San Pedro Parks Wilderness, New Mexico
The San Pedro Parks Wilderness is located northeast of Cuba, New Mexico. Most of its 41,132 acres are above 10,000 feet placing it in the subalpine forest zone. What makes San Pedro special are the long grassy meadows (parks) that open up the hike. What makes it easy is there is minimal relief (for the Rockies, that is). Our trip only climbed 1,000, a gradual 600 feet in the first 3 miles and an even more gradual 400 feet in the next 5 miles.
We hiked a 17 mile semi-loop in May 2004. We drove from Tulsa on a Saturday and got there in time to scout the trailhead and grab some good Mexican food in Cuba. The forest services built a new parking lot and toilet at the trailhead a few years ago so its location is a little different than shown on the topos. My map shows the new parking lot (also see the Google Earth, GE image of parking lot).
On Friday we hit the trail, headed north past Nacimiento Peak to San Gregorio Reservoir (GE image of reservoir). It is a man-made lake but the setting is very pretty. Then it was up Clear Creek to catch the Clear Creek trail to the top of the main plateau (GE image of Clear Creek trail). This section has a moderate climb of about 400 feet. The Clear Creek trail is in and out of the woods as it cuts across the plateau. Being May, there was still plenty of snow in the shade and between the post-holing and the large puddles and pool made by the melt waters, it took some navigating to get across. Once we got to Rio de los Vacas (river of the cows) we hit the parks, the snow was gone and the view opened up. Here is Jack standing on 1.7 billion year old granitic boulders in the middle of the Rio de los Vacas park. Next it was north on the San Jose trail (GE image San Jose Trail).
We made camp at a pre-existing site on a small bluff south of what the topo showed as San Pedro Cabin. We looked for it but never found it. Jack, however, saw a bear across the creek on our way back to camp.
The next day we headed back south, picked up the Rito Anastacito trail and headed west. Most of this section was open park and easy hiking. When we got to what the map shows as the 10253 bench mark we started looking for a trail coming up from the south. Even with my GPS we couldn't find it. Since the trails are sometimes wrong on the maps, we went another quarter mile, but still no luck. Although the trail had been easy to track so far, the combination of meadows and low traffic masked this intersection and any sign of a trail going south. However, navigation is easy in the Parks so we just turned south figuring we'd find the trail once the valley narrowed (GE image of junction).
We found trail alright but it kept going in and out of the trees. It's not that we don't like trees, it just that the snow pack was even deeper here forcing us off trail and into the park. That was a mixed blessing. The snow melt had turned the meadow into a marsh, pushing us back ino the snow. A little post holing, a little slogging through the marsh and we finally hit solid trail again (GE image of Anastacio trail). I want to point out that if we have been a few weeks later, most of the snow would have been gone.
Our second and last nights camp was at Vallecito Damian. What a campsite! It was like a city park; flat and grassy with just the right amount of shade and sun. There was already a fire pit and furniture so with the view of the vallecito and a little tequilla, life was easy.
There seems to be several other loop options in the San Pedro Parks. The topos show a trail from the Clear Creek trail to Puertocito de las Perchas where the Palomas trail can be used to rejoin the Clear Creek trail. Even more enticing is a grander loop that uses the Penas Negras trail. From our first night's camp, it looks like you could take that trail southeast to the Rito de las Perchas and bushwhack through the park to Puertocito de las Percha. If anyone has been on any of those trails, I'd love to get your trail report.
Info: USGS 7.5 minute quadrangle topographic maps: Nacimiento Peak. Contact the Cuba Ranger Districts at (505) 289-3264 or the Santa Fe National Forest at 505) 438-7840 in Santa Fe.
Directions. Take US 550 to Cuba (north west of Albuquerque), turn east on NM 126 and go for about 9 miles. Just past the community of Deer Lake, look for the forest road heading north, possible marked Forest Road 70 or there may be a sign to San Gregorio Reservoir. You will know if you missed the turn if the pavement runs out and the road turns to gravel. Go north on the gravel forest road (FS 70) for 2.7 miles just after the road turns east and then south, the parking lot will be on your right.
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