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My Shot of the Day – Cabezon Peak Wilderness Study Area, New Mexico, USA

You can’t miss it.

Cabezon Peak is the largest of over fifty volcanic plugs in the Rio Puerco Valley of north-central New Mexico between the villages of San Ysidro and Cuba.

Cabezon Peak is also the main – but not the only – attraction of the Cabezon Peak Wilderness Study Area.

At 7,785 feet, Cabezon offers incredible views of the surrounding countryside. From the summit one can see the Sandia Mountains, the Rio Grande Valley, Mount Taylor, the Jemez Mountains, and the Santa Fe Range of the Sangre de Cristos.

The peak rises dramatically from all sides. However, it is not a hard climb (except when the route is iced up in the winter….) and the top can be attained in about 2-4 hours. Completely non-technical.

Cabezon is part of the Mount Taylor volcanic field. The basaltic cliffs on the peak provide a close view of an ancient volcano. To the south, the land rises sharply to Mesa Chivato at over 8,000 feet where cool ponderosa pine forests can be found. This area is great for wildlife watching. Herds of elk and deer move in and the bird life in this transitional zone is outstanding.

The name “Cabezon” comes from the Spanish noun “cabeza,” or “head.” “Cabezon” means “big head.” The peak is religiously vital for both the Pueblo and Navajo Indians. The Navajos believe that the peak and surrounding lava flows came from a giant who was slain on the slopes of Mount Taylor. When the giant fell, his head became Cabezon Peak and his blood formed the lava flows to the south.

The volcanic plugs of the Rio Puerco Valley formed from the erosion of a volcano that had pushed though the sedimentary rocks layers deposited millions of years previously when the area was part of a vast inland sea.. The volcano’s central neck filled with magma and solidified. That hardend neck, or plug was resistant to the erosion forces that later took away the rest of the volcano.

THis is a great area for fall camping in the Wilderness Study Area (I took the shot above straight out of my tent door one morning) and thankfully motorized vehicles are required to stay on the road, so you’ll have a good chunk of land to roam in peace.

Location / Access reccomendation from the BLM website:

“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. “

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