OverviewStrawberry Peak is one of the distinctive topographic features around the town of Socorro in central New Mexico, approximately 80 miles south of the state capital, Albuquerque. It gets its name from its upside-down strawberry shape when viewed from certain angles. The mountain lies within the Rio Grande rift and is the remnant of a rhyolitic/rhyodacitic dome that formed ~12 million years ago along with others in the region (ref.). Curiously there are some exposures of basalt columns however. The route to the top of Strawberry Peak first involves a long hike in towards the base before an easy scramble up a steep ridge line up to the summit. Stunning views are afforded from the top of the Magdelenas, Ladrones and other nearby ranges. While this mountain was formed several million years ago, magmatic activity is still occurring in the region. Nineteen kilometres down lies one of the largest mid-crustal magma bodies on Earth, ~3500 km in area and 150 km thick, it causes localised uplift up to 3 mm per year. The dominating peak in the area is called variously M-Mountain, Socorro Peak or Peak 7284 (as in that many feet asl). It is generally used as an explosives testing area by EMRTC and is closed for most of the year. The two exceptions are during a golf tournament which begins at the summit and works its way down, and the M-Mountain Run where people race up with heavy packs of marble dust to repair the M symbol that adorns it.
The route itself is on State and BLM land, so it's open for hiking. However, much of the land to the south-west of the route is EMRTC land, a group which tests "energetic materials", i.e. explosives. As such there are many fences and warning signs which you should obey, else you stand a real chance of having someone chase after you and bring you in for questioning. You may alternatively step on some unexploded ordnance. Follow this link for more info: http://www.emrtc.nmt.edu/
Further, about half way into the route you may see a ranch to the north of you on the other side of a prominent riverbed called Nogal Arroyo. This is private land (Kelly Ranch?) and random trespassing may not be met kindly.
Checking a map of land management before hand might be an idea. Here's the best I could find on the Interweb.
Getting ThereThis route to the summit is approximately 8-10 miles long, or 16-20 return from the 'trail head', which has an altitude of ~1440 m. Head along a road running north from the IRIS-PASSCAL Center until you reach a gate, this may or may not be open. Past the gate is a stile on your left with a path leading to the west. This is known locally as the 'Single Track' and often used by runners and cyclists. Follow this route to the west, past another fence and then north through scrubland before eventually leaving the route and dropping into Nogal Arroyo, a dry river bed, which you should follow to the west (see USGS Socorro Topo Quad for a map with this name annotated, and the Water Canyon map for the summit area - see link at bottom). Watch out for numerous spiky cacti as well as snakes and spiders (and trucks with flashing lights - see Red Tape section). The Socorro Topo Quad also shows a couple of roads (e.g. Kelly Canyon Road) heading from the highway towards Strawberry Peak - if you can negotiate access to these you'll save yourself a lot of time, either on foot or driving.
After this the ground is mostly grass covered and there are really no paths as such but any route that heads in the general direction of the peak, which can usually be seen, is fairly straightforward. Not climbing unnecessary hills would be wise though; some people for example follow Nogal Arroyo as it transitions into Nogal Canyon before taking a branch that runs WNW towards the base of the peak but it's optional. You may come across some ruined buildings en route, it's difficult to discern the builders or how long they've been there for. Once you reach the base of the peak, take a breather before starting on the steep SE-NW ridge climb often composed of loose material. The shape of the ridge means that there are a lot of 'false summits' so be patient! There are wonderful views to be gained from the summit of the surrounding mountains and plains. Always try to avoid crossing into EMRTC land or walking on roads even though it might be tempting (see Red Tape section above).
SummitThere are many interesting things atop Strawberry Peak, such as a make-shift antenna for contacting aliens, a telephone receiver, a Do Not Enter sign (see above) and not least a geocache. See http://www.geocaching.com/seek/cache_details.aspx?guid=1af6f178-2d92-4334-acaa-a8ec9d39ffd2 for more info.
When to goThis route is fairly arduous due to the hot temperatures even found in the Fall. There is little chance of finding water en-route so take plenty with you. The hike is at least 5 hours each way, not including breaks. This is mainly due to the undulating topography and slow ascent and descent sections on the peak itself. Spring and Autumn are perhaps the best time to go though really you could go any time. I wouldn't recommend the summer so much as the temperatures are likely to be around 90 degrees (Fahrenheit) with a chance of either persistent rains or intermittent thunder storms with lightning. There is nothing in terms of shade or shelter. The arroyos might have water in during this time. During winter there might be a fair bit of snow and sustained temperatures below freezing though it's not typical. There's also less daylight. Even in Spring and Autumn a head-lamp is a good thing to take along as you don't really want to be wandering onto any random land mines in the dark.
Camping / accomodationNot really necessary to camp if you leave early but there's plenty of space when you're out there. Saying that I don't know the ins and outs of NM land regulations. Regarding accommodation nearby, there are no shortage of motels in Socorro with plenty of eating and food shopping options in town.
Random extra photos
External linksUSGS info on Strawberry Peak.
USGS topo maps. Navigate to area of interest, choose 'Mark Points' button on the right-hand side, then click on map to create a balloon, then click balloon to see what maps are available and download the one you want.