Albuquerque, NM: Vacas Trail - Backpacker

Albuquerque, NM: Vacas Trail

Water is abundant here, compared to the arid high desert below. This 15.2-miler links fish-filled creeks with the forested hills of San Pedro Parks Wilderness.

Wilderness is highlighted by meadows that open up around every corner. It’s a kid-friendly route with plenty of places to stop and camp near water. Start from the Vacas Trailhead at 9,300 feet; within the first 2 miles, you’ll hit the San Gregorio Reservoir and the Vallecito Damian, a large meadow with a seasonal creek. If your kids are a little older, continue 4 miles to the Anastacio Trail junction, passing wildflower meadows and several more creeks with small, native trout. At about mile 8, head northwest on the Continental Divide Trail toward San Pedro Parks, but bring water—it’s dry. Camp in aspen and spruce groves, listening for coyotes and elk as the sun sets over a canvas of tulip gentians, bushy cinquefoil, and native grasses.
Text provided by New Mexico Volunteers for the Outdoors:
-Mapped by Bill Velasquez

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 12.2



Location: 36.02726, -106.846901

Follow Vacas Trail, a well-traveled path winding to the NE; in .1 mi., enter San Pedro Parks Wilderness


Location: 36.038952, -106.846397

Path skirts San Gregorio Reservoir's E bank; anglers fish for cutthroat and rainbows


Location: 36.04755, -106.839798

Cross small creek. Skirt edge of Vallecito Damian, a large, lush meadow, then follow a path along the grassy (and sometimes marshy) banks of the Clear Creek


Location: 36.064091, -106.845901

Continue straight @ 4-way with Anastacio Trail


Location: 36.0765, -106.829697

Traverse a small saddle


Location: 36.081169, -106.824997

Cross Rio de las Vacas; turn L @ T where Palomas Trail enters from R


Location: 36.084992, -106.824699

Grab lunch on boulders overlooking rolling hills. In 150 ft., stay straight @ T with Anastacio Trail; wander NE along Rio de las Vacas, home to native Rio Grande cutthroat trout


Location: 36.09964, -106.821098

Continue N along grassy hillsides. *Camping*: In .6 mi., look for sites on L tucked under aspen and pine; lucky campers will hear bugling elk and yipping coyotes


Location: 36.108151, -106.823799

Trail intersects Continental Divide Trail at marked 4-way; retrace steps back. Side trip: Bear L; head 1 mi. NW on CDT to San Pedro Park, a meadow enclosed by thick spruce

San Pedro Parks Sign

Location: 36.027896, -106.846418

©Bill Velasquez

San Gregorio Reservoir

Location: 36.03803, -106.84629

©Bill Velasquez

San Gregorio Reservoir

Location: 36.038793, -106.84629

©Bill Velasquez

Anastacio Trail Sign

Location: 36.041257, -106.845903

©Bill Velasquez

Burnt FS Cabin

Location: 36.055552, -106.847577

©Bill Velasquez

Continental Divide Trail

Location: 36.063879, -106.845989

The CDT as it enters San Pedro Parks. Note the cows in the background. ©Bill Velasquez

Palomas Trail Sign

Location: 36.071198, -106.83805

©Bill Velasquez

Forested Trail

Location: 36.072239, -106.836977

©Bill Velasquez

Looking North

Location: 36.075222, -106.831183

©Bill Velasquez

San Pedro Parks Proper

Location: 36.084552, -106.824703

©Bill Velasquez