Cabezon Peak Wilderness Study Area

Quick Facts

Cabezon Peak Wilderness Study Area

New Mexico

(505) 761-8700

Map Directions

Things To Do


Cabezon Peak's dramatic volcanic formation is one of the most well-known landmarks in northwest New Mexico. With an elevation of 7,785 feet, the Peak is part of the Mount Taylor volcanic field and is the largest of 50 volcanic necks rising from the Rio Puerco Valley. Desert shrublands dominated by cholla cactus give way to pinon and juniper on the flanks of the peak. The symmetrical peak forms cliffs on all sides, and the surrounding landscape gently falls away from the base of the cliffs.

The name "Cabezon" is derived from the Spanish noun "cabeza," meaning "head," and "Cabezon" translates as "big head." The peak is believed to have religious significance for the Pueblo and Navajo Indians, and remnants of their visits still exist. The Navajos have various myths associated with Cabezon, one of which explains that the peak and local lava flows came from a giant who was slain upon Mount Taylor. The giant's head became Cabezon Peak and his blood congealed to form the Malpais, or the "bad land" volcanic flow to the south.

Map of Cabezon Peak Rec. Area

Latitude, Longitude: 35.637348, -107.068634



  • Bird Watching

    Bird life at Cabezon includes meadow larks, jays, quail, doves, red-tailed hawks and sharp-shinned hawks.

  • Camping

    There are primitive campgrounds available for overnight stays.

  • Climbing

    Cabezon Peak, rising nearly 2000 feet above the valley floor, is a popular climb. A trail leads from the parking area around to the east side of the mountain where a break in the cliffs forms a steep gully. Climbers ascend the gully and continue following a route marked by cairns and passing over a couple short steep sections. Basic mountaineering experience and precaution for rock fall (by wearing a helmet) is needed, but most will not choose to use a rope. A successful climb to the summit will reward you with an expansive view of the Rio Puerco Valley. Helmets and sturdy boots are recommended when climbing the peak itself due to loose rocks.

  • Hiking

    Hiking is available at the trail head located on the west side of the peak. An unmarked trail leads around the south side. The trail ultimately leads nearly 2,000 feet up to the summit. This part of the trail should be attempted only by those with basic mountaineering experience only. Helmets and sturdy boots are recommended when climbing the peak itself due to loose rocks.

  • Hunting

    Hunting is allowed in the Cabezon Peak area.

  • Wildlife Watching

    Area mammals include rabbits, prairie dogs, badgers, and rodents such as kangaroo rats, rock mice and pack rats. The elusive coyote is always present and serves to help keep the numbers of small mammals in balance. Hikers should be aware that rattlesnakes are active during warmer months.

    Pinon and juniper trees are that is considered appropriate for both dispersed among the rock-strewn foothills of the peak. The desert floor offers numerous grasses, cacti and shrubs. Summer showers encourage the blooms of sunflower, cactus, evening primroses and asters.


The area is open year-round, though roads in this region deteriorate rapidly in wet weather and high winds may diminish the quality of the recreation experience. Hikers should be aware that rattlesnakes are active during warmer months.



Entry into the area is best gained by turning westward from US 550 onto CR 279 approximately 20 miles northwest of San Ysidro. A green highway sign (labeled "San Luis - Cabezon - Torreon") marks the turnoff. Continue 12 miles (southwest past the village of San Luis) to the Cabezon turn-off, onto BLM Road 1114. At the intersection of CR 279 and BLM 1114 you will pass by the privately-owned "ghost town" of Cabezon. Follow BLM 1114 south for 2.9 miles to the dirt route that leads east to the trailhead. High-clearance vehicles are recommended on this unmaintainted dirt road. Also, CR 279 and BLM 1114 are passable during dry conditions, but they can become slippery and rutted during wet seasons, or generally during late summer and winter.

Note: This is a Wilderness Study Area, which means that motor vehicle travel off existing roads and trails is prohibited.

Phone Numbers


(505) 761-8700