August 12, 1999
Highlights: Beautiful high mesa with lots of streams and excellent native cutthroat trout fishing. The area abounds with wildflowers. Elk are often seen. Location: Northeast of Cuba. To reach the Resumidero Trailhead, go west on N.M. 44 to N.M. 96 and on 31.6 miles, just east of the village of Gallina, to Forest Road 103. Proceed 14.5 miles south on 103 to Forest Road 93 which passes the Resumidero Campground. A road just south of the campground goes west to the wilderness boundary. Round-trip distance: Vega Redonda is about 4 1/2 miles from the campground. A day hike across the parks from your campsite can be from 10 to 14 miles, depending on which trails you choose. Difficulty: Moderate, unless you want to run up the mountain. Some other entrance trails are quite steep. Hiking in the parks is easy with very little ups and downs. Elevation: 7,800-10,000 feet Cautions: The trails are usually well-marked, but they can disappear in the parks (or meadows). Proficiency with map and compass is recommended. Be prepared for rain. Maps: U.S. Forest Santa Fe National Forest map; San Pedro Parks Wilderness, Santa Fe National Forest. Printable map
San Pedro Parks Wilderness
As a member of the New Mexico Mountain Club, I have been leading a beginners' backpack into the San Pedro Parks Wilderness for the last 12 years. The San Pedro Parks, located northeast of Cuba, is one of the least known wilderness areas of the state and is perfect for a first backpacking experience. There are nine trails into the parks with different degrees of difficulty.
On our trip to the parks this summer, we had six hikers -- three beginners and three experienced. Two of them had backpacked years before but felt they were starting anew.
At the trailhead, we checked the load and balance of the packs. One hiker had about 10 pounds too much weight, and we convinced him to leave extra clothes and other gear in the car. One woman had the right amount of gear but had a hard time packing so that the load was balanced.
We started from the Resumidero Campground following the trail up the Rio del Oso until we reached some beaver dams. Crossing a small side stream, we eventually found the trail leading up to Vega Redonda.
The trails in San Pedro Parks are challenging because they tend to disappear when you reach a park, as meadows are called in northern New Mexico. Grass, wildflowers and other plants grow up in the parks and obscure trails. You had better be competent with a map and compass to locate the trail on the other side of the park -- which usually starts about three trees into the forest. Most of the trails are marked with posts, but some of the posts are down. You can also follow a portion of the Continental Divide Trail in the San Pedro Parks.
The next day we hiked to explore the wilderness, which includes the headwaters of Clear Creek, Rio Las Vacas, Rio Los Pinos and the Rio Puerco of the North. We explored an abandoned trail which required extensive use of map, compass and altimeter to reach our objective -- the highest point in the parks at 10,523 feet. Everyone got the opportunity to check the map and take turns leading the group.
The weather was a perfect 70 degrees during the day and 50 degrees at night. Throughout the day the experienced backpackers answered questions and generally helped the beginners with advice, ideas and trail stories. We all worked at identifying the myriad flowers in the parks. Both nights we could hear coyotes. The full moon was bright enough to read by.
Sunday morning, following breakfast, a more confident group did a much better job of packing their gear, and we made it to the trailhead in time to drive to El Bruno's Restaurant in Cuba for a great Mexican meal. All the newcomers said that backpacking trips were in their future.
David G. Jackson