The Black Range Crest Trail (Trail 79) is the primary trail in the Black Range of southwestern New Mexico. It winds through dense mixed conifer forests along the central ridge of the range. The trail, which is entirely within the borders of the Gila National Forest, is 36 miles in length and is broken into a northern and a southern section. Dividing the two sections of trail is New Mexico Highway 152, which crosses the Black Range at Emory Pass.
The northern section stretches 27.7 miles and leads to the highest points in the range. It runs past Hillsboro Peak (elev. 10,020 ft.), by McKnight Mountain (elev. 10,165 ft.), the Black Range's high point, and eventually connects with the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail by Reeds Peak (elev. 10,015 ft.). There are an abundance of scenic vistas along the northern section of Trail 79. The latter half of this trail will take you right through the heart of the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Area.
View of the northern section of Trail 79.
The southern section is 8.3 miles in length and goes towards Sawyers Peak (elev. 9,660 ft.) and beyond, terminating at Forest Service Road 882. Unlike the northern section, the southern section only has several vistas which offer partially obstructed views. No part of this section of trail goes into the wilderness area.
Mystic forest along the southern section of Trail 79.
The Black Range Crest Trailheads are located within very close proximity to the 8,228-foot Emory Pass Vista. There are tables, a grill, a pit toilet, and a large paved cul-de-sac parking area that will accomodate about 20 vehicles at Emory Pass Vista. Overnight camping is not permitted at the vista. All directions below lead to the vista.
From the East
: From Interstate 25, take exit 63 (Hillsboro exit) and go west on NM Highway 152. After traveling west for 27 miles you will pass through the small town of Hillsboro. 9 miles west of Hillsboro, you will pass through the even smaller town of Kingston. Continue 9 more miles past Kingston until you see the Emory Pass Vista, turn right and proceed about 0.15 miles to reach the parking area.
From the West
: From Interstate 10 eastbound, take the Hwy 90 exit at Lordsburg and proceed north to Silver City. From there, take Hwy 180 for about 5 miles, then turn left onto NM Hwy 152 to head in a general easterly direction. At this point, you will be about 36 miles to Emory Pass Vista. Continue east on NM 152 until you see the vista, then turn left to reach the vista parking area.
From the South
: From Interstate 10 in Deming, take US Hwy 180 north for about 1.2 miles, then veer right onto NM Hwy 26 and proceed northeast for about 30 miles. Turn left onto NM Hwy 27 at the “town” of Nutt Station, where you will see the “Middle of Nowhere Bar & Café.” After a short distance to the west, NM 27 will curve right and head in a general northerly direction. You will see the ghost town of Lake Valley to your right before finally reaching Hillsboro 18 miles later, where NM 27 ties into NM 152. Turn left at Hillsboro and head west on NM 152, passing through Kingston 9 miles later and reaching Emory Pass Vista 18 miles west of Hillsboro. Turn right at the vista and proceed about 0.15 miles to reach the parking area.
The trailhead for the section of trail that heads north is located near the parking area entrance; it will be on your left as you proceed to the vista after turning off of NM 152. The trailhead for the trail running south is on the other side (south side) of NM 152 across from the vista turnoff; it is located near the Emory Pass Historic Marker.
: Most of these roads are not well-traveled and there is open rangeland. Drive with caution and be wary of animals in the road.
Northern section trailhead.
The view from Emory Pass Vista.
NM Hwy 152 between Hillsboro and Kingston.
There are many campgrounds, some with hiking trails, along NM 152 as it goes down Iron Canyon on the west side of the range. Because most of the range is almost entirely undeveloped, with the exception of those access points along NM 152, it can be very difficult to traverse this rugged terrain. See the External Links section for detailed resources for hiking and camping in the Gila National Forest. Primitive camping is permitted along the trails in the range at no fee; no permits required.
| Black Range Crest Trailhead (north section)
|| 32.91022 N
|| 107.76436 W
| Black Range Crest Trailhead (south section)
|| 32.91007 N
|| 107.76637 W
USFS regulations apply. Leave No Trace
: Wilderness area rules apply. For fees and other regulations, see the Gila National Forest links below. Backcountry hiking and camping do not require any permits. There are no roads in wilderness areas. Mechanized transportation, including mountain bikes, are not permitted. All travel must be by foot or horseback. You will find no logging, resorts nor commercial uses of any kind except for grazing.
Food & Lodging
The historic mining town of Hillsboro is 18 miles east of Emory Pass on NM 152. This is the closest place to get food and gas, but don’t wait too long. Everything in the town -- including the gas station -- is closed by 7 pm. The S-Bar-X BBQ, at the gas station, is open from 11 am – 6 pm and has great BBQ brisket sandwiches. The Hillsboro Cafe closes its doors at 7 pm. I recommend you top off the gas tank before arriving in this area as the gas prices in Hillsboro are very high. For lodging in Hillsboro there is the Enchanted Villa Bed and Breakfast (telephone 505-895-5686).
Nine miles west of Hillsboro (and nine miles east of Emory Pass) is the town of Kingston. Nestled in the foothills of the eastern Black Range, Kingston was once the premier metropolis of the New Mexico Territory, boasting a population of 7,000 in 1885. Today, it is a quiet community with about 30 residents. Aside from camping, developed or primitive, the nearest lodging is in Kingston at the Black Range Lodge
bed and breakfast (telephone 505-895-5652). The original construction of the Black Range Lodge dates back to 1884 and each of the seven guest rooms are different and unique – there isn’t a bad room in the house! There are no restaurants, gas stations, or ATMs in Kingston.
Black Range Lodge.
Gila National Forest: 505-388-8201
Gila National Forest - Black Range Ranger District (Truth or Consequences): 505-894-6677
External LinksGila National Forest – Black Range Ranger District
Gila National Forest – Hiking
Gila National Forest - Camping