Torrance County High Point Trip Report
All trip reports so far describe access to Manzano Peak via the town of Manzano, but the peak can also be reached from Mountainair (on US60 & NM55), to the south. This route requires 13+ miles driving on gravel roads, but they’re in good shape and it cuts 10 miles off of the trip for those folks who approach the hike from the south. At Mountainair, find the Ranger Station (signs are everywhere). About 500 yards east of the ranger station, head north on County Road B50. It goes north for one mile, west for one mile and north for two miles to Forest Road 275 (it’s posted). West on FR 275 for 9.5 miles until it joins FR 422. Go left on FR422 for 300 yards to the sign announcing the Kayser and Cottonwood trails.
As Ken Jones reported, this is not really a trail head but a road, and a rough one at that. I saved myself some effort by driving it, but the Forest Service no longer maintains it and it’s impassable without high clearance and 4WD. The road makes a loop about 3/4 mile in, at a large sign which marks the start of the Kayser Mill Trail. There appear to be two trails, one at the sign, heading south, and another at the loop, heading west. The two converge about 60 yards in so it makes no difference which one a person uses.
The Kayser Mill Trail is the shortest route to this HP, but it is robust, undulating along the mountainsides and the saddles between the peaks, and crossing a large scree. There’s a good bit of descending on the way up to the peak, and a good bit of climbing on the way down. Hikers encounter a wilderness boundary sign about .375 miles in, and then hit the Crest Trail at just over 1.5 miles. A sign directs them to the left for Manzano Peak, and a 2nd sign points out the quarter-mile spur that leads to the peak.
A Forest Service sign marks the summit, and a rock cairn next to it contains a mailbox with a register inside. Views are impressive, with the Los Pinos Mountains to the south, Gallinas Peak to the east, and Mt Taylor to the west all clearly visible. I started down at noon and, being August, it was a warm descent, with the trail in bright sunshine about 40% of the time. Round trip was 6 miles, elevation gain 2,400 ft or so.
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