Sunset on Cox Peak.
Located about 30 miles southwest of Las Cruces in the midst of the Potrillo volcanic field between the East and West Potrillo Mountains, Cox Peak has an elevation of 5,936 feet and rises more than 1,500 feet above southern New Mexico’s Chihuahuan Desert landscape. With a prominence of 1,541 feet, Cox Peak tops the New Mexico prominence list for sub-6k peaks.
Cox Peak, along with two neighboring isolated peaks, Mount Riley (5,903 ft.) and Point 5872, are a dominating presence in this vast and isolated region of New Mexico. These peaks are part of the Greater Potrillo Mountains Complex, managed by the Bureau of Land Management. There are no maintained trails in this area that sees very few visitors.
From the summit, numerous mountain ranges come into view. Cinder cones, craters, and lava flows make the views truly unique. Seven miles east of the summit lies Hunts Hole, a maar volcanic crater over 1,500 yards wide. The much larger Kilbourne Hole, also a maar volcano, lies 1.9 miles north of Hunts Hole. Kilbourne Hole measures in diameter between 2,600 yards to more than 3,700 yards at its widest point and its crater is more than 300 feet deep. These are two rare examples of volcanic action void of a mountainous rim. There is a summit register -- it's enclosed in a jar and tucked into a small rock pile at the south end of a rock ring cairn. Although I didn't spend too much time going through the log, which was placed there in 2001, it seems that the summit doesn't get too many visitors -- maybe 3 or 4 per year.
Cox Peak from the SW.
Take NM Hwy 9 west from Santa Teresa or east from Columbus. From NM Hwy 9, turn north onto County Road A-005; proceed about 1.1 miles, where the road will split; go to the right 0.1 mile and pass through the gate. From the gate, continue on CR A-005 for 7.0 miles, then turn right onto the 4WD road, proceeding east towards Cox Peak. The 4WD road will end near the north side of Cox Peak after 0.9 miles. 2WD vehicles should be able to make it as far as the turnoff to the 4WD road, however, I would recommend against it.
County Road A-005 entrance.
Route to summit
From the end of the 4WD road, approach Cox Peak and ascend the north slope. There are no trails; you will have to route find your way to the top. There is an enormous rock slide on the north slope that runs essentially from the top all the way to the bottom. In some parts of the route, the rocks a little difficult to avoid. Where you can avoid them, you will contend with a plethora of cacti. I chose to stay on the rocks. The steepness of the slope coupled with the loose rocks made this an interesting and somewhat challenging summit. At the top of the rock slide, you’ll reach a false summit and see the actual summit 0.2 miles to the south. This route is about 1.2 miles one-way with 1,200 feet elevation gain.
Rock-covered north slope.
North slope view to the west.
West slope and summit.
There are no developed campsites or facilities in the area. Primitive camping is permitted; no fees or permits.
BLM rules apply. No fees and permits required. 24-hour access.
Food & Lodging
The town of Santa Teresa is about 28 miles east of the County Road turnoff from Hwy 9. El Paso, Texas is about 12 more miles of driving. Columbus, NM is about 36 miles to the west. Each place offers adequate food and lodging facilities.