OverviewPajarito Mountain is in the eastern Jemez Mountains of New Mexico, USA, in Sandoval County, near the "atomic city" of Los Alamos (elevation ~7300'). It is the 149th highest ranked peak in New Mexico.
This mountain is perhaps best known as the home of Pajarito Mountain Ski Area, which has occupied the mountain's northern slopes since 1957. Lift service is offered to mountain bikers and hikers on select weekends during the summer. In addition to skiing and mountain biking, Pajarito Mountain is also very well-suited for hikers, snowshoers, and cross-country skiers. When the ski area is open (typically mid-December through late March), it operates only on Fri/Sat/Sun plus holidays, and thus its slopes are largely empty during the work-week.
Like the rest of the Jemez Mountains, Pajarito Mountain is volcanic in origin. It is a part of the eroded rim of a large ancient caldera, the Valles Caldera, which is now a national preserve.
The word "pajarito" means "little bird."
Getting ThereYou can reach Pajarito Mountain from the west via NM State Routes 4 & 501, or from the east via NM State Route 502. The large parking area at the base (~9200') of the Pajarito Mountain Ski Area is about 5 miles driving from the town of Los Alamos. Please click here for a map with directions.
Red TapePajarito Mountain is on private land owned by the Los Alamos Ski Club (which owns and operates the ski area), but it is surrounded by public lands: the Valles Caldera National Preserve (to the west) and the Santa Fe National Forest (to the north, east, and south). The Los Alamos Ski Club allows public recreational access; however, please click here for some suggestions to keep everyone involved happy and safe. Access from the west via the Valles Caldera National Preserve is restricted; please visit their website for more information.
CampingThe closest camping is at Camp May Campground (~9300'), which is a very short distance up a dirt road to the NW of the ski area parking lot. Typically, the campground closes around Nov. 1 of each year and re-opens in the spring. Camping is by permit only, which can be obtained at the Larry Walkup Aquatic Center on Canyon Road in Los Alamos. Call 505-662-8170 for permit information. The next closest camping is at Bandelier National Monument (about 10-15 miles away). Please click here for more information.
Weather and ClimatePlease click here for weather information from a Los Alamos National Laboratory weather station situated near the summit of Pajarito Mountain. The information posted is usually updated hourly during the day.
Summer: Daytime temperatures are typically very pleasant, with highs in the 70's F, and maybe 80's on a hot day. Night-time temperatures will usually drop into the 40's and 50's. Brief afternoon thunderstorms are typical from early/mid July through end of August. Watch out for lightning!
Fall: Daytime temperatures are noticeably cooler, ranging from 50/60's in the early fall to 30/40's in late fall. Night-time temperatures are in the 30's in early fall and drop to 20's/teens by late fall. The first accumulating snows usually occur in November or early December.
Winter: Daytime temperatures are in the 20/30's and night-time temperatures are in the teens and single digits during cold spells. The mountain is usually covered in snow (hoooray!).
Spring: Daytime temperatures are in the 40/50/60's and night-time temperatures in the 20/30/40's. The last accumulating snowfalls will typically occur in mid-March, although accumulating snows in April are possible but rare. The lower parts of the mountain are typically melted out by mid-April, and the upper parts by mid-May.
Sunshine is abundant through all 4 seasons! The total annual snowfall on the mountain is typically between 100 and 150 inches.
External LinksPajarito Mountain Ski Area
Los Alamos Mountaineers Club
Valles Caldera National Preserve
Santa Fe National Forest
References1. Kirby, Deanna Morgan, Just Crazy to Ski: A Fifty-Year History of Skiing at Los Alamos (Los Alamos Historical Society, Los Alamos, 2003).
2. Lists of John
3. Martin, Craig, Los Alamos Trails: Hiking, Biking and Cross-Country Skiing (All Seasons Publishing, Los Alamos, 1999).
3. Sky Terrain Trail Maps, Santa Fe, Bandelier & Los Alamos, 2006.