McKnight Mountain is the highest point in the Black Range of Southwest New Mexico between Truth or Consequences and Silver City. A double summit, the eastern bump is the highpoint of Sierra County, while the western summit guarantees one bragging rights to Grant County. Both summits are 10,165 feet. The summit and much of the range are part of the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Area, which was the first of its kind to be created by the Federal Government in the 1950s. The range sees relatively little visitation, partly due to very few roads that lead into it. The usual approach to McKnight Mountain follows an often bumpy and steep 17-mile dirt road haul that is more challenging than the hike itself!
The Black Range
In Silver City proceed east on US-180 about 5 miles to NM-152 near Santa Rita. Turn left and proceed another 18 miles through the rolling high desert scrubland to the junction of NM-35. Turn left and proceed north on NM-35 to milepost 12.3 (your odometer may read differently). Turn right onto McKnight Road.
McKnight Road passes by some residences for a short bit until passing the National Forest Boundary, where it becomes FR-152. It gains quickly to top out on an long mesa. For the next few miles the road is in excellent shape and there are great views of both the Black Range and of the Mimbres Valley below.
The road will then descend dramatically into a canyon where it will come to a junction about 8 miles from the pavement. Take a left. The next four miles are steep and fairly rough. Some people have made it up in passenger cars but I wouldn't suggest it. High clearance and 4wd are strongly recommended.
The steep rocky bits eventually give way to slightly better road for the remaining 5 miles or so as the road hugs way high on the ridge. A parking area is about a mile 17, where a trail can be seen entering the aspen near an old informational sign. McKnight Cabin is 0.3 miles further at the road's end.
The roads are narrow and hope that you don't meet someone coming the other way because pullouts and wide areas are few and far between. In wet conditions these roads could be treacherous.
McKnight Cabin at the end of the road
No fees whatsoever.
When To Climb
Most ascents judging by the register seem to take place from late May through October. Thunderstorms are common in mid-summer. In winter the road will likely be shut completely. Snow is common in winter.
There is some camping available about 12 miles northwest along NM-35 in the Gila National Forest. We saw some people scatter-camping along McKnight Road. Good camping areas are few up high along the road.
Gila NF: 505-388-8201 (Silver City)
Gila Cliff Dwellings Nat'l Monument
About 30 miles from Mimbres and about 45 miles from Silver City, these cliff dwellings are well worth a visit while in the area.
Visit also www.cohp.org
Further useful information can be found at the county highpointers website:
Grant County & Sierra County, New Mexico