Truchas (Spanish for "trout") Peak, also known as South Truchas Peak, is the highest peak in the remote Truchas Peaks group, which is located in the Pecos Wilderness Area in the Sangre de Cristo mountain range, about 20 miles north of Santa Fe. In this group are found South Truchas Peak, Middle Truchas Peak, West Truchas Peak (or West Middle Truchas) and North Truchas Peak.
Despite being one of the few peaks in New Mexico of over 13,000', Truchas Peak is seldom visited. The Truchas Peaks are not even covered in the books "50 Hikes in New Mexico" or "100 Hikes in New Mexico"
The Truchas group is truly a beautiful group of mountains. Unlike many of the broad, dome-shaped mountains of northern New Mexico, the Truchas mountains are craggy, steep mountains that are more reminiscent of their neighbors to the north in Colorado. The easiest route to the summit is only a class 3 route, but many more difficult routes could be developed in this mountain group.
NOTE: there is a great deal of confusion regarding the nomenclature of Middle and West Truchas. These two peaks are really separate high points on a connecting ridge. On many maps, the true Middle Truchas Peak is not named, but West Truchas is erroneously called Middle Truchas. Imagine a "Y" with the upper right line being longer than the upper left. This "Y" represents the ridge system connecting all of Truchas Peaks At the top of the right line is North Truchas, quite a bit farther north than Middle or West Truchas. At the point where the three lines of the "Y" intersect is Middle Truchas. At the top of the left line of the "Y" is West Truchas, and South Truchas is obviously located at the bottom of the "Y."
Truchas Peak is really the second highest peak in New Mexico, behind Wheeler Peak. Official lists place Truchas at the fourth highest, but the two peaks between Wheeler and Truchas are really mere subpeaks of Wheeler and not really mountains in their own right.
Because of its close proximity to these two peaks, Truchas Peak is often climbed together with West Truchas Peak (13,066') and Middle Truchas Peak (13,000+') along the ridge connecting the mountains.
If you access Truchas Peak from the West, expect a total round trip hike of about 12 miles. If you decide to access Truchas Peak from the south or the northeast, expect to hike about 24 miles round trip.
For an excellent trip report on Truchas Peak by Scott Surgent, click here.
The Truchas can be accessed from the west, from the northeast and from the south. Accessing it by the west is by far the shortest way. Accessing these peaks from the northeast or south requires quite a bit of hiking.
WARNING: there are a number of problems concerning the Quemado Falls trailhead to access truchas.
First, there is vandalism. Jeff Moore has the following to say about the Western Trailhead: "I would just add a note of caution about the western (quemado creek) trailhead about vandalism. A number of people I have talked to in the area recommend against using this trailhead as vandalism to parked cars is common. I called the ranger station in Espanola and they confirmed this, they recommended taking an old car and making sure everything of value is out. Anyway, not trying to scare anyone off, just mentioning this..."
There have been other reports of vandalism at the Quemado Falls trailhead. jrsteven reported that the rear window of his car was smashed in with a rock while he was hiking from this trailhead. Use this trailhead with caution.
In addition to vandalism, the road is now apparently washed out about 2.5 miles from the trailhead as attm reports on his North Truchas page.
Finally, as reported on attm's page above, the trailhead is apparently located on property owned by the Truchas Land Grant, and you must obtain permission before parking there. Contact info is as follows:
Truchas Land Grant
Contact: Wilford Romero
Another trailhead, Borrego Mesa, can be used to access the Truchas Peaks from the west. I have not included this trailhead because it is known to be a place were lowlifes from the area hang out and drink, and it is more risky and farther from the mountains than Quemado.
For those who are not deterred, here is how to get there:
The easiest way to access Truchas Peak from the west is through the Quemado Creek Trailhead, which is about 20 miles or so Northeast of Espanola, New Mexico. From Santa Fe, head north toward Espanola on US HWY 285. At Espanola, turn off 285 at State HWY 76 and head east toward Chimayo and the town of Truchas. At Truchas, HWY 76 turns off to the left (north), but a smaller road heads through the town and toward the mountains. Follow the smaller road through the town of Truchas until it turns to a dirt road.
