Sierra Ladrones Hike

Sierra Ladrones is Spanish for “thieves mountains” and is the name of the isolated, jagged peaks visible on the horizon south of Albuquerque. It is said that Navajo and Apache raiders had hideaways there and that thieves and outlaws could elude their pursuers in the rugged terrain.

Today most of the Sierra Ladrones is part of a BLM Wilderness Study Area. There are no established trails up to the peaks but they are so prominent as they rise up from the surrounding desert that you can easily see where you need to go. The challenge is trying to find a way to get close enough to the base of the mountains where you can start hiking.

The southeast side of the mountain is part of Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge and the public is allowed access on those roads only as part of a guided tour. Several years ago I had the opportunity to go on a group hike partway up the southeast side. The terrain was unbelievably rugged.  It’s one of the hardest hikes I’ve ever done and we only got to a saddle where we could look down the north slope and also see the highest peak looming over us to the west.

Today we followed directions in the 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Albuquerque book for a hike that starts from the northwest side of the Ladrones.  After leaving the interstate it took 45 minutes to drive over the very rough 18-mile dirt road that traverses the scrub desert and barren range lands to reach a long ridge that slopes off the mountain making possible a relatively gradual ascent up towards the peak.

It was an interesting limestone ridge to hike up.  There was always a view of the surrounding vast emptiness in all directions if you looked around and if you looked down at your feet there were multitudes of fossils embedded in the limestone.  We only went up about 3 miles before turning around. With no shade anywhere on the trail it isn’t a hike to do in the summer, but for a spring day it was perfect.  Fall would also be good and after having the summer to get in better shape maybe we would have enough energy to go further next time.

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Some spring color provided by the bladderpod.
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View to the west from the ridge.
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Peaks up ahead.
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Fossils.
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Cacti getting ready to bloom.

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Looking west off the ridge.
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As far as we got before turning around.
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Heading back down.

Another New Book

This blog post will again be endorsing a new book, but, unlike the previous post it endorses a hiking book. Seven years ago when we first moved to Albuquerque, one of our primary resources for learning about hikes in the area was the 2nd edition of Stephen Ausherman’s 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Albuquerque. The 3rd edition has just been published and we bought a copy as soon as we heard about it.

When we first started using the 2nd edition I set a goal of writing the date we did each hike on the description page of the hike. Once the novelty wore off and we began to find hikes using other resources I didn’t follow through with the goal. No matter, though, as the book continued to be a valuable resource.

As soon as Lee got the new edition he wanted to go through it and mark all the hikes that hadn’t been in the 2nd edition. To keep the number of hikes at 60, obviously some hikes from the 2nd edition were no longer in the 3rd. I balked at Lee’s idea of tearing pages out of the old book to stick into the new book. We’ll just have to keep both books for now.

Knowing that a spell of nice weather has arrived for this week, I used the new book to stir up some ideas for hiking. The hike we chose for today wasn’t a new one in the 3rd edition, although an option for a longer loop had been added. It was a new hike for us; one we knew about but hadn’t yet gotten around to doing.

It fit into our collection of hikes that cover a section of the Continental Divide Trail (CDT).  These include two hikes that we did last summer and one on Labor Day.  Today’s section didn’t have spectacular scenery, especially since the loop back to the car had us walking on a dirt road for 2 miles.  If we were to do it again we would probably make it just an out and back on the CDT.

The CDT trailhead is at the base of a cluster of red hills known as Deadman Peaks.  After climbing the side of a ridge pointing south from the base of the peaks, the trail levels off as it follows the rim.  The main peak is to the left of the trail.  To the right, over the edge of the rim, are good views of Cabezon Peak south in the far distance.  Miles of emptiness stretch in all directions.  Hiking in such isolated places is, for me, one of the most enjoyable features of our New Mexico hikes.  We didn’t see another car or person once we turned off the main road onto the BLM road that leads to the trailhead.

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Approaching CDT trailhead at base of Deadman Peaks.
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One of the peaks.
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Looking south at Cabezon Peak in distance.
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Friendly New Mexico critter.
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A very rustic trail sign for the Continental Divide Trail.

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