OverviewUte Mountain is a volcanic cone mountain in northern New Mexico. At 10,093' the mountain is the highest point of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, a national monument established on March 25, 2013 by Presidential Proclamation. The mountain is quite prominent, jutting out of the rugged and relatively flat high desert terrain surrounding the mountain. As testament to the rugged and isolated nature of the mountain, there are no established trailheads nor official trails to the summit of Ute Mountain. The area is great for exploration and adventure in that very little information exists regarding accessing the mountain. Beware, however, that much of the vegetation on and around Ute Mountain is prickly and stout. Pants are a great idea when exploring Ute Mountain.
The views from the slopes of Ute Mountain of the nearby Latir Peak Wilderness to the east, the cluster of Colorado 14ers Little Bear, Blanca and Lindsey to the north and San Antonio Mountain to the west are fantastic.
Getting ThereThe main access road for the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument and Ute Mountain is the east/west Sunshine Valley Road. From the traffic light in Questa, NM, drive 9.7 miles north on highway 522 to the signed Sunshine Valley Road. This is a gravel and dirt road. Turn left (west) on the Sunshine Valley Road. Drive 4 miles west on the Sunshine Valley Road to an unmarked dirt road on your right. To this point, a passenger vehicle will do fine on the road. At this point you have two options. The first option is to continue straight for two more miles to the TP241 dirt road which will take you north on a scenic drive along the Rio Grande river gorge eventually arriving at the Ute Mountain "trailhead". This road along the rim has more rocky sections and high clearance is highly advised.
The second option, the shorter, faster option to the Ute Mountain "trailhead" is to take a right on this unmarked dirt road and drive north for .3 mile to a left turn on TP235. Then take TP235 for 4.5 miles, past an informational Ute Mountain sign at ~mile 3, to an unmarked dirt road at mile 4.5. One should be able to drive a passenger vehicle to this point but continuing on this unmarked dirt road requires high clearance (but not 4WD.) Turn right on this unmarked dirt road and follow it as it slowly ascends the slopes of Ute Mountain for 2.6 miles to a parking area at about 8,300' (36.9253, -105.6956).
Fun fact: If you're wondering what "TP" means on the road signs, it's "Taos Plateau".
RouteThere are no established trails or routes on Ute Mountain. When I hiked it, I followed a ridge up the SW side of Ute Mountain and the "Getting There" directions here reflect my driving approach to this route. Part of the fun of Ute Mountain is making your own way to and up the mountain. Adventure!
Red TapeNo red tape that I'm aware of. The area is wild and open. For now. As the national monument matures I'd expect more red tape.
When to ClimbSpring, fall and winter are best. Summer could be quite warm given there's very little shade on the mountain until just at the summit.
CampingDispersed, free camping opportunities on the BLM land abound in the surrounding area. Many scenic sites exist along the TP241 road on the edge of the Rio Grande Gorge