard of it! Getting here is no picnic, which is why it remains so untouched. From I-25, you trundle along NM-1 to the Springtime Campground, the best access point, and from there you can hike up San Mateo Peak.
2. Ojito Wilderness (near San Ysidro)
The colors and dramatic landscapes of the Ojito Wilderness will leave you breathless. There aren't any real trails through this 11,143 acres wilderness, but it's a great - if somewhat disorientating - place to explore. To get there, take US-550 then turn off onto Cabezon Road.
3. Aldo Leopold (near Hillsboro)
There's pristine land and then there's the Aldo Leopold Wilderness, the third biggest expanse of wilderness in New Mexico at 203,524 acres. The area encompasses some of the Black Range; part of the Continental Divide Trail crosses through it as well. A good hike here is Hillsboro Peak (just under 10 miles round trip), which can be reached from Emory Pass (off NM-152).
4. Cebolla Wilderness (near Grants)
Close to El Malpais National Monument, this wilderness area consists of a higgledy-piggledy 61,600 acres. Try the Narrows Rim hike that, at 6 miles round trip, gives you a new perspective on La Ventana.
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To reach this lovely spot, take NM-117.
5. Chama River Canyon Wilderness (near Abiquiu)
This 50,300-acre wilderness centers around the stunning Rio Chama and its dramatic scenery. There aren't many hiking opportunities here, but the Ojitos Trail, which is 12 miles round trip, is worth exploring. To access this wilderness, take Forest Road 151 (but only in good weather).
6. San Pedro Parks Wilderness (near Cuba)
The San Pedro Parks Wilderness is one of the more accessible wilderness areas in New Mexico. Its 41,132 acres include plenty of trails leading to green meadows and forests. Drive up NM-126 then transition to Forest Road 70. After that, take the Gregorio Lake trailhead, which is the easiest way to reach the wilderness in terms of physical exertion.
7. Capitan Mountains Wilderness (Carrizozo)
The bear cub who went on to become known as Smokey Bear was rescued from this 35,067-acre wilderness. This area has very rugged terrain, great views, and 32-miles of trails. Take a day hike up Capitan Peak, which is approximately 11.5-miles round trip. Various roads skirt the edges of the wilderness so there are several viable access points.
8. Wheeler Peak Wilderness (near Taos and Red River)
The lure of scaling New Mexico's tallest mountain (Wheeler Peak) draws more hikers than you might expect to this wilderness area, which spans 19,180 acres. Most people make the journey here from Taos Ski Valley.
9. Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness (near Nageezi)
Scenery doesn’t get much more surreal or spectacular than the rock formations and badlands you’ll find in the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness. Wind gusts across this 41,170-acre area, creating an eerie soundtrack to this unique place. Whether you approach from US-550 or from NM-371, you’ll need to traverse sandy, dirt roads. However, the effort yields great rewards.
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Wilderness areas offer great hiking and horseback riding opportunities…if you’re well prepared. Most of these places provide no amenities so you need to bring everything with you. Access roads are often unpaved and may be challenging to traverse during winter or after heavy rain. Above all, leave no trace. The beauty of these places comes from the fact that they are wild and unspoiled by the impact of humans.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you may also enjoy our past article: “
8 Incredible Places In New Mexico That Will Bring Out The Explorer In You.”