In the heart of the Jemez Mountains lies Cerro Pedernal. Pedernal means flint in Spanish, and this peak was aptly named. The volcanic process that created this butte left plenty of stone around the peak that is perfect for fashioning crude tools. The native peoples of the area used the rock around this mountain for arrowheads and other tools.
Cerro Pedernal is essentially a high, long butte created by a volcanic process. Viewed along its East-West line, it appears as a tall point rising out of the New Mexico desert, but viewed along its North-South vantage, its true shape is more apparent as a long ridge.
This mountain creates an inspiring vista among the high desert terrain around the Abiquiu region of New Mexico. Deep reds, greens, and browns mark this area. Indeed, the famous artist Georgia O'Keeffe lived for a time in this area and painted Cerro Pedernal several times. She referred to Pedernal as her "favorite mountain." Click here for one of O'Keeffe's renditions of the peak. Click here for information about Georgia O'Keeffe.
Despite Cerro Pedernal's history and beauty, she is seldom climbed. The high butte is ringed by a long, sheer cliff band that seems impossible to climb unroped. Perhaps this is why few see her summit. However, there is a weakness in the cliffs that offers a short Class 4 scramble to the top. From the summit of Cerro Pedernal, you are afforded uncommon views. The Sangre de Cristo range is visible from Colorado to New Mexico. The Colorado 14er Culebra Peak is easily visible, as well as New Mexico's highest point, Wheeler Peak. On a clear day, the southern San Juan range in Colorado is visible, and even the La Platas around Durango. Ringing Cerro Pedernal is the Jemez range, which are mostly rolling mountains with lush greens. To the West is high desert landscape of deep red sandstone, blue rivers, and the tans and browns of the high desert. The summit of Cerro Pedernal is quite a spectacular spot.
Note: A special thanks to Gerry Roach for introducing me to this peak via the "Classic Climbs" portion of his website. Researching this peak, I found scant info on the internet, and I relied mostly on his descriptions. My route page and some of my observations differ from his, mostly because I think I found a better trail up to the cliffs (there are several in the area) on my descent. Please go here to see Gerry's description of the climb. Our biggest difference is that I felt the crux was a Class 4, while Gerry calls it a Class 3. I found another vague reference to it on the net that called it a 4, also. It's stiff, but short, which is why Gerry may have gone with the Class 3 rating. Let me know what you think.
- From the town of Espanola in New Mexico, which is Southwest of Taos, drive on US 285 / US 84 Northwest. Follow US 84 when US 285 branches off.
- After 23 miles, turn left on NM 96.
- After 11.1 miles, turn left onto Forest Service (FS) 100. This turn is just east of the small town of Youngsville. Reset your trip odometer.
- Follow FS 100 (dirt) for 5.5 miles until you reach an unsigned trailhead where a 4WD road turns left (east). This is the trailhead for 2WD vehicles. There isn't much parking possible here.
Note: Use your odometer. None of the described trailheads and intersections are signed in this forest.
4WD vehicles can proceed much further.
- Reset your trip odometer.
- Go 1.1 miles down the length of Temolime Canyon until the road takes a sharp turn north. There is a good parking spot here where an old road is blocked. A high clearance 2WD can easily make it this far.
- To go as far as possible, continue 1.8 more miles on the 4WD drive road until you find yourself in a large meadow with a good view of Cerro Pedernal. This is as far as you can conceivably drive. Along the way, the 4WD road will come to an intersection where the main road goes straight, and another switches back hard to the east. Take the switch back to the east. It is marked with a 3 foot cairn.
The 4WD road gets rougher as you go. A good option is to find a pull off along the initial stretch of road to park. If you drive to the end of the road, you are a mere 1 mile from the summit.
Red TapeNo red tape. This is all National Forest.
When To ClimbCerro Pedernal can be conceivably climbed year-round. Winter conditions would make the road and the cliffs much more dangerous.
CampingInformal camping is available all along the route in the Santa Fe National Forest. Also, there are several informal spots along FS 100. I did not see any formal campsites in the area.
Mountain ConditionsCerro Pedernal is contained in the Santa Fe National Forest. Use the provided link or call (505) 438-7840 for information.
Click here for an NOAA forecast for the Youngsville Area
- Gerry Roach's Classic Climbs of New Mexico
This page shows Gerry Roach's description of this climb.