OverviewThe Capitan Mountains are located in the Lincoln National Forest in southern New Mexico. They are one of the few mountain ranges in the country that run east-west. The Capitans are generally considered to be part of the Sacramento Mountains, although some sources list them as a separate range. The 10,083' Capitan Peak is the most popular peak in the Capitans, and many people think it is the range highpoint, but it is not. The highpoint of the Capitans is a 10,201' unnamed highpoint one mile east of the radio tower facility. This radio tower facility, which is at the end of Forest Road 56, has an elevation of 10,179', and is designated as Summit Peak on some maps. However, no maps identify the true highpoint, although the Forest Service has erected a sign at the highpoint that says Palko Peak. From the city of Roswell, the Capitans appear as a giant pyramid rising on the western horizon. In June 2004, the Peppin Fire ravaged much of the Capitans, and destroyed some of the trails. Palko Peak is in the Capitan Mountains Wilderness Area
Getting ThereFrom the small town of Capitan on US 380, drive two miles east on US 380 until you reach the signed Capitan Gap turnoff. Turn left, and drive about six miles to Capitan Gap. This road is known as County Road 001 and Forest Road 56. The road is good up to Capitan Gap. Once at the Gap, turn right onto Forest Road 56, and start driving up the mountain. The road steepens significantly just above the Gap. After about six miles, the road turns southeast and starts heading downhill. You should park here just before it starts descending. The road gets very rough from here on out. The road descends to a saddle, then starts heading uphill towards the radio towers. Just past the saddle, you will reach the junction with Forest Trail 60 as it comes up from Baca Campground. Continue up the road to the radio towers. It’s about nine miles from the Gap to the towers. A sign marking the start of the Summit Trail is here.
Mountain ConditionsContact the Smokey Bear Ranger District in Ruidoso for the latest conditions. Their number is 505-257-4095.
Forest Service Map: Lincoln National Forest.
Topo Maps: Capitan Pass; Capitan Peak.
CampingThe small Baca Campground is located at the southern base of the Capitan Mountains.
- Lincoln National Forest
- The Story of Smokey the Bear.
- Capitan Wilderness Area
- New Mexico Prominence Map