OverviewPage re-adopted June 2010
The Sacramento Mountains are located in southern New Mexico, east of Alamogordo. Capped by the towering Sierra Blanca, the Sacramentos are the first mountains travelers encounter coming in from the east. Their gentle eastern slope is almost imperceptible at times, but once you reach the range crest at Cloudcroft, it’s a steep drop into the Tularosa Basin over 4,000’ below. The Sacramento Mountains are also home to two major observatories: Sunspot and Apache Point.
The southern portion of the Sacramento Mountains includes the interesting community of Cloudcroft and the obervatory complex at Sunspot. The mountains here are more like hills sitting atop an uplifted plateau. No one peak stands out among any of the others. Only careful map-reading will identify two points with equal elevation as the highest points of this southern unit. Neither peak has an official name, although the northern summit area is located atop Benson Ridge. Despite the sublime nature of these peaks, whichever one is the highest point has over 2,000 feet of prominence, which is why most people might bother hiking these "peaks". For those seeking an all-day strenuous challengig hike, look elsewhere. For those of you seeking some easy peaks to pad your count, plus some touring among the telescopes and a visit to Cloudcroft, this is a lovely area to roam around for a day.
The trail up Corral Canyon
Getting There & RoutesSouthern highpoint:
From Alamogordo, follow US-82 up the steep west-facing hills of the Sacramentos into the town of Cloudcroft. Turn south onto state route NM-130, and follow it about 2 miles (slightly less) to its junction with NM-6563, signed for Sunspot. Just before reaching Sunspot, turn left onto NM E012 that heads for Timberon. The road is paved. Drive about two miles to the marked Corral Canyon trailhead (trail 537). The elevation here is 8,600’. This is about 20 miles south of Cloudcroft.
Walk up Corral Canyon Trail about a mile until it meets with Forest Road 64. Turn right, and hike south about another mile. Have a map handy and follow the bends in the road so you know which hill to walk up to claim the highest point. It's an easy hike up grassy slopes and sparse forest to the southern highpoint. Views are marginal, but the hike itself is enjoyable. You can also drive FR-64 to near the highpoint, if you desire.
Northern Highpoint (Benson Ridge):
Drive north from Sunspot to a junction with FR-223 on the right (east). Drive up FR-223 about 3 miles to a junction with a side road at roughly N-32.855, W-105.765. Park. The roads are wide and solid for most vehicles.
Hike northeasterly up the gentle slopes. Two areas have interpolated elevations of 9,700 feet (9,680-9,720). The farther one is slightly larger and probably higher than the first one, but you'll likely walk over them both. Pace the ground to ensure you stood on the highest point. Views are marginal.
Misty morning hiking conditions. Very nice.
Contact the Lincoln National Forest at 505-434-7296 for the latest information.
Topo Map: Sacramento Peak.
Forest Map: Lincoln National Forest (Smokey Bear & Sacramento Ranger Districts)
The Upper Karr Recreationa Area (with camping) is near the north highpoint. There is evidence of many ad-hoc camping pullouts along the forest roads. Lodging is available in Cloudroft and in Alamogordo.
Lincoln National Forest
Sunspot Solar Observatory
Apache Point Observatory