The landscape of New Mexico has been shaped by its mountain ranges. Its peaks might not be quite so high as those in neighboring Colorado, but what they lack in height, they more than make up for in beauty. Whether you want to hike them, scale them, ski them, or simply sit back and admire them, the one thing you won't want to do is miss them. Without further ado, here are the 10 best mountains to visit in New Mexico.
10. Mount Taylor
Drive around 50 miles west of Albuquerque and you'll find Mount Taylor, a towering, extinct volcano comprised of thick lava flows and protruding domes. The mountain is considered sacred among the Navajo - once you check out the sublime views from the summit, you'll quickly come to see why. The surrounding area is incredibly sparsely populated, but while there's not much to do in the surroundings, the mountain itself offers endless opportunities for outdoor adventure. In winter, the backcountry skiing opportunities are legendary. Once the snowfall has cleared, it's great for hiking and biking. Although there are challenging routes to be found if you look hard enough, most of the trails are easy enough to be tackled by most ages and fitness levels, with the three-mile Gooseberry Springs Trail standing out as one of the most scenic.
9. Tonuco Mountain
Tonuco Mountain is a beautiful, sandstone-capped peak that offers a smorgasbord of activities for the adventurous. It's packed with points of interest, including a hidden canyon decorated with fascinating Petroglyphs, an ancient Indian grinding site, abandoned mines, and historic structures. There's even an old outlaw hideout cave that still boasts a wooden framed bed. Geologists will have a field day discovering all the different minerals in the area - keep your eyes peeled for barite, calcite, rhyolite, selenite, and fluorite in particular.
8. Tortugas Mountain
Humpbacked Tortugas Mountain might be small, but it packs a big punch. Often referred to as "A" Mountain in reference to the New Mexico State University Aggies huge "A" etched on its west side, Tortugas is a paradise for mountain bikers, with enough trails to keep both beginners and experienced riders in kicks and thrills from dawn to dusk. The hiking opportunities are just as outstanding, while the views over the surrounding valley from the summit are nothing short of breathtaking.
7. Latir Peak
Venado Peak might be the highest mountain in the Latir Group, but the second-highest, Latir Peak, is arguably the more scenic, and certainly the most well known. Surrounded by the Latir Peak Wilderness area, its beauty is remarkable. Consisting of a series of broad ridges and easy slopes, it offers plenty of fun, easy hiking opportunities. Once you've made your way to the summit, you'll be rewarded with jaw-dropping views over the surrounding mountain ranges and the lakes below.
6. Cedro Peak
Located in the Manzanita Mountains, Cedro Peak is a small but impressive mountain that can be easily accessed via a network of trails that starts just minutes from Albuquerque. During the warmer months, it's an incredibly popular escape for city folk, with boundless opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, running, and birding. Due to its size, it's easy enough to be tackled by almost every age and fitness level, making it a great option for families and seniors.
5. Hermits Peak
Located in San Miguel County in northern New Mexico, Hermits Peak has an astonishing history. It's named after Giovanni Maria de Agostini, an Italian religious recluse who lived in a cave on the southeast side of the mountain from August 1863 to May 1866. To protect himself from the sheer drop below the cave (which could only be accessed from above and which was so low, Agostini was forced to crouch whenever he entered), Agostini constructed a wall of rocks around the cave mouth. For years both before and after his death, the cave served as a pilgrimage site with the devout. If visiting the former home of a hermit doesn't appeal, you'll still find plenty to do, with some of the most popular pastimes being hiking, camping, birding, and horseback riding.
4. Jemez Mountains
Named as one of the 10 best New Mexico mountains by Tripadvisor reviewers, the Jemez Mountains are a vast playground for outdoor lovers, with an incredible array of activities for the whole family to enjoy. Explore the hiking and nature trails, try your hand at fly fishing, or discover the pristine beauty of public lands like the Valles Caldera National Preserve and Bandelier National Monument - whatever you do, you're guaranteed a memorable visit.
3. Sangre de Cristo Mountains
According to uncovercolorado.com, the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range, which stretches 225 miles from Salida, Colorado to Santa Fe, New Mexico, is among the longest mountain ranges on Earth. We've got no reason to doubt them, nor their follow-up claim that it also happens to be one of the most arrestingly beautiful and iconic. The name of the mountains translates to "Blood of Christ," which comes from the effect of alpenglow, an optical phenomenon that bathes the peaks in radiant red and pink hues at dusk. The opportunities for outdoor fun are just as legendary as the mountain's scenic beauty, with skiing, hiking, backpacking, and mountain biking ranking as some of the most popular activities.
2. Pajarito Mountain
If you like skiing, don't miss Pajarito Mountain, a peak in the Jemez Mountains in north central New Mexico that offers some of the best tree and bump skiing in the state. Boasting over 300 acres of skiable terrain, it's a must-visit for ski lovers. There's also plenty of trails to explore during the warmer months, plus some of the best lift-accessed mountain biking around. The entire area is managed by groups of local volunteers and private companies, with the result that come peak season, it turns into party central, with live music concerts, festivals, and craft beer events to enjoy.
1. Sandia Mountains
As Trip Savvy notes, the Sandia Mountains offer a huge array of hiking and other recreational opportunities, with more than 60 well-established hiking trails for nature lovers to explore. Rock climbers will enjoy tackling the many rocky faces on the western edge of the mountain. Motorcyclists looking for a scenic ride shouldn't miss the Sandia Crest Byway. Hangliders can get their adrenaline fix by sailing from the summit. Everyone, meanwhile, will get a kick out of the watermelon hue the mountains take on at sunset. Located just a little east of Albuquerque, it's the perfect place to escape the city and get back to nature.
Written by Dana Hanson
Read more posts by Dana Hanson