Mount Taylor is a massive, extinct volcano located about 50 miles west of Albuquerque, New Mexico near the town of Grants. The mountain stands by itself in the vast high desert region of Northwestern New Mexico, so the views from the summit are spectacular. Because the area around Mount Taylor is very sparsely populated, a trip into the Mount Taylor region quickly makes you forget about civilization.
Mount Taylor is located in what is known as the Zuni region of New Mexico, a region rich with culture from the many surrounding pueblo indian tribes. Mount Taylor is regarded by the Navajo as one of four sacred mountains. Once you stand on its summit and take in the incredible views, you will understand why. For miles you can see the scattered remnants of this once giant mountain (said to be about 25,000' before it blew its top millions of years ago--I guess our timing just isn't quite right).
Mount Taylor is not technically challenging. The standard route, the Gooseberry Springs Trail, is a simple, pleasant three or four mile hike to the summit with only about 2,000 feet of elevation gain. In fact, the trail is also known as a fun, challenging single track for mountain bikers. The summit of the mountain is not above treeline, but much of the hike is on open slopes that yield excellent views.
The mountain is popular with backcountry skiers in winter after a good snowfall. Absent any major snowfall, though, one can hike the mountain in winter and only encounter only scattered patches of snow.
Mount Taylor is also the site of the annual Mount Taylor Quadrathlon, a grueling race involving running, biking, skiing, and snowshoeing. For more info, and excellent pictures of the mountain, visit the quad website.
A good trip report on Mt. Taylor, by SP member Scott Surgent, can be seen here.
From Albuquerque, travel east on I-40 to Grants, which is about 50 miles away. Once you reach Grants, take NM 547 northeast through Grants and toward Mount Taylor. After about 15 miles or less, the pavement on 547 ends. At this point, turn right on Forest Road 193 (dirt road), which heads southeast. Follow FR 193, which makes a sharp hairpin turn before resuming its southeasterly direction. After four or five miles, you will reach the trail head for the Gooseberry Springs Trail (Trail 77), which is on the left side of the road.
Mount Taylor is located within the Cibola National Forest, so your typical National Forest rules will apply. Check with the Mount Taylor Ranger District for more info.
Like many New Mexico mountains, fire restrictions will likely apply in summer. In fact, the entire Mount Taylor Ranger District is sometimes closed during periods of extreme fire danger. Check with the ranger station for more info.
Mount Taylor can be climbed year round, but the best time is May through October. You might encounter snow in early or late season, so be prepared. In the months of June, July, and August, afternoon thunderstorms are common, and you don't want to be caught on the bare slopes of Mt. Taylor in the middle of one of these. Get an early start and get below tree line before one or two in the afternoon.
Backcountry skiers come to Mount Taylor after good snowfalls. During these times, you will need skis or snowshoes for the hike. If it has been a relatively dry winter, however, you might be able to make a winter ascent in boots only.
For more information on skiing Mount Taylor, or just about any other volcano in the world, visit Dr. Amar Andalkar's excellent ski mountaineering website.
Camping is allowed in the area, but the peak can easily be climbed in a day. Campsites can be found along FR 193, if memory serves me. You can also pitch a tent somewhere off the trail.
A forecast for Grants, New Mexico, which is located only about 15 miles from Mount Taylor, is available from the National Weather Service.