Santa Fe Baldy, at the southern end of the Sangre de Christo Range, is the highest point in the cluster of mountains above the city of Santa Fe, New Mexico. It is situated within the Pecos Wildnerness section of the Santa Fe National Forest, a vast, rugged wildnerness with boundless opportunities for hiking and peakbagging. While not technically difficult, the mountain can be climbed year round and is an excellent training climb for more challenging mountains. The primary challenge lies in the 7 mile approach hike, a beautiful trail that winds through pine and aspen groves. Although the trail head is only thirty minutes from Santa Fe, the mountain is generally not too crowded. The total trip is about 14 miles roundtrip.
From the summit, there are beautiful views for miles in all directions, including the Jemez Mountains to the West, the Sandia Mountains to the South, the Truchas Mountains to the North, the plains to the east, and the Rio Grande valley below. Baldy can be climbed in a long day, but there is plenty of good camping along the route and many interesting side trips. Baldy can also be linked up with nearby Lake Peak and Penitente Peak for an fun traverse of three 12,000+ foot peaks.
In winter and spring, the area around Baldy is popular with backcountry skiers looking to lay fresh tracks in the bountiful powder found in this area.
The trail head for Baldy is located at the parking lot of the Santa Fe Ski area, about 20 miles or so from the Santa Fe town square. 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 area for the ski area, stay left where the road forks around a grove of trees. The trailhead is on your left about 100 yards past the fork in the road, near a small grey building housing the restrooms.
In winter time, when the ski area is open, the traffic directors will try to make you turn right at this fork or, worse, have you park on the side of the road a ways back. Ignore these guys and tell them you are going to the wildnerness parking area. If they give you any trouble, remember that they are only $6/hour employees of the ski area and have no authority to make you do anything.
From the trail head, head north on well-used Windsor trail (Trail No. 254). Be sure to head north, and not south, as the trail heads both ways from this trailhead.
The trail is well marked and easy to follow, even when there is substantial snowpack. Except for a fairly long steep section within the first mile, the trail is relatively flat for about 5 or so miles. The trail steepens a bit as it enters Puerto Nambe--the basin that is surrounded on two sides by Santa Fe Baldy and Penitente Peak.
The trail continues until in intersects with trail 251, which leads up and over Baldy's SE ridge and eventually to Lake Katherine. Here the trail begins to leave the trees and enter the bald alpine zone. Follow 251to your left (north) until you reach the top of the SE ridge. The distance from the parking lot to this ridge is approximately 6.5 miles.
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
The summer months (June--September) are the best, but Baldy can be climbed year round. During the summer, the biggest danger is afternoon thunderstorms, which are very common in this area. Make certain that you are off exposed ridges and slopes well before 2 or 3 in the afternoon when lightning becomes a serious risk. During these summer months, you should generally not encounter much snow on the trail.
The higher elevations of the Pecos Wilderness receive a great deal of snwofall during the winter, so winter or spring ascents will often require skis or snowshoes for the approach, together with avalanche awareness after periods of heavy snowfall. Dress appropriately during winter ascents, as these mountains can experience very high winds and extremely cold temperatures.
For a special treat, do the climb when the Aspen leaves are turning in late fall.
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 (about 6 miles in). Good camping is also available in the vicinity of Lake Katherine, near the base of Baldy, but you must camp at least 100 yards from the shoreline. 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.
The trail map for the Pecos Wildnerness, published by the US Forest Service is highly recommended for this, or any other hike, in the Wildnerness area.
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.
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