Lookout Peak as seen from Fort Selden.
Lookout Peak, with an elevation of 5,648 feet and a prominence of 538 feet, is the northernmost peak in the Robledo Mountains, a small range near Radium Springs, New Mexico. It, along with the rest of the range, is situated in an Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) that falls within the boundaries of the Robledo Mountains Wilderness Study Area (WSA). The Robledos overlook the fertile Mesilla Valley to the east, where the mighty Rio Grande flows along the base of the range. Lookout Peak looks directly down on the town of Radium Springs to the north and from the summit there are terrific views of numerous mountain ranges near and far in a region that is, less Las Cruces, very sparsely populated. Despite being located only about 15 miles northwest of Las Cruces, this area sees very few visitors. It is likely that you will see no other person throughout the course of the day. The resulting solitude makes for a great outdoor experience.
This is an area of diverse wildlife, home to the mule deer, pronghorn, mountain lion, bobcat, coyote, javelina, bald and golden eagle, hawk, owl, peregrine falcon and a host of reptile species.
|SE summit view. |
|NE summit view. |
|SW summit view.
Area History and Interesting Facts
This area is dominated by limestone formations that occurred at a time when it was under an inland sea. After the waters receded during the Jurassic Period, dinosaurs roamed across the mud flats here. Some of their footprints have been preserved on the west side of the mountains at a site considered to be among the best of its kind in the world. The historic Butterfield Trail, on which the Butterfield Overland Mail operated between 1859 and 1861, runs through the area.
Fort Selden sits below Lookout Mountain to the north. This was a U.S. Army fort built in 1865 for the protection of area settlers against Apache Indians and outlaws. The fort was decommissioned in 1891. Today, it is a state monument, its adobe structures largely withered away by time. There have been some restoration efforts to preserve what little remains, but most of the original structures are gone forever. Fort Selden is located in Radium Springs on the north side of Hwy 157 just before the junction with Hwy 185 and is open to visitors from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Wednesdays through Mondays. It is closed Tuesdays. Admission is $3 (children 16 and under are free).
Lookout Peak is appropriately named as it was the site of a heliograph station in the 1880s used by explorers to communicate Apache movements with other stations, according to sources on the internet. I'm sure though, because of its close proximity with Fort Selden, that the Army used the peak as a lookout point well before the 1880s.
13,000 acres in and around the Robledo Mountains were designated as a Wilderness Study Area in 1980. There are no designated, maintained hiking trails in the area, however, old roads, drainages and ridges provide numerous access routes and hiking opportunities. In 1997, BLM employees noted evidence of increased vehicular traffic and environmental degradation in the area and concluded that unauthorized off-highway vehicle (OHV) rallies, some including more than 50 vehicles, were responsible for the much of the degradation. In an effort to stave off further adverse impact and to preserve the area’s wilderness character, the BLM took action in 1998 when they closed the illegal routes in the area. At the same time, they designated 11 miles of new OHV routes outside of the WSA boundary. Two extreme jeep clubs countered unsuccessfully, filing a suit against the BLM to keep the other off-road routes open. The area continues to be the subject of legal wrangling between off-road organizations and the BLM.
From I-25, take exit 19 and head southwest on Hwy 157 for 1.6 miles. You will see Leasburg Dam State Park then Fort Selden on your right before you come to the junction with Hwy 185. Turn right on Hwy 185 and head northwest, passing through the small town of Radium Springs. Hwy 185 will curve to the left and bear west just after leaving town. Turn left onto Faulkner Canyon Road 0.5 miles after the Hwy makes the curve. Faulkner Canyon Road is a maintained gravel road as there are homes to either side of it for about a half mile. After 0.7 miles on this road, you’ll see the BLM gate. The gate should be unlocked; be sure to close and secure it after passing through. The road is still drivable with 2WD but it does get progressively worse. See the GPS Coordinates section for general reference regarding 2WD/4WD vehicles along with additional route waypoints.
Route to Summit
The route to the summit of Lookout Peak can be long or short depending on how far you're able to drive in. With a 2WD vehicle (waypoint #4 in the GPS Coordinates section below), you're looking at about 14 miles round trip, while 4WD (waypoint #5) cuts the distance down to 12 miles. If you have a 4WD made for offroading, you can cut the distance significantly by reaching waypoint #9 before parking. An unmaintained and very rocky road leads to Lookout Peak's summit. This cuts the round trip distance to just 3.2 miles. Depending on what you're driving and your willingness to abuse it, you could conceivably drive right to the top. I chose to park at waypoint #9. The hike from that point winds to the summit with several ups and downs and offers some tremendous views along the way. Lookout Peak is topped with several antenna towers and solar panels. Despite its sub-6k elevation, the views from the summit are surprisingly nice. You will not leave disappointed!
1) 2WD: ~6 miles one-way with 1,480 feet net elevation gain.
2) 4WD: ~5 miles one-way with 1,390 feet net elevation gain.
3) 4WD offroad: ~1.6 miles one-way with 750 feet net elevation gain and 1,350 feet round trip gross elevation gain.
|Beginning of route. |
|Early route view. |
NOTE: All directions are for the ascent.
|| BLM gate
|| 32.48807 N
|| 106.94063 W
|| Canyon entry point¹
|| 32.48121 N
|| 106.94420 W
|| Turn LEFT (East)
|| 32.44586 N
|| 106.97514 W
|| 2WD parking²
|| 32.46832 N
|| 106.96491 W
|| 4WD parking²
|| 32.45869 N
|| 106.97059 W
|| Turn RIGHT off of Faulkner Canyon Rd.
|| 32.44162 N
|| 106.94105 W
|| Trail splits (stay RIGHT)
|| 32.44162 N
|| 106.94105 W
|| Trail splits (veer LEFT)
|| 32.44339 N
|| 106.93210 W
|| Trail splits (veer LEFT)²
|| 32.44363 N
|| 106.93073 W
¹ This canyon entry point provides an alternate route. This waypoint is not a part of the standard route described on this page.
² These are positions that I've reached with 2WD and 4WD vehicles and are provided for reference only.
Primitive camping is permitted in the area; no fees or permits. There are no facilities available.
Western Diamondback Rattlesnake along the route.
! Make sure you bring enough, especially when the heat is turned up. There is no reliable water source along the route. Cell phone reception is intermittent and largely unreliable, at least with Alltel and Nextel. Beware of rattlesnakes
and leave them alone. As mentioned in the overview, not too many folks make it out this way. If you are alone and end up in a spot of trouble, you could be in real trouble.
None. BLM and WSA rules apply. Remember to leave no trace.
Food & Lodging
If you travel from out of the area to get to Las Cruces, make sure you take advantage of the authentic Mexican food served at the many restaurants that abound here. The Mexican food in and around Las Cruces is the best you will find outside of Mexico – it is the real deal.
After the hike, you can grab a cold beer and relax at the Blue Moon in Radium Springs. Alejandro's, just off Interstate 25 in nearby Doña Ana (north of Las Cruces) is a great place to stop for Mexican food.
Las Cruces offers a wide selection of hotels and motels to fit any budget. Reference the link below for a list of hotels, motels, bed & breakfasts, and RV parks.
Las Cruces Convention & Visitors Bureau - Lodging