Black Peak

North Wicks Canyon, Black Peak at the center horizon.

Black Peak 1909

Sometimes things don’t go as planned, sometimes it doesn’t matter.  The trail mapping application was using didn’t not work on this walk (on August 5, 2016).  But the trail finding is really easy.  Park at the pull out (13 S 263873 by 3647239) for North Wicks Canyon east of Hillsboro and walk up the main old mining road until you are just below the peak of Black Peak (13S 263334 by 3649508) - about 4 km from the parking area - then scramble upslope until you reach the summits.  The elevation at the parking area is roughly 1,673 meters and at the summit it is 1,896 meters, for a net elevation gain of about 223 meters or 670 feet (there is a bit of up and down along the route so the gross gain may be in the order of 250 meters).  The detail from the 1909 USGS Hillsboro Quadrangle, right, shows the mining road as it then existed, now it continues up the mountain to just below the peak.

The map detail shows several mines in North Wicks Canyon, now there are many more - taking the form of adits, shafts, and trenches.  The mine shown about a quarter up from the bottom and right of center (with a road leading up to it from the main mining road) is the Wicks Mine.  

The trail follows the old mining road, which has many forks and turns - but the general direction of the walk - up and north - will suffice for route finding.  This is a typical walk on an old road in this area, loose stones, uneven surfaces, various critters like rattlesnakes and possibly larger fauna are in the area so exercise due caution.  Be aware that the mining locations are, in themselves, generally dangerous and are subject to cave-ins and slips.  Yucca is very thick on some slopes, that and loose rock can make travel up or down the slope both tedious and potentially dangerous.


Where the grade begins to get more serious and a continual climb is in order you will pass through an old fence where there was once a gate (photo above). 

Black Peak 

There are “twin peaks”, which are close together, at the summit of Black Peak.  The photograph above was taken from the more southwestern of the peaks.  The photograph below was taken from just below the summit on the south side of the peak and looks to the south.  The road to the peak is visible snaking up North Wicks Canyon.


George T. Harley, in The Geology and Ore Deposits of Sierra County, New Mexico describes the summit as “The top of Black Peak consists of basalt 75 feet thick, and on the flanks of the hills at points 1 mile and 1 1/2 miles to the west are two other smaller patches.  Black Peak is believed to be the source of the basalt flow in this region, as underground workings in the peak have encountered and passed completely around what appears to be the breccia filling in the throat of the old vent.” (p. 131)


North Wicks

As you walk up North Wicks Canyon, from NM-152, you will see an old house (pictured directly above and below) along the wash to the east of the main mining road.  There are many alternative walking areas, variations of the walk to Black Peak described above, in North Wicks Canyon.  For instance, I described the walk mapped to the right on September 12, 2014 (the house photographs date from March 22, 2014) as follows.

NM-152 is at the bottom of this image.  At the gate, located in a large turn-around, follow the old mining road north (N to NNW).  The route shown on the map to the right is 3.9 miles round-trip with about 600’ of elevation gain (5,366’ to 5,975’).  There are a number of side routes which are variants to this basic walk.  The mining road generally provides unobstructed walking, in places it is washed out and stones in the roadway may create footing problems.  A little over a mile from the gate, this route cuts across the wash to the east and joins a mining road which traverses the hill slope to a pass, from there the route is cross-country until it joins the main road up the canyon for the return to the gate.  The usual suspects are on-the-scene; rattlesnakes (only Western Diamond-Back that I know of), Black Bear, Coyote, and Cougar are all possible - but not likely.  

There are “active” mines along this route, in addition to abandoned adits and pits, all are dangerous.

Roughly a half mile north from the gate there are abandoned stone structures on the east side of the road (photograph above).

In season, this is an excellent walk for wildflowers and birds.



© Robert Barnes 2018