August 12, 1998
Highlights: A relatively easy approach to New Mexico's "gentle wilderness" Location: In the southern Sierra Nacimiento, northeast of Cuba Round-trip distance: 8 miles Difficulty: Moderate Elevation: 9,100-10,100 feet Cautions: Monsoon season thunderstorms Maps: Santa Fe National Forest, U.S. Forest Service San Pedro Parks Wilderness Printable map
The San Pedro Parks are about as hiker-friendly as New Mexico wilderness gets -- green and cool, with gentle terrain, a well-developed and well-marked trail system, and abundant water.
But to enter this mountain Avalon, hikers usually must first scale the steep ramparts of the Sierra Nacimiento. The Palomas Trail is among its few relatively easy entrances.
The trail is reached from Cuba by taking N.M. 126 to where good dirt Forest Road 70 branches left. After 2.6 miles is the parking area and trailhead for Gregorio Reservoir and the Vacas Trail, No. 51. After another 7.1 miles on this road is the well-marked Palomas Trail, No. 50.
The trail ascends a ridge before a short, steep descent to the Rio de Las Perchas at 1.4 miles. The Palomas Trail continues northwest after skirting a small meadow and following a small drainage uphill. After about half a mile you reach the 10,000-foot elevation and easy walking.
After 2.4 miles from the Rio de las Perchas, walking through pleasant forest and green-velvet meadows, you reach the Vacas Trail, No. 51. Follow this a quarter-mile north to its junction with the Anastacio Trail, No. 435. Here at the confluence of three meadow-lined valleys is an appealing place to break or turn around.