Main Camp to Tooth of Time, Philmont

Page Type
New Mexico, United States, North America
Route Type:
Hiking, Mountaineering
Spring, Summer, Fall
Time Required:
Half a day

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Main Camp to Tooth of Time, Philmont
Created On: Dec 10, 2006
Last Edited On: Sep 21, 2010

Note: Unfortunately, hiking into the Philmont backcountry is reserved for Scouts and Scouters on official itineraries. It is not generally open to non-Scouts/non-Scouters, or to Scouts and Scouters who aren't on official itineraries.


While it is quite common for returning Philmont crews to hike from Shaefer's Pass, to the Tooth of Time, and then back to Philmont main camp, this route is written for individuals hiking out from main camp. There is an occasional, special comment for returning crews, however.

Getting There

This trail begins at main camp on Philmont Scout Ranch. Philmont is located south of Cimarron, NM along Route 21. You'll want to follow the signs to camping headquarters, about 4.5 miles south of Cimarron.

The trailhead is located under a "Welcome Back – You Made It!" sign (seen from the other side for returning crews). It is located west of the camp welcome center, on the western perimeter of camp. Ask, and you shouldn't have any trouble getting directions to it!

Route Description

Tooth of Time

Nice view of the Tooth from along the trail.

The route is class 1 the entire way until the final ascent up the Tooth. It has, however, lots of switchbacks along the gentle grade of the Tooth of Time Ridge.
Main Camp to the Tooth of Time

Marked USGS quad chart of the route.

If you are a returning crew (hiking this route in the opposite direction), you will be convinced that you aren't getting any closer to main camp as it repeatedly swings in and out of view during the descent! The first half of the hike will be with little shade, but there will be more shade as you reach the top of the ridge. About 1/4-mile before arriving at the start of the Class 3 climb you will be afforded a very dramatic view of the Tooth; if you're a returning crew be sure to keep an eye out behind you because you won't want to miss this photo op! Shortly after this you will come to a trail junction with the Stockade Trail from the south; be sure to take the correct trail to the right (left for returning crews).

Unless you're hiking outside the summer trekking season, expect to see many other crews. In fact, unless you're first on the trail, you'll probably realize that you've reached the turn-off for the Tooth itself by the many dozens of backpacks you'll see lined up. Set up your own pack line and strike out for the top. This Class 3 climb will not require rope or other special gear, but you'll occasionally use your hands while you scramble over the large boulder field. The route is about 6 miles, with about 2300 feet vertical gain. The last 1/4-mile is the 440-foot (vertical) Class 3 ascent to the top of the Tooth.

Essential Gear

Tooth of Time Ridge View

Nice view from the trail.

1. Although you shouldn't have any difficulty following the trail, you'll want to carry the Philmont Scout Ranch South Country section map.

2. You'll have lots of exposure to the sun and will want to drink lots of water. Start with plenty of filled water bottles, or perhaps even a collapsible dromedary. There isn't any water supply along the ridge until Shaefer's Pass Camp (more than three miles past the Tooth), and sometimes it's dried up. If you do carry a dromedary, you can sling it under a walking stick and let two people carry it until it's used up. If you are continuing past the Tooth along the Shaefer's Pass route, you'll want the dromedary empty and stowed before continuing with that Class 2 section of trail. And be sure to ask at main camp before departure about the status of water along the trail.

3. A small daypack will be handy to carry water, camera and other essentials to the top of the Tooth after you've dropped your backpack.

4. Depending how long you'd like to linger at the top, you might want to have some insect repellent – in warmer seasons there will be plenty of ladybugs (not too annoying) and gnats (quite annoying). Descend even as few as 10-feet to get away from the little buggers!
End of the Trail

End of the trail if you're a returning crew.

Main Camp to Tooth of Time, Philmont

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