Pecos River Camping and Hiking

We started our 2-day “mini” vacation by camping overnight at Villanueva State Park, a small campground along a bend in the Pecos River about 60 miles downstream from its source high in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. My years of living in southern New Mexico had left me with the idea that the Pecos River, after it leaves the mountainous country of northern New Mexico, is flat and boring. I had never been in this section of the state and was pleasantly surprised to find such an interesting area hidden between high sandstone bluffs along the river.

We arrived at the park in time to take a walk before dinner on the trail on the northern side of the river that leads to overlooks of the valley and village of Villanueva. After dinner we hiked the trail on the opposite side of the river, where the bluffs were even higher with more impressive views. Recent rainfalls in the mountains had caused the river to fill up with muddy water, making its color not that appealing, but if one imagined it as a flow of melted chocolate it didn’t seem so bad.

Our campsite is in the center of the photo, the small orange and white tent barely visible.
Our campsite is in the center of the photo, the small orange and white tent barely visible.
Pecos River--imagine it as a flow of melted chocolate.
Pecos River–imagine it as a flow of melted chocolate.
Looking down at Villanueva State Park Visitor Center.
Looking down at Villanueva State Park Visitor Center.
The road into Villanueva State Park.
The road into Villanueva State Park.
Cliff swallow nests in bluffs on hike along river.
Cliff swallow nests in bluffs on hike along river.
A really rugged cross.
A really rugged cross.
Desert zinnia
Desert zinnia
Sunset at Villanueva State Park from trail on top of bluffs.
Sunset at Villanueva State Park from trail on top of bluffs.

Camping at Villanueva put us in a good position for the next day’s hike in the Pecos Wilderness. We had done a couple of hikes in this area before. It was nice this time to only have an hour’s drive from Villanueva campground on the Pecos River to the upper reaches of the river, instead of having to drive there all the way from Albuquerque.

The hike we chose started from Jack’s Creek campground and led us through forests and alpine meadows to a ridge with views of Pecos Baldy, a 12,500-foot peak in the Sangre de Cristos. The trail went much further than what we were wanting to do for this day hike. We hiked until lunchtime and then stopped in a meadow where we could enjoy the views as we ate our lunch. The clouds were beginning to gather and we had to get out our rain ponchos on the last mile back down. We knew we were heading back into the desert heat in Albuquerque so we didn’t mind the momentary chill as we changed out of our damp clothes and got into our car for the drive home.

Looking back at start of hike towards Jack's Creek campground.
Looking back at start of hike towards Jack’s Creek campground.
Scarlet gilia
Scarlet gilia
View of Santa Fe Baldy to the southwest.
View of Santa Fe Baldy to the southwest.
View down Pecos River valley.  Red flowers are beardslip penstemon.  Look like scarlet gilia, until you examine them up close.
View down Pecos River valley. Red flowers are beardslip penstemon. Look like scarlet gilia, until you examine them up close.
Grove on aspen trees on hike up to ridge.
Grove of aspen trees on hike up to ridge.
The trail went much further.  We met several groups of backpackers who were coming back down after camping at the lake.
The trail went much further. We met several groups of backpackers who were coming back down after camping at the lake.
Cinquefoil
Cinquefoil
Daisy
Daisy
Harebell.
Harebell.
Hike turnaround point in meadow with view of Pecos Baldy.
Hike turnaround point in meadow with view of Pecos Baldy.

GPS track of hike on Every Trail.

Author: bjregan

Enjoying retirement activities. Main goals for retirement are to stay spiritually, physically, mentally and emotionally healthy.

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