Cerro Vista is a high rounded peak located in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in northern New Mexico, roughly inside a triangle formed by Taos, Mora and Venado. Peakbaggers will like it for its high elevation (11,939 feet) and high prominence (about 2,500 feet), but it is best known as a rare vantage point from which you can see north toward the state's highest peaks at and around Wheeler Peak, then turn around and view south into the mighty Truchas Range.
Late afternoon storm clouds shroud Cerro Vista
Access to Cerro Vista is from Carson National Forest Road 76 off of state highway NM-518 between Taos (Ranchos de Taos) and Mora, between mileposts 48 and 49 at the small community of Tres Ritos.
From wherever you come, turn north onto FR-76, signed as "La Junta Canyon Area". The road is well graded (some potholes) and parallels Rio La Junta for many miles. Ample camping is available along the road. The road stays in good shape until about the 9.5-mile mark, roughly at N 36.20298, W 105.40887 (NAD27 CONUS) here
, which would be the limit for passenger vehicles. High clearance can make it an extra 2.5 miles to a pass located just east of the summit, N 36.23062, W 105.39958 here
. Four-wheel drive is recommended for this last stretch.
I came to the area from the east via Mora, but I suspect most people will come from the more populated areas, e.g. Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Espanola and Taos. From the south you will come through Espanola. Take state routes 68 and 75 through the Picuris Pueblo to NM-518, then about 7 miles to FR-76. From Taos, go southwest to Ranchos de Taos and meet NM-518 there. It's about 25 miles to FR-76 afterwards.
Cerro Olla and the Truchas Range from Cerro Vista's summit.
The peak actually lies outside the National Forest, and sits astride two land grant boundaries. However, public access is not prohibited.
Wheeler Peak as seen from Cerro Vista
Duran and La Junta are the two developed campgrounds located along FR-76, both within about 6 miles of the highway. There are also numerous 'other' campsites along FR-76. All require a $5 day-use fee. I car-camped outside the Forest in a small clearing off the road. These are plentiful.
Beware: this is a popular ATV area. Lots of people pulling gigantic trailers with ATVs... I chose to camp apart from the big crowds at the established CGs. Also beware of hunting during the fall.
For general information:
Carson National Forest
Camino Real Ranger District
P.O. Box 68
Penasco, NM 87553
Fax: (505) 758-6236