Created in 1980, the Dome Wilderness is located in the Jemez Ranger District of the Santa Fe National Forest. At only 5,200 acres, it is one of the smallest wilderness areas in the Southwestern United States. On its eastern border lies Bandelier National Monument
, a beautiful place full of history.
In 1996 large portions of the Dome Wilderness and Bandelier National Monument were burned in the Dome Fire. The fire began when campers failed to completely extinguish their campfire. Over 16,500 acres were burned including most of the northern portion of the Dome Wilderness.
Burned Areas in the distance Mountain Lion Tracks
The rugged terrain of this wilderness area provides an excellent habitat for many types of wildlife. Bears, mountain lions, elk, and deer are found in this area, as well as smaller animals. Birds are plentiful and it is common to see numerous different varieties while hiking in this area. In areas unaffected by the Dome Fire plant life is also diverse. Tall Ponderosa Pines grow throughout the southern portions of the Wilderness area.
Canyon Wall Ruins
The canyons of the Dome Wilderness contain prehistoric ruins much like the ruins of Bandelier National Monument
. Small rooms cut into the tuff (compressed volcanic ash) can be seen in some of the canyon walls. Be sure to not disturb these rooms or any artifacts found in the area.
Hiking the Dome Wilderness
The Dome Wilderness has many miles of hiking trails that cover mountains, canyons, and everything in between. The mountains of the Dome Wilderness are not large; all of them are under 8,500 feet. However, they are rather rugged and offer wonderful views of the surrounding area as well as the Sandia Mountains, Manzano Mountains, and the southern Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The canyons found within the Dome Wilderness are rugged and contain some wonderful surprises such as waterfalls, prehistoric ruins, and strange rock formations. They can drop to elevations as low as 5,800 feet. The main trails in the Dome Wilderness are the Saint Peters Dome trail, the Canada-Capulin trail, and the Capulin trail. In addition to the main trails there are many smaller unnamed trails.
The mountain range that covers the northern Dome Wilderness is the San Miguel Mountains. It is a very small sub-range of the Jemez Mountains. The table below lists all the mountains in the range and wilderness area.
Data from Lists of John
|**Saint Peters Dome
|Dome Wilderness High Point
**Saint Peters Dome in not within the Dome Wilderness borders, however it is easily climbed in combination with other Dome Wilderness mountains.
Capulin Canyon Capulin Canyon
Capulin Canyon is the northern most canyon and almost three miles of it is contained within the Dome Wilderness. Capulin Canyon continues both east and west of the Dome Wilderness for a significant distance. With a trail running along the bottom of the canyon for the entire length this can make for a nice multi-day hike. At it's eastern end it will pass Painted Cave and Cochiti Lake then eventually the trail will take you to the Bandelier Visitor Center
in Frijoles Canyon.
Sanchez Canyon divides the Dome Wilderness traveling from the northwest to the southeast for over 5 miles. The canyon is defined by sheer vertical cliffs in places and a 50 - 60 foot waterfall. It is possible to hike along the top of the canyon's sheer walls in places. You can also hike over the creek just above the waterfall. The creek is usually low so the best time to see the waterfall is March or April since it may be dry during other times of the year. Medio Canyon is a very small canyon just north of Sanchez Canyon. Medio Canyon's northern walls have prehistoric Indian ruins as well as small caves. In this area you can also find rusting steel cans from more recent explorers.
***Sanchez Canyon Images***
***Sanchez Canyon Images***
Eagle Canyon is the southern most canyon and about one third of it is contained within the Dome Wilderness. The canyon begins below the southwest slope of Cerro Balitas and the wilderness section continues for approximately 1.5 miles before reaching the Dome Wilderness border. The remaining section of Eagle Canyon has FS289 running directly through it before opening up just west of Cochiti Lake.
Caution: The southern end of FS289 is a rough road. It should not be attempted by cars with very low clearance, however, 4WD is not necessary. Most passenger cars driven carefully could drive this road. The northern portion of FS289 is in excellent condition and can be driven by any car. Be careful of this road during wet weather, it would be easy to get stuck in the mud.
The 3.5 mile long Saint Peters Dome road is much rougher than FS289. You must have good clearance and some experience driving on 4WD roads. Do not attempt this road when it is muddy.
Go north on I-25 to exit 259 or exit 264 and head west. The roads from both exits will intersect a few miles west of I-25. Continue on the road following signs to Cochiti Lake. The road will pass below Cochiti Dam before turning right and climbing up towards the top of the dam. Continue on this road for approximately 4 miles past the base the dam until you reach the intersection with FS289 (called Dome Lookout Rd in this area). FS289 goes for approximately 17 miles before intersecting with Rt 4. Along this road you will find many pull-offs and trail heads for the Dome Wilderness. The Saint Peters Dome road is about 10 miles north of the intersection of Cochiti Hwy and FS289 and offer access to the northern portion of the Dome Wilderness.
From Los Alamos:
Head west on Rt 4 for 6 miles past the intersection with Rt 501. Just past the Cerro Grande
trailhead turn left onto Forest Service Rd 289. FS289 goes for approximately 17 miles before intersecting with Cochiti Hwy. Along this road you will find many pull-offs and trail heads for the Dome Wilderness. The Saint Peters Dome road is 7.5 miles south of the intersection of Rt 4 and FS289 and offer access to the northern portion of the Dome Wilderness.
Dome Wilderness Borders
The Dome Wilderness has the same regulations and restrictions as all other Wilderness areas in New Mexico. The primary regulations limit groups to 15 people or less and prohibit any type of motorized vehicles within Wilderness boundaries. In addition, there may be fire restrictions so check with the local ranger:
Jemez Ranger District
PO BOX 150
JEMEZ SPRINGS, NM 87025
Restrictions: Office Hours: 8am - 5 pm M-F
More details about wilderness regulations and restrictions can be found here
Camping is allowed in the wilderness area.
Camping is also allowed by permit in the neighboring Bandelier Wilderness. Permits for camping in the Bandelier backcountry can be obtained at the Bandelier National Monument
External LinksWilderness.net - Dome Wilderness
Forest Service - Dome Wilderness
Local Weather from NOAA
Santa Fe National Forest
Wikipedia entry for the Dome Fire