In bygone times, it was called Sierra Diablo (the “Devil Range”). The steep, densely forested slopes and deep canyons of the Black Range give it an unusually dark and ominous appearance from a distance. Also known as the Mimbres Mountains, it is an igneous mountain range that runs north-south through Catron, Sierra, and Grant Counties in southwestern New Mexico. Much of the central ridge forms the western and eastern borders, respectively, of Sierra and Grant Counties. The range, which lies almost entirely within the Gila National Forest, is about 70 miles long and up to 18 miles wide. It parallels the Rio Grande River to the east and the Mimbres River to the west.
Elevations in the range vary between 4,200 feet to the highest peak, McKnight Mountain, at 10,165 feet. The landscape is equally diverse: Desert and arid grasslands at the lower elevations; pinon, juniper and oak woodlands up to about 7,000 feet; beyond that, it is a mixed conifer forest of ponderosa pine, aspen, fir and spruce. A 33-mile long section of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail runs through the range.
Bear, cougar, bobcat, coyote, fox, deer, elk, javelina, ringtail cat, raccoon, wild turkey, Mexican Spotted Owl and Peregrine Falcon all inhabit the area.
Aldo Leopold Wilderness AreaCongress designated 202,016 acres along the crest of the Black Range as the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Area in 1980. It is named in honor of Aldo Leopold, through whose efforts the Gila Wilderness was designated as the world’s first protected wilderness area in 1924.
Hiking & CampingThe Black Range Crest Trailheads (Trail 79) at Emory Pass (on NM Highway 152) provide the best access for the Black Range. This trail runs the length of the range along the central ridge. There is a large paved cul-de-sac parking area, tables, grill, and a pit toilet at Emory Pass Vista. The vista offers tremendous views to the east of the ghost town of Kingston, Hillsboro, Caballo Lake, and the mountain ranges beyond. Overnight camping is not permitted at the vista. The trailhead for the section of trail that heads north is located near the parking area entrance. The trailhead for the trail running south is on the other side (south side) of NM 152 across from the vista turnoff.
There are also many campgrounds, some with hiking trails, along NM 152 as it goes down Iron Canyon on the west side of the range. Because most of the range is almost entirely undeveloped, with the exception of those access points along NM 152, it can be very difficult to traverse this rugged terrain. See the External Links section for detailed resources for hiking and camping in the Gila National Forest. Primitive camping is also permitted along the trails in the range at no fee; no permits required.
Getting ThereThe Black Range Crest Trailheads are located within very close proximity to the 8,228-foot Emory Pass Vista. The parking area at the vista will accomodate about 20 vehicles. All directions below lead to the vista.
From the East: From Interstate 25, take exit 63 (Hillsboro exit) and go west on NM Highway 152. After traveling west for 27 miles you will pass through the small town of Hillsboro. 9 miles west of Hillsboro, you will pass through the even smaller town of Kingston. Continue 9 more miles past Kingston until you see the Emory Pass Vista, turn right and proceed about 100 yards until you see the paved parking area.
From the West: From Interstate 10 eastbound, take the Hwy 90 exit at Lordsburg and proceed north to Silver City. From there, take Hwy 180 for about 5 miles, then turn left onto NM Hwy 152 to head in a general easterly direction. At this point, you will be about 36 miles to Emory Pass Vista. Continue east on NM 152 until you see the vista, then turn left to reach the vista parking area.
From the South: From Interstate 10 in Deming, take US Hwy 180 north for about 1.2 miles, then veer right onto NM Hwy 26 and proceed northeast for about 30 miles. Turn left onto NM Hwy 27 at the “town” of Nutt Station, where you will see the “Middle of Nowhere Bar & Café.” After a short distance to the west, NM 27 will curve right and head in a general northerly direction. You will see the ghost town of Lake Valley to your right before finally reaching Hillsboro 18 miles later, where NM 27 ties into NM 152. Turn left at Hillsboro and head west on NM 152, passing through Kingston 9 miles later and reaching Emory Pass Vista 18 miles west of Hillsboro. Turn right at the vista and proceed about 100 yards to reach the parking area.
WARNING: Most of these roads are not well-traveled and there is open rangeland. Drive with caution and be wary of animals in the road.
Red TapeUSFS regulations apply. Leave No Trace: Wilderness area rules apply. For fees and other regulations, see the Gila National Forest links below. Backcountry hiking and camping do not require any permits. There are no roads in wilderness areas. Mechanized transportation, including mountain bikes, are not permitted. All travel must be by foot or horseback. You will find no logging, resorts nor commercial uses of any kind except for grazing.
Food & LodgingThe historic mining town of Hillsboro is 18 miles east of Emory Pass on NM 152. This is the closest place to get food and gas, but don’t wait too long. Everything in the town -- including the gas station -- is closed by 7 pm. The S-Bar-X BBQ, at the gas station, is open from 11 am – 6 pm and has great BBQ brisket sandwiches. The Hillsboro Cafe closes its doors at 7 pm. I recommend you top off the gas tank before arriving in this area as the gas prices in Hillsboro are very high. For lodging in Hillsboro there is the Enchanted Villa Bed and Breakfast (telephone 505-895-5686).
Nine miles west of Hillsboro (and nine miles east of Emory Pass) is the town of Kingston. Nestled in the foothills of the eastern Black Range, Kingston was once the premier metropolis of the New Mexico Territory, boasting a population of 7,000 in 1885. Today, it is a quiet community with about 30 residents. Aside from camping, developed or primitive, the nearest lodging is in Kingston at the Black Range Lodge bed and breakfast (telephone 505-895-5652). The original construction of the Black Range Lodge dates back to 1884 and each of the seven guest rooms are different and unique – there isn’t a bad room in the house! There are no restaurants, gas stations, or ATMs in Kingston.
Phone NumbersGila National Forest: 505-388-8201
Gila National Forest - Black Range Ranger District (Truth or Consequences): 505-894-6677
External LinksGila National Forest – Black Range Ranger District
Gila National Forest – Hiking
Gila National Forest - Camping