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Backpacker Magazine

New Mexico’s Pecos Wilderness

In New Mexico's Pecos Wilderness, it's just you and the bighorn sheep looking down on the world.

QUICK TAKE: Pecos Wilderness, NM

WHERE: The Pecos Wilderness is 80 miles (2 hours) north of Albuquerque and 450 miles (6 hours) south of Denver. The Winsor Trailhead is about 45 miles (11/2 hours) northeast of Santa Fe.

THE WAY: From Santa Fe take I-25 north to Pecos, then NM 63 north to Cowles. Cross the Pecos River in Cowles, and take FR 121 west to its end. A sign marks the trailhead.

TRAILS: Nearly 430 miles of trail access the backcountry. The 50-mile Skyline and the 14-mile Winsor Trails are two of the best. Both can be linked with other trails to form convenient loops.

ELEVATION: Prepare for thin air because the trailhead at Cowles is at 8,400 feet. South Truchas Peak tops out at 13,103 feet.

CROWD CONTROL: Autumn attracts leaf peepers and hunters, but hike more than a mile from any trailhead and you’ll have the place to yourself.

PIT STOP: For green chili with the local folks, try the Cowgirl Hall of Fame in downtown Santa Fe. A block away you’ll find all the outdoor gear you need at Active Endeavors.

WALK SOFTLY: Wilderness lake basins are off-limits to campers, and the Santa Fe River drainage is closed to all. Keep to the trails in alpine areas to avoid trampling fragile vegetation.

MAPS AND GUIDES: Trail Guide: Pecos Wilderness ($14.95, Southwest Natural and Cultural Heritage Association) includes topo maps, trail descriptions, and directions to trailheads. Another must-pack is the USDA Forest Service’s Pecos Wilderness Map ($5). Both are available from the New Mexico Public Lands Information Center, 1474 Rodeo Rd., Santa Fe, NM 87505; (505) 438-7542.

MORE INFORMATION: Pecos-Las Vegas Ranger District, Santa Fe National Forest, P.O. Drawer 429, Pecos, NM 87552; (505) 757-6121.

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