Los Alamos is the premier governmental research center in the United States, a popular place to send our best and brightest scientists to "go camping" and dream up interesting things to build. The town came into prominence during World War II, and the isolated locale became a full-fledged city/campus, tucked into the eastern foothills of the Jemez Mountains of north-central New Mexico. The county of Los Alamos was formed primarily to segregate the research town from surrounding politics. The county is New Mexico's smallest at about 140 square miles. Most of its western and northern boundaries abut the Jemez Mountains. Caballo Mountain is one of the many high peaks in the immediate area, located north of the city. The county line actually cuts across south of the summit by a few hundred feet, so the actual tip-top is in Sandoval County while the highpoint along the county boundary is the highest point in Los Alamos County.
Access to Caballo is fairly easy, with a good trailhead near the Pajarito Ski Area. One way distance is about 7 miles, along a combination of old road and good trail. The first four miles is mostly level, passes through forest and open meadows, and popular with mountain bikers. The last 3 miles falls into Guaje Canyon then moderately steeply up trail to a broad meadow on the south-facing slopes of Caballo Summit.
Visitation to Caballo is probably enhanced by its county highpoint status only - it's a bit far if all you want is a peak, and other peaks of very-nearly the same elevation are much more popular for local hikers (e.g. Pajarito Peak). The top is wooded, but overall the hike is wonderful and well worth the effort.
Caballo Mountain seen from near the drop-down point into Guaje Canyon
Trinity Boulevard is the main drag through Los Alamos, also known as state highway NM-502. From Santa Fe head north to Pojoaque on US-285, then follow the signs onto NM-502 to Los Alamos, which is about another 20 miles west. This is a beautiful drive with steep grades and impressive cliffs and mesas. Pass west through town along NM-502 and turn south onto NM-501, then after about 2 miles (maybe less, maybe more), turn right onto Camp May Road/Pajarito Ski Area. Follow this steep paved road a few miles to the obvious ski complex. The trailhead is on the road's right (north) side just after the largest of the parking areas. The trailhead sign is set back a bit but is fairly easy to find. This trail is called Guaje Canyon Trail #282.
Canada Bonita, a beautiful broad meadow about 2 miles in on the hike.
We parked for free without hassle. During ski season I do not know. Beware of hunters in October.
When To Climb
Summer-Fall are the best times. In winter heavy snows may occlude the trail but it seems that the ascent wouldn't be that difficult if one had the right gear. Someone else may have to chime in with winter commentary.
Beware the usual summer thunderstorms. Get an early start and try to be off the summit by 10 a.m.
In Guaje Canyon
Camping is available at the end of Camp May Road about 0.25 miles beyond the trailhead. A simple loop campground is available. I did not camp there. It looked pretty basic but reasonable.
For hotels, you probably will have better luck getting lodging in Santa Fe or Espanola.
Mountain ConditionsPajarito Ski Page
includes links for weather, conditions, events.
Visit also www.cohp.org
Further useful information can be found at the county highpointers website:
Los Alamos County, New Mexico