Round Mountain is located in southern New Mexico about 9 miles northeast of the town of Tularosa, just off US Highway 70. The cone-shaped mountain is adorned with a cross (more on this below) on the summit, which has an elevation of 5,977 feet. With a prominence of only 277 feet though, Round Mountain narrowly misses technical qualification as a peak – 300 feet of prominence is the minimum required.
Round Mountain is also called Tularosa Peak, and has been known in the past as Dead Man’s Hill.
The Battle of Round MountainRound Mountain is a landmark in southern New Mexico and bears historic significance to the many local families that have been rooted in the Tularosa region for generations. Beginning in 1863, new settlers in the Tularosa area were subject to frequent attacks by the Mescalero Apache, who also called the area home. In 1868, a skirmish known as The Battle of Round Mountain marked the end of these attacks.
Historical events are often shrouded in controversy. The Battle of Round Mountain is no different. The following are excerpts from the New Mexico Historic Preservation Division's 2007 Annual Report:
"The history of the 1868 Battle of Round Mountain is contradictory and its exact location an open question.
The Mescalero Apache recount the attack in their oral history as a peace-making expedition gone sour. A medicine woman had a dream about preparing herself and the tribe to make peace. As they approached Tularosa, they were fired upon and again faced gunshots from soldiers who retreated to their fort, and the battled ended.
Historic accounts tell a different story."
"The morning of April 16, Sgt. Glass and four cavalrymen patrolled a wagon road between Nesbitt’s Mill and Tularosa. Glass reported Apaches attacked five soldiers who escaped to Tularosa and returned April 17 with the 26 citizens of Tularosa. The party was attacked again and retreated to a nearby hill—Round Mountain. A six hour battle left 10 Apache dead and the Mescalero withdrew to their camp. Tularosa celebrated victory by building a church, where the town’s defenders still are commemorated each year."
The article Round Mountain Visions – The Spell of Tularosa and Mescalero is very interesting reading and has a slightly different recounting of the battle.
St. Francis de Paula Catholic Church was built as a fulfillment of a promise made by the citizens of Tularosa when the Apaches were defeated at The Battle of Round Mountain. The cross on the summit, erected in 1957, commemorates The Battle of Round Mountain and is a tribute to those who fought in it.
Getting ThereFrom the West: From Tularosa, take US Highway 70 east for 9 miles, then turn right onto Round Mountain Road near the base of Round Mountain.
From the East: From Mescalero, take US Highway 70 west for about 7.5 miles, then turn left onto Round Mountain Road near the base of Round Mountain.
Once on Round Mountain Road: You will see a barbed wire fence on the right side of the road. From the turn from Hwy 70 onto Round Mountain Road, go about 0.4 miles around to the northeast side of the mountain and park along the dirt road. This is a maintained dirt road that is suitable for 2WD vehicles. Find the area where there is no fence line and you will see the trail leading up the mountain. Coordinates for the trailhead are 33.15081 N, 105.88231 W.
The hike to the summit is about 0.3 miles with 420 feet of elevation gain. This is a quick and easy hike with some fun navigation around and over rocks and boulders near the summit. Considering the lower elevation of this summit and the ease of the trek, the payoff with views of the Sacramento Mountains to the east and the Tularosa Valley to the west are great.