At 12,734 ft, Venado Peak ("Venado" means "deer" in Spanish) is the highest mountain of the Latir Group of Sangre de Cristo Mountains, located ~8 miles northeast of the town of Questa, NM. Venado is New Mexico's 10'th highest ranked peak and the one of the most prominent peaks in the state (2,971 ft prominence). Venado Peak sits right in the center and is the highpoint of the Latir Peak Wilderness
Venado Peak from northwest
Venado Peak from Latir Mesa - image by SP user SteveF
Venado Peak summit
Bull Creek Trail
Bull Creek/Pinabete Peak Trail Junction
The most popular way to access Venado Peak is from Cabresto Lake via Lake Fork, Bull Creek and Heart Lake Trails. There is a Forest Service campground
(open May to September) at Cabresto Lake with 9 campsites, picnic tables and toilets. The other option is to hike to the summit of Venado Peak from Latir Lakes (private land access, $20/vehicle/day entrance fee).
Directions to Cabresto Lake Trailhead:
Drive to town of Questa on NM-522. Turn east on NM-38 and turn left onto Cabresto Rd./NM-563 after 0.25 miles. Drive on NM-563 until it becomes gravel road, then turn right onto gravel Forest Service Road 134 (FS-134). Enter Carson National Forest and drive 3.3 miles to the junction with FS-134A. Turn left onto FS-134 and continue 2 miles to Cabresto Lake Trailhead. FS-134A is a primitive rough road, so high clearance 2WD or 4WD vehicle is recommended. Aternative Route from NM-38
: If you missed the turn onto Cabresto Rd./NM-563, you can continue on NM-38 for an additional ~0.5 miles and turn left onto Kiowa Rd. After a mile of driving on Kiowa Rd., you will reach T-intersection with NM-563. Turn right following the sign to Cabresto Lake.
Bull Creek Route from Cabresto Lake:
The Bull Creek Route provides the shortest trail access to the summit of Venado Peak from Cabresto Lake Trailhead. Follow Lake Fork Trail (#82) from Cabresto Lake for 2.5 miles to the junction of Heart Lake Trail(#82) and Bull Creek Trail(#85)(~1,000 ft elevation gain). Then the route turns left (NW), climbing along Bull Creek to the saddle between Cabresto and Venado Peaks (2.3 miles/2,000 ft of elevation gain). From the saddle, hike northeast on the trail traversing the upper slopes of Virgin Canyon and ascend the gentle southeast slopes of Venado Peak to the summit (0.8 miles/500 ft of elevation gain). Using the same route to return makes a round trip of 11.2 miles with 3,600 ft of elevation gain. The other option is to descend to the saddle between Venado Peak and UN 12,692 (0.4 miles) and follow the trail to Heart Lake making a scenic Latir Loop
(13.5 mi/3,900 ft. elevation gain RT). An excellent descriptions of the Latir Loop hike can be found in the guidebook "100 Hikes in New Mexico"
by Craig Martin (Hike #20, page 83-86) and in the Latir Loop trip report
by SP user scotthsu.
Bull Creek Route images
On the upper slopes of Virgin Canyon
Trail #85 from the SE slopes of Venado Peak
Route Map Trail #85 from the SE slopes of Venado Peak Route Map
The summit of Venado Peak and access routes are located in Latir Peak Wilderness
. Wilderness regulations apply. No permits are required for both day-hikes and overnight backpack trips. Camping is not permitted within 300 ft. of Heart Lake and in the meadow surrounding Baldy Cabin. For more information, contact
Carson National Forest (575-758-6200)
The Latir Lakes approach is on the private land owned by
Rio Costilla Cooperative Livestock Association, which allows recreational access for a fee ($20 per vehicle per day).
When to Climb
Mid-June through October is considered the best time to climb. July-August are the typical monsoon season, with regular afternoon thunderstorms. A significant part of the routes ascending Venado Peak is above timberline, so it is best to plan your day to be off exposed slopes and ridges and back below the tree line before noon.