Bonito Peak is a named 10,610ft summit located on Philmont Scout Ranch in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Northern New Mexico. Although this is a named peak, it doesn't meet the official 300ft rule to be an actual peak. Its more of just a point because as you follow the ridge NW towards 11,000ft Red Hill, there is really no saddle. At most, Bonito Peak has 70ft of prominence and less then half a mile of isolation. Although it isn't a ranked peak, Bonito Peak stands prominent over Bonito Meadows, the staffed camp at Beaubien, and over the North Fork Urraca.
Although there is a trail that leads right over the summit, this is one of the of the less climbed peaks on Philmont Scout Ranch. The reason being is that crews coming from Red Hill/Mount Phillips to Black Mountain Camp (these would be the majority of the people hiking Bonito) will generally choose to hike along the lush North Fork Urraca over taking the dry, exposed 10K ridge towards Bonito. Because of this, many of the visitors to this lonely summit are Philmont staff. Views from this peak are decent with the majority of the views coming along the approach. Coming from Big Red, the hike is a high alpine enviroment filled with cool views in between trees here and there. The summit is lightly shrouded with trees with minimal views. The best views are of Black Mountain (east) and then the views down to Bonito Meadow and Trail Peak (south)
Hiking InfoIf your going to be hiking this peak, you are most likely going to be on a Philmont Trek. If your not already out in Philmont's backcountry either as a staff or camper, this is a brutal day hike to do (I wouldn't recommend it). Leave a few days for this guy (if your on a trek then its no problem).
As said above, a trail traverses right over Bonito's summit. I think it is one of the nicest trails at Philmont. The solitude is incredible as you hike through dense stands of quaking aspen, limber pine and douglas fir. As said before too, the best views are seen along the trail to the summit. From Beaubien, the trail is towards Bonito is at the north corner of Bonito Meadow. Follow this trail up as it switch backs to a saddle with lots of trail signs. If you hike over the saddle, you will reach Black Mountain Camp along the North Fork Urraca (this is a STEEP trail). You want to head north up the ridge. Even though this portion of the trail is underused, it is very well maintained. You will hike threw dense stands of pine trees with grizzly looking rock formations (its scary doing it solo).
Many false summits will come into sight, but the real summit comes as you round a fairly open ridge on the right There is a sign marking the summit along with a big cairn. The sign actually says "Bonita Peak", not Bonito Peak. Its a misspelling. From Big Red, you follow the undulating ridge. Coming from this directin, you really get a sense of how little prominence this peak has.
During the monsoon season (July-August) it will rain nearly every afternoon. So get an early start if your trying to gain this summit. I got hit with a very bad thunderstorm on my way to this peak and should have turned back. I was stupid, but got lucky. Don't underestimate these summer thunderstorms, they can kill!
Above all else, be careful of the weather. Philmont stresses this fact to all of their campers time and time again. Storms roll through the area almost everyday in mid to late summer. If you see clouds approaching, be ready for a fast descent. Don't put your life or others in jeopardy by trying to gain the summit with a storm approaching. Bonito Peak will always be there. KNOW BEFORE YOU GO! Now this is a little harder to do while on a trek at Philmont in the summer, but you can still observe the weather. On your summit day, check the weather out for yourself-keep an eye out. Clouds aren't always a bad thing. BUT, if you see rain approaching or hear thunder, that is your signal to head down. Better to be safe then sorry! Most of these storms don't last very long anyways. So you can easily wait out a storm and still make the summit that day.
Before you hike Bonito, you should have adequate knowledge of what to do in a lightning storm. Your ranger will inform you of Philmont's lightning procedure and will have most likely practiced it before hand to. But the basic fact is that in a summer monsoon with lightning, get down below treeline! For more information regarding lightning procedures, visit the Philmont Health and Safety Page.
You are only allowed to hike this peak if you are on a trek at Philmont Scout Ranch, are part of the staff, or have special permission from Philmont to do so. To contact Philmont, you can reach them at:
Address: Philmont Scout Ranch
17 Deer Run Road
Cimarron, NM 87714
Phone: (575) 376-2281
Fax: (575) 376-2602
Winter hiking is a no go. Philmont does offer a winter program called Kanuk, however, the winter activities are most limited to things around Camping Head Quarters (unless your staff or have special permission). Essentially, this peak can only be hiked during the summer (May- August) when Philmont's summer program is in operation.
Camping at Philmont can only be done in established campgrounds. The closest staffed camps are Beaubien and Black Mountain Camp. Beaubien lays to the south of Bonito Peak in Bonito Meadows. Black Mountain Camp lays to the east along the North Fork Urraca. If your hiking Bonito, you will usually end up at either one of these camps. Other then that, Red Hills Camp (NW) is the closest trail camp.
From Cimarron- Take Hwy 21 south for about five miles. Philmont Camping Head Quarters (CHQ) will be on the right side. This is where you will go if your a camper at Philmont. If you are staff, the closes place where you could access it would be from the Lovers Leap Turnaround. Even doing that is a very long day.
- Philmont Scout Ranch
The official Philmont website. This page has descriptions of all staffed camps at Philmont along with a list of typical itineraries and links to sites with photos of Philmont.
- Official Philmont Website
Here is the official Philmont website by the BSA
- Weather Conditions
The current weather conditions for Bonito Peak by NOAA