Cerro Picacho is another peak in the roughly 8,000-foot-high mountain cluster on the eastern edge of the Jemez Mountains overlooking Cochiti Pueblo, Cochiti Lake, and the Rio Grande River. About a mile south and a couple of hundred feet shorter than Saint Peters Dome, Cerro Picacho takes on much less traffic than its neighbors.
This peak as well as the rest of the Jemez Mountains were once part of a massive supervolcano that collapsed around a million years ago, which sent hundreds of cubic kilometers of rock and ash into the atmosphere. Today, they stand as monuments to an amazing past filled with huge amounts of volcanism visible over much of the northern Rio Grande Valley. Large, obtuse boulders of tuff as well as hole-filled cliffs from the volcanic activity in the past accent the area with interesting landmarks and potential rock climbing locations. This place is not visited often, especially in the winter, and provides a wonderful outdoor experience with plenty of solitude.
The Dome Wilderness Area is the smallest wilderness area in New Mexico. Hit by a fire in 1996, it continues to recover, which is why the higher peaks have no trees.
There are three ways to the top of this peak. It is possible to come from the north on the Boundary Peak Trail from Bandelier National Monument. Another route is the Saint Peters Dome Trail that starts on the southern border of the Dome Wilderness. The shortest is driving up to a low point on the ridge between Boundary Peak and Saint Peters Dome. By walking towards Saint Peters Dome and taking a right where the Saint Peters Dome Trail is marked with a light blue post you can cut the trip to about a mile one-way.
Getting ThereTo the Saint Peters Dome Trailhead:
Travel north from Albuquerque on Interstate 25 to exit 264. From there, turn west and drive through Cochiti Lake following the signs. Continue and take a right about .75 miles past the Cochiti Pueblo Golf Course on to road 289. Stay on this road into Eagle Canyon and up on to the ridge between Eagle Canyon and Cochiti Canyon. Just prior to the start of some major switchbacks in the road, .25 miles past a narrow passage between two rises on the ridge, you'll come to an orange sign reading "Dome Wilderness." The Saint Peters Dome Trail begins 25 feet to the right of the sign and parking 25 feet to the right of the trailhead.
To the Ridge Between Boundary Peak and Saint Peters Dome:
Instead of stopping at the trailhead for the Saint Peters Dome Trail, continue on Road 289 to intersection with Saint Peters Dome Road (Road 142). Take a right at the intersection and head towards the watchtower.
Take note: the road is closed in winter a couple of miles above the trailhead.
To Boundary Peak Trailhead:
From Santa Fe, take US-285/US-84 towards Espanola, NM. After 16 miles, take NM-502 towards Los Alamos. Around 11.5 miles, turn onto NM-4, which will deliver you to Bandelier National Monument. Once inside the monument, make your way to the main visitor center where the trail begins.
This peak, as well as the Saint Peters Dome Trail reside within the borders of the Dome Wilderness, which prohibits the use of wheeled vehicles including mountain bikes on the trails.
Camping is allowed in the area, but you must acquire a permit prior to your trip. There is also a campground at Cochiti Lake (505-465-2300).
Cochiti Lake through the canyon below Cerro Picacho
Here's a link for the weather forecast of the peak cluster in which Cerro Picacho sits.
Cerro Picacho Weather
External LinksBandelier National Monument
National Parks Conservation Association