Pecos Wilderness Area
Stop in at the ranger station (Hwy. 63, 505/757-6121, 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Mon.–Fri.) on the north end of Pecos town to buy topographical maps and inquire about hiking conditions at Pecos Wilderness Area, as well as the state of various campsites—eight developed areas are usually open, though some are still recovering from bark-beetle invasions and forest fires. At this high elevation, summer temperatures are rarely above 75°F and can dip below freezing at night, so plan accordingly when you pack, especially for multiday trips.
Highway 63 runs north out of town, following the Pecos River past the tiny settlement of Tererro and several fishing access points. At the general store in Tererro, you can inquire about horseback-riding trips (Hwy. 63, 505/757-6193).
The road then narrows and rises to reach what used to be the mining camp of Cowles—now just a wide spot in the road. Immediately north, Forest Road 223 leads 4.5 miles to Iron Gate Campground and Mora Flats Trail, a fairly level 3.8-mile hike to a wide-open meadow—look out for wild strawberries among the myriad wildflowers.
At the end of Highway 63 (bear right where the dirt road forks), Cave Creek Trail, which runs out of Panchuela Campground, is an easy 3.6-mile out-and-back that follows a small waterway up to some caves that have been carved out of the white limestone by the stream’s flow.
You can make this hike more ambitious by pressing on past the caves, up a steep hillside, and on to Horsethief Meadow; this adds an extra three (very strenuous) miles, and you could make this into an overnight trip, as the meadow is a beautiful place to camp.
More ambitious still is the 7.5-mile trek to Pecos Baldy Lake, which goes out of Jacks Creek Campground and should be done as an overnight hike. All trails in this area require a $2 trailhead parking fee; additional fees apply for camping or picnicking, depending on the spot.
© Zora O'Neill from Moon Santa Fe, Taos & Albuquerque, 2nd edition