Hillsboro Peak lookout tower view.
Hillsboro Peak is located in the Black Range
of southwestern New Mexico. The summit has an elevation of 10,020 feet and a prominence of 1,304 feet, and is situated on the border of Grant and Sierra Counties. The summit is located just outside of the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Area boundary.
Bear, cougar, bobcat, coyote, fox, deer, elk, javelina, ringtail cat, raccoon, wild turkey, Mexican Spotted Owl and Peregrine Falcon all inhabit the area.
Forest view on route to Hillsboro Peak.
Hillsboro Peak takes its name from the nearby town of Hillsboro. Founded in 1877 after the discovery of gold in the area, Hillsboro got its name when "Hillsborough" was drawn from a hat of names submitted by prospectors. It was later shortened to its current name. After the devaluation of silver in 1893, Hillsboro's sister towns, Kingston and Lake Valley, both silver mining towns, faded into obscurity. Hillsboro, mining both gold and silver, declined but stayed alive. Today, it has a population of about 200 as compared to 1,200 in its heyday.
Hillsboro Peak from Trail 79.
Because the summit is not above the tree line, the views of the surrounding area are largely obstructed by trees. Magnificent views can be had though by going up the Forest Service lookout tower, which is manned during periods of high fire danger. There is also a ranger residence, a pit toilet, and a one-room log cabin on the summit. The cabin is for overnight public use on a first-come basis (I believe there is no charge for this).
Hiking & Camping
The Black Range Crest Trailheads (Trail 79) at Emory Pass (on NM Highway 152) provide the best access for the Black Range. This trail runs the length of the range along the central ridge. There is a large paved cul-de-sac parking area, tables, grill, and a pit toilet at Emory Pass Vista. The vista offers tremendous views to the east of the ghost town of Kingston, Hillsboro, Caballo Lake, and the mountain ranges beyond. Overnight camping is not permitted at the vista. The trailhead for the section of trail that heads north is located near the parking area entrance. The trailhead for the trail running south is on the other side (south side) of NM 152 across from the vista turnoff.
There are also many campgrounds, some with hiking trails, along NM 152 as it goes down Iron Canyon on the west side of the range. Because most of the range is almost entirely undeveloped, with the exception of those access points along NM 152, it can be very difficult to traverse this rugged terrain. See the External Links section for detailed resources for hiking and camping in the Gila National Forest. See the External Links section for detailed resources for hiking and camping in the Gila National Forest. Primitive camping is also permitted along the trails in the range at no fee; no permits required.
The 8,228-foot Emory Pass Vista provides the primary access to the Black Range. All directions below lead to this vista, where the Black Range Crest Trailheads are located.
From the East: From Interstate 25, take exit 63 (Hillsboro exit) and go west on NM Highway 152. After traveling west for 27 miles you will pass through the small town of Hillsboro. 9 miles west of Hillsboro, you will pass through the even smaller town of Kingston. Continue 9 more miles past Kingston until you see the Emory Pass Vista, turn right and proceed about 100 yards until you see the paved parking area.
From the West: From Interstate 10 eastbound, take the Hwy 90 exit at Lordsburg and proceed north to Silver City. From there, take Hwy 180 for about 5 miles, then turn left onto NM Hwy 152 to head in a general easterly direction. At this point, you will be about 36 miles to Emory Pass Vista. Continue east on NM 152 until you see the vista, then turn left to reach the vista parking area.
From the South: From Interstate 10 in Deming, take US Hwy 180 north for about 1.2 miles, then veer right onto NM Hwy 26 and proceed northeast for about 30 miles. Turn left onto NM Hwy 27 at the “town” of Nutt Station, where you will see the “Middle of Nowhere Bar & Café.” After a short distance to the west, NM 27 will curve right and head in a general northerly direction. You will see the ghost town of Lake Valley to your right before finally reaching Hillsboro 18 miles later, where NM 27 ties into NM 152. Turn left at Hillsboro and head west on NM 152, passing through Kingston 9 miles later and reaching Emory Pass Vista 18 miles west of Hillsboro. Turn right at the vista and proceed about 100 yards to reach the parking area.