A good map and compass is recommended beyond this point, as you will now begin to experience a maze of tiny, unmarked dirt roads. Essentially, follow the road for about 3/4 of a mile after it turns to dirt and turn right at the fork, a few hundred yards after you cross a creek. Continue heading east on this road as it travels alongside a creekbed. After a half mile or so, turn right at the fork in the road. You will now begin heading south and then west once the road turns. The road turns back south and then begins heading back toward the east. Follow the road east for a mile or so until it ends at the trailhead. There is no parking lot at the trail head; you just have to pull your car as far off the road as possible. Beware, as turning your car around here is a bear. This is a pretty rough road, and I recommend 4WD.
For more info on this approach, I recommend that you read wbass's trip report.
From the trailhead, follow the trail south as it descends toward Quemado creek. Right after the trail crosses the creek, turn right (east) and follow the creek on its south bank. After a short while, the trail crosses back over to the north side of the creek, but it still continues in an eastward direction. Eventually you will pass beautiful Quemado Falls, a place where the creek plunges down a rocky waterfall. A short while after the falls, the trail emerges into a beautiful alpine bowl that is walled in by North Truchas Peak, Middle Truchas Peak, and West Truchas Peak. The total hiking distance to this bowl is about 3 1/2 to 4 miles one way.
Standing in this beautiful bowl, you cannot see Truchas Peak. In front of you, to the south is West Truchas, and to your left (west) is North Truchas Peak. Further back in the bowl, between West Truchas and North Truchas is the steep north face of Middle Truchas.
Truchas Peak can also be accessed from the south by driving up the upper Pecos River Valley. From here, the hike to Truchas is quite a bit longer, but you will have the opportunity to bag Pecos Baldy (12,500') and East Pecos Baldy on the way.
To access Truchas from the south, take I-25 north from Santa Fe for about 10 miles and take the exit for HWY 63 towards the town of Pecos, NM. Follow HWY 63 north toward Terrero and then onto Cowles. Continue on 63 for about a mile and a half past Cowles until you reach the Jack's Creek campground and the trailhead for Trail 25. Follow Trail 25 north from the trailhead. After nearly two miles, the trail forks at the junction of Trail 25 and Trail 257. Take the left fork and head north on Trail 257. Follow Trail 257 for about five miles until you come to the junction with Trail 251, which heads west toward Pecos Baldy.
If Pecos Baldy is included in your plans, turn left (west) on Trail 251. Otherwise, continue heading north on Trail 251. After about 3 or 4 miles, Trail 251 crosses Trail Riders wall, a broad, open plateau that runs north-south. About two miles beyond Trail Riders wall, trail 251 runs into the eastern flanks of Truchas Peak, from which the summit can be accessed.
Another approach option is from the north - the Santa Barbara campground trailhead.
From the Santa Barbara campground at the end of Forest Road 116 in the Kit Carson National Forest, the route starts following the Rio Santa Barbara south on trail 24. After about 4 miles the trail splits following the west fork of the river south on trail 25 to a saddle east of the Truchas Peaks, and just above No Fish Lake. Length is 12 miles and 3000' to the saddle only. This route was recommended by the folks in the Kit Carson NF as a safe-to-leave-your-car alternative to the western (Quemado Creek) trailhead, although the approach is much longer.
These peaks are located in the Pecos Wilderness Area, which means certain restrictions apply (no motor vehicles, no camping near lakes or streams, etc.). There are no fees to access this area. During times of high fire danger, there will sometimes be restrictions regarding use of fires or stoves.
When To Climb
June through September. As with any mountain in this part of the country, afternoon thunderstorms are a common danger. Get an early start and make sure you are off exposed ridges before noon. If you see dark clouds forming, get off the ridge and head for the trees.
Winter ascents are possible, but avalanches are a constant danger during this time.
Camping is allowed in the area. I recommend camping in the bowl below West Truchas Peak.