Santa Fe, NM: Santa Barbara Campground to Aspen Basin

This 42-mile trek through the picturesque Pecos Wilderness high country features towering peaks, alpine lakes, and lots of wildlife (marmots, bighorn sheep, and more).
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This 42-mile trek through the picturesque Pecos Wilderness high country features towering peaks, alpine lakes, and lots of wildlife (marmots, bighorn sheep, and more).

Set aside a long weekend to explore the pristine Pecos Wilderness high country. This route hovers near 11,000 feet, passing alpine lakes, expansive meadows, and views of the Sangre de Cristo peaks—several side trips offer more wildlife viewing opportunities.

Start at the Santa Barbara Campground and head south along the Rio Santa Barbara. After 10 miles, the route crests the Santa Barbara Divide, then travels along the foot of the Truchas Peaks—three neighboring 13,000-foot mountains. Four miles later, you’ll traverse a broad ridgetop along Trailriders Wall and drop down to Pecos Baldy Lake. From here, the trail descends to Horsethief Meadow and passes three alpine lakes near Santa Fe Baldy. Finish off with a scenic traverse across Puerto Nambe, a grassy plateau with views of Lake Peak and Santa Fe Baldy, and a steep descent past Aspen Peak into Aspen Basin.

-Mapped by Bill Velasquez
LOCAL LINKS
GAS
Chevron - St Francis Plaza
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505
505-983-9749
Conoco Phillips
215 Lincoln Avenue, Santa Fe, NM
505-820-0431
GEAR
REI
500 Market Street #100
Santa Fe, NM 87501
505-982-3557
Sangre de Cristo Mountain Works
328 S. Guadalupe St.
Santa Fe, NM 87501
505-984-8221
GROCERIES
Kaune's Neighborhood Market
511 Old Santa Fe Trail
Santa Fe, NM 87505
505-982-2629

Whole Foods Market
753 Cerrillos Road
Santa Fe, NM 87505
505-992-1700
RESTAURANTS
Back Road Pizza
1807 2nd St # 1
Santa Fe, NM 87505
505-955-9055

Aztec Café
317 Aztec
505-820-0025

Five & Dime General Store
58 E. San Francisco St.
Santa Fe, NM 87501
505-992-1800

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 61.5

Waypoints

PEC001

Location: 36.0846405, -105.6106262

From the trailhead at the east end of Santa Barbara Campground, pass though the fence and head south toward the Pecos Wilderness.

PEC002

Location: 36.069776, -105.6122589

Enter the Pecos Wilderness. Ahead, traverse marshy trails along the roaring Rio Santa Barbara.

PEC003

Location: 36.0574722, -105.6148758

Bear right @ Y-junction, and continue south. The trail climbs above the creek.

PEC004

Location: 36.0145187, -105.6117096

After crossing a large grassy meadow, cross a creek. In roughly 1 mile, climb up 6 switchbacks to a camping area.

PEC005

Location: 35.9882505, -105.6139326

Just past the remnants of an old sheepherder's cabin, set up camp on a ledge overlooking the West Fork Rio Santa Barbara. Next, continue hiking south.

PEC006

Location: 35.9771423, -105.6228104

Talus switchbacks lead up to the Santa Barbara Divide. Head south on Skyline Trail (No. 251) toward Truchas Lakes.

PEC007

Location: 35.9702263, -105.6345596

Truchas Lakes: These two lakes rest in the basin below towering rocky peaks.

PEC008

Location: 35.9673089, -105.6354332

At the junction of Skyline Trail (No. 251) and North Azul Trail (No. 264), follow Skyline Trail for an abrupt descent into a small meadow.

PEC009

Location: 35.9597714, -105.635519

Hike west toward Truchas Peak. Campsite: Turn left off main trail to find flat, hidden sites near a spring-fed creek.

PEC010

Location: 35.9574092, -105.641098

Follow the rocky trail as it winds below high peaks. Marmots and pikas rule the land.

PEC011

Location: 35.9483337, -105.6374283

Stay on Skyline Trail (No. 251) at the junction with NORSKI Trail (No. 255). Ahead, leave grassy slopes dotted with currant bushes for a traverse along Trailriders Wall.

PEC012

Location: 35.9455376, -105.6385727

The trail crests a saddle above treeline. Bear left @ Y-junction and follow the ridgeline to the south.

PEC013

Location: 35.9173965, -105.6387939

Continue straight @ 3-way at the Skyline Trail (No. 251)-Jack's Creek Trail (No. 257) intersection. Drop down to a marshy plateau where smaller pine trees sway in the wind.

PEC014

Location: 35.9123065, -105.6450462

Pecos Baldy Lake: This small lake is tucked beneath East Pecos Baldy. A short side trip on Trail No. 164 leads to the saddle above this lake. You'll find abundant views and possibly some wildlife.

PEC015

Location: 35.9104295, -105.6458187

Turn right @ 3-way, heading west. To find a campsite near a spring, follow the old trail to the southeast away from the lake basin.