WARNING: Most of these roads are not well-traveled and there is open rangeland. Drive with caution and be wary of animals in the road.
NM Hwy 152 between Hillsboro and Kingston.
Routes to Hillsboro PeakBlack Range Trail (Trail 79)
: Trailhead is at Emory Pass (on NM Highway 152). There are two trailheads at the pass, one on each side of NM 152. For this route, use the trailhead on the north side of NM 152 (same side as the vista). Trail 79 is the most popular route for hiking Hillsboro Peak. This trail is 5 miles each way with nearly 1,900 feet elevation gain.
Ladrone Gulch Trail (Trail 127)
: To reach the trailhead, take the paved road that goes through Kingston. This road is on the north side of NM 152 -- you will veer right from if traveling west on NM 152, or turn sharply to the left if going east on NM 152 to access this road. After about 0.5 miles, the pavement ends and the road becomes Forest Service road 40E, an unmaintained road. At this point you will be about 3 miles from the trailhead. The final mile of this road is essentially a jeep road and is rough. 4WD and high clearance is recommended. The trail begins where the road ends at the Aldo Leopold Wilderness boundary. Trail 127 connects with Trail 79 south of Hillsboro Peak. This route is about 9 miles in length with 2,800 feet elevation gain.
The following coordinates may be helpful if you use GPS. The elevations below were taken from my GPS altimeter.
| Black Range Crest Trailhead (north section)
|| 32.91022 N
|| 107.76436 W
| Hillsboro Peak Bypass Trail (Trail 412)
|| 32.94728 N
|| 107.77268 W
| Ladron Gulch Trail (Trail 127) (connector to Trail 79)
|| 32.94720 N
|| 107.77258 W
| Hillsboro Peak benchmark
|| 32.95274 N
|| 107.77951 W
USFS regulations apply. Leave No Trace: Wilderness area rules apply. For fees and other regulations, see the Gila National Forest links below. Backcountry hiking and camping do not require any permits. There are no roads in wilderness areas. Mechanized transportation, including mountain bikes, are not permitted. All travel must be by foot or horseback. You will find no logging, resorts nor commercial uses of any kind except for grazing.
Food & Lodging
The historic mining town of Hillsboro is 18 miles east of Emory Pass on NM 152. This is the closest place to get food and gas, but don’t wait too long. Everything in the town -- including the gas station -- is closed by 7 pm. The S-Bar-X BBQ, at the gas station, is open from 11 am – 6 pm and has great BBQ brisket sandwiches. The Hillsboro Cafe closes its doors at 7 pm. I recommend you top off the gas tank before arriving in this area as the gas prices in Hillsboro are very high. For lodging in Hillsboro there is the Enchanted Villa Bed and Breakfast (telephone 505-895-5686).
Nine miles west of Hillsboro (and nine miles east of Emory Pass) is the town of Kingston. Nestled in the foothills of the eastern Black Range, Kingston was once the premier metropolis of the New Mexico Territory, boasting a population of 7,000 in 1885. Today, it is a quiet community with about 30 residents. Aside from camping, developed or primitive, the nearest lodging is in Kingston at the Black Range Lodge
bed and breakfast (telephone 505-895-5652). The original construction of the Black Range Lodge dates back to 1884 and each of the seven guest rooms are different and unique – there isn’t a bad room in the house! There are no restaurants, gas stations, or ATMs in Kingston.
Black Range Lodge.
Gila National Forest: 505-388-8201
Gila National Forest - Black Range Ranger District (Truth or Consequences): 505-894-6677
External LinksGila National Forest – Black Range Ranger District
Gila National Forest – Hiking
Gila National Forest - Camping