Hillsboro Peak Trail

See also the Hillsboro Lake Trail which is the same as this one, at least until you reach the lake at the base of Hillsboro Peak.

Hillsboro Peak1

REPORT OF SEPTEMBER 13, 2014:  This trail starts at the Emory Pass Overlook just off of NM-152 and proceeds north (NNW) for 5.4 miles.  Elevation gain over 5+ miles is minimal, from 8,067’ to 10,020’.   This is an improved trail so the walk is straightforward and easy to follow, water - if any - is limited along the trail (seasonal).  The usual suspects are on-the-scene; rattlesnakes (only Western Diamond-Back and Black-tailed that I know of), Black Bear, Coyote, and Cougar are all possible - but not likely.  

Earlier reports from this trail were that it was devastated by the Silver Fire.  It now appears that many large trees, including Aspen and Douglas Fir survived the fire and that there is substantial multi-species tree growth (regeneration) occurring.  In a year or two the Mountain Locust along this trail (and the Sawyers Peak Trail, immediately south of here) will be spectacular.  Wildflowers in the higher reaches of the Black Range are incredible this year (September 2014), both in terms of sheer mass and in terms of diversity.

An observer noted (from 9/11/14) that: “There are many flowers on the Hillsboro Peak Trail...It's an amazing display, and it begins just uphill from the parking lot.  You might want to make an evening walk of some part of the lower trail.

The birdlife along this trail has, traditionally, been very good and that does not appear to have changed.  You may see the full array of mountain species, including; Bushtit, Mountain Chickadee, Pygmy Nuthatch, Clark’s Nutcracker, White-breasted Nuthatch, Hairy Woodpecker, Black-throated Gray and Grace’s Warblers (the trail provides nice looks into the upper canopy of the trees), and Wild Turkey.

Clematis columbiana,Columbian Virgin's Bower
 Below Hillsboro Peak Black Range, New Mexico 5/15/15

REPORT FOR WALK ON MAY 25,2015:  Rebecca and I, walked the Black Range Crest Trail from Emory Pass to Hillsboro Peak, commonly called the Hillsboro Peak Trail today.   The trail is unchanged since the trail report (above), except that - it seemed to me - the half-mile section of trail just prior to the first wilderness marker has a lot more loose rock than previously.  Some time has passed since the Silver Fire and the recovery is becoming very apparent.  Young trees of numerous species are from two to four feet tall, it is apparent that many “burnt” trees survived, and the large patches of forest unaffected by the fire are more impressive than ever.  While we were having our lunch on the summit, photo below, it was difficult to imagine a raging fire engulfing the range.  I don’t wish to downplay the devastation, there are many slopes of charred snags - but even in these places the green of young trees is apparent.

A purpose of our walk was to document the spring which is near the summit for the “Black Range Springs” section of the Black Range website.  One would think that finding a spring would be fairly straight forward, but it isn’t, especially if you are tired and loathe to walk down hill if it means you have to turn around immediately and walk uphill.  In any case this outing covered 11.4 miles round-trip with an elevation gain of 2,181’, the trail had a maximum grade of 14%.  The map below shows the last part of the walk.


On a walk to the summit last September Rebecca reported slopes covered with wildflowers and many species along the trail.  Although we have had some rain, the monsoons will not arrive for a month or so - and it is spring, not fall - so the selection of flowers along the trail was more limited.  I will report on some of the individual species in later posts.  As we neared the summit, the flowers were more numerous, perhaps reflecting the “later in the season, the higher you go, phenomenon”.  

Trail through everygreens and Populus tremuloides, Quaking Aspen below Hillsboro Peak Black Range, New Mexico, USA

UPDATE OF MARCH 13, 2017:  On the 13th we took a walk from Emory Pass to the first saddle beyond the Wilderness Boundary on the Black Range Crest Trail (Hillsboro Peak Trail), a distance of about 2.2 miles each way.  Except for some downed trees near the beginning of the walk, the trail was in good condition.  The weather was perfect for a walk in the mountains.  The wind was averaging around 20 m.p.h. for most of the walk but as we started back it began to gust to higher speeds.

Hillsboro Peak Trail, Black Range New Mexico, USA

Small snow banks were still present along portions of our walk.  Near those snow banks there were signs that shrews (most likely Montane Shrew, Sorex monticolus - a.k.a. Dusky Shrew) had wintered at the site.

Shrew Paths After Melting Snow, Hillsboro Peak Trail, Black Range New Mexico, USA

UPDATE OF JANUARY 25, 2018:  We hiked up trail 79 from Emory Pass to the saddle overlooking Hillsboro Lake, finding the trail in good condition, mostly cleared of downed trees, with patches of snow.  From the saddle, we turned west, taking the Hillsboro Peak Bypass Trail to the Holden Prong Saddle.

© Robert Barnes 2018