PEC016

Location: 35.9089697, -105.6513977

The trail winds to the southwest beneath East Pecos Baldy and Pecos Baldy. Optional: Follow the side trail up East Pecos Baldy if time allows.

PEC017

Location: 35.892944, -105.6648302

Continue straight @ 3-way junction. Descend through pine and fir as you meander along seasonal Rito Perro Creek.

PEC018

Location: 35.8822365, -105.6859512

Cross Panchuela Creek, then begin a very steep, but short climb up eroded hillside.

PEC019

Location: 35.8782713, -105.7106209

A rocky descent leads to picturesque Horsethief Meadow. Keep hiking south.

PEC020

Location: 35.8609734, -105.7107391

Follow Skyline Trail (No. 251) at the junction with Cave Creek Trail (No. 288). Next, cross Cave Creek and hike southwest.

PEC021

Location: 35.860569, -105.7116928

Campsite: A mossy shelf near the flowing creek is a good place to pitch your tent. Look for well-used campfire pit.

PEC022

Location: 35.846611, -105.7208557

Turn right onto Lake Johnson Trail (No. 267) @ 3-way junction for a climb to Lake Johnson.

PEC023

Location: 35.8547962, -105.7357264

Lake Johnson: A sunny, trout-filled lake at the foot of Redondo Peak. You'll find camping north of the hillside above the lake. Do not camp in the lake basin. Next, retrace route back to Waypoint 22 and turn right @ junction, heading south.

PEC024

Location: 35.8322639, -105.7197266

Skirt meadow and continue on Skyline Trail (No. 251). Pass a small pond on the way to Stewart Lake.

PEC025

Location: 35.8310706, -105.724225

Stewart Lake: A short side trip off the trail leads to a perfect rest spot near the lake.

PEC026

Location: 35.8239174, -105.7271271

Turn right (west) @ T-junction. Begin climb alongside cascading creek.

PEC027

Location: 35.825573, -105.7361126

Turn left onto Winsor Trail (No. 254) for a climb to Spirit Lake. Ahead, cross Winsor Creek in the small opening where the old Skyline Trail used to veer off. Make sure to stay on the trail that crosses the creek at this point.

PEC028

Location: 35.8188571, -105.738945

Campsite: A small, flat shelf above a more used campsites is a good place to camp off-trail and hidden from lake.

PEC029

Location: 35.8175696, -105.7393312

Spirit Lake: The last of your backcountry lake stops. It's theorized that Spirit Lake gets its name from the Roman Catholic Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

PEC030

Location: 35.8107948, -105.7534714

Enter thick cool forest where the terrain flattens. Skyline Trail (No. 251) and Winsor Trail (No. 254) reconnect here. Continue west toward Puerto Nambe.

PEC031

Location: 35.8136292, -105.7607117

Puerto Nambe: The trail enters a high grassy plateau with views of Lake Peak and Santa Fe Baldy. Follow Winsor Trail (No. 254) for a steep descent into the valley below.

PEC032

Location: 35.8124352, -105.7676163

Continue west on Winsor Trail (No. 254). Nambe Trail (No. 160) descends to a camping area on the right.

PEC033

Location: 35.8128738, -105.7808914

Continue on Winsor Trail (No. 254).

PEC034

Location: 35.8089752, -105.7851028

Keep straight @ 3-way (trail on the left leads to Nambe Lake). The terrain flattens as it travels through a small opening with a raging creek. Ahead, begin a gradual climb to the wilderness boundary.

PEC035

Location: 35.8072319, -105.7995453

Stay straight (southwest) on Winsor Trail (No. 254) @ 3-way junction. Continue hiking through the shady side of the mountain. Cooler temps are the norm here.

PEC036

Location: 35.8028829, -105.8026314

Pecos Wilderness Boundary: Leave the Pecos Wilderness as you pass through the fence. Next, begin steep descent through aspen groves to the trailhead.

PEC037

Location: 35.7955211, -105.8049166

The route finishes at Aspen Basin and Ski Santa Fe parking lot. Use the pay phone near the ski station to call your ride, or pick up your shuttle car to return to Waypoint 1.

Bighorn Sheep

Location: 35.9713032, -105.6301117

Bighorn sheep frequent this area. Yield when you see them on the trail and do not feed or approach them.

Marmot

Location: 35.9570619, -105.6404114

Trailriders Wall

Location: 35.956506, -105.640111

View of the wall from Marmot Town.

Pika

Location: 35.9558113, -105.6402397

Truchas Peaks

Location: 35.9170334, -105.6493378

Climb to the saddle above the lake on Trail 164 for nice views.

Buck

Location: 35.9171724, -105.6488657

You might be surprised by what you see above the lake.

Pecos Baldy Lake

Location: 35.9093172, -105.6503248

Lake Johnson

Location: 35.8544136, -105.7351255

Stewart Lake

Location: 35.831175, -105.7240105