Penitente Peak is one of several 12,000+ foot peaks located in the cluster of mountains at the southern tip of the Sangre de Cristo mountains above Santa Fe, New Mexico. Situated in the Pecos Wildnerness of the Santa Fe National Forest, Penitente offers peakbaggers plenty of solitude and views of the beautiful Sangre de Cristos.
Penitente is often hiked in conjunction with Lake Peak (12,404) because the most direct route climbs up and over this Peak. Penitente Peak can also be linked up with nearby Santa Fe Baldy for a trilogy of three 12,000+ foot peaks.
Penitente itself is not technical but, if climbed in conjunction with Lake Peak, some third class moves will be encountered on the approach to Lake Peak . Penitente can be climbed in a long day, but excellent camping can be found in Puerto Nambe, the basin located beneath Penitente and Santa Fe Baldy.
This peak can be climbed year round, but basic avalanche awareness is required in winter and spring, especially after periods of significant snowfall.
If you simply climb Penitente and return via your route of ascent (i.e., over Lake Peak) the climb can be completed in about 5 to 8 hours roundtrip. If you do the entire loop described in the route desription, the trip will take a bit longer, but can still be done in a day.
Penitente Peak is most easily accessed from the trailhead located at the parking lot of the Santa Fe Ski Basin. To get here from Santa Fe, take HWY 285 N/St. Francis Dr. toward the center of town. As you near downtown, St. Francis intersects Paseo de Peralta. Don't turn here, but continue on a few blocks until St. Francis intersects Paseo de Peralta a second time (P. Peralta makes a loop). Turn right on Paseo de Peralta and follow it for a couple of blocks. Turn left on Bishop Lodge Road, which is immediately after the large, pink, moorish looking church. Turn right on to Artist Road/Hyde Park Road, which winds its way up the mountain and then takes you to the base of Santa Fe Ski Area. As you enter the parking lot and face toward the ski area, the trail head is on the left side of the parking lot, near the small grey building housing the restrooms.
No permits required. Check the sign at the trail head for fire restrictions. The moutain is located within the Pecos Wildnerness Area, so certain restrictions apply (i.e., no camping near creeks or trails). Check the trailhead sign or with the Forest Service for more information on these restrictions.
When To Climb
Year round. Those climbing in winter should be dressed appropriately and should have skis or snowshoes for the approach. The best time is from June through September, when little or no snow is encountered on the trail, but beware of afternoon thunderstorms.
Camping is allowed in the Pecos Wildnerness Area. There will likely be fire restrictions during the summer; check the bulletin board at the trailhead. Good camping exists in the area near the intersection of trails 251 and 254 in the Puerto Nambe basin. Car camping is available at the trail head and a number of designated campgrounds a few miles down the road from the ski area, including Aspen Vista, Big Tesuque, and Hyde State Park.
For more information on the Santa Fe National Forest, visit its website by clicking here
Or contact the ranger station at (505) 438 - 7840.
In winter and early spring, you can get a weather report and an idea of how much snow is on the route by clicking here to visit the Ski Area's snow report page.