1804 North Date Street
Truth or Consequences, NM 87901
- 36 miles
- Trailhead Elevation:
- 7520 feet
- Elevation Range:
- 7520 feet to 10080 feet
- Elevation Change:
- 2560 feet
- Spring to Fall
Following the length of the Back Range is an exceptionally rewarding experience. This trail is broken into two segments, each beginning at Emery Pass on NM 152. Trail 79 going north toward Hillsboro Peak is almost all wilderness and suitable only for hiking and horseback. It traverses the hightest peaks in the range as it follows along the crest through ponderosa pine, mixed conifer, and aspen forests. It's about 27.7 miles from the trail head to Reeds Peak where it connects with Continental Divide Trial 74.
The segment of #79 that goes south from Emery Pass towards Sawyers Peak is 8.3 miles and terminates at Forest Road 886. This out-and-back segment passes through dense forests with few view points. There is no wilderness on this portion so mountain bikes are permitted but the riding is technical and requires good bike handling skills and trail etiquette.
Trail 79 follows the crest of the Black Range offering spectacular views of rugged canyons, the Rio Grande River valley to the east, and the Gila Wilderness and Mogollon Mountains to the west.
The mountain crest is hazardous during thunder storms.
There is a large paved cul-de-sac parking area and pit toilet at Emery Pass Vista. No overnight camping is permitted at Emery Pass Vista. There are no facilities at the pull-off parking area for #79 going south toward Sawyers Peak.
Hillsboro is about 17.8 miles east of the trail head and provides food, gas, and lodging.
Springs on the mountain crest depend on winter snow pack. If winters have been mild, springs may be unreliable. Water can often be found by decending into canyons on any of the connecting trails. How far the decent is to water depends on how much moisture there has been. Water quality is not tested therefore it cannot be guaranteed to be drinkable, it is advisable to filter or treat all drinking water.
The five-mile segment of Trail 79 from Emery Pass to the fire lookout on Hillsboro Peak is a popular day hike with exceptional mountain vistas. Bear, cougar, bobcat, deer, and elk inhabit the mountain but are seldom seen in the rugged terrain and dense forest. There are wild turkey and an abundance of forest songbirds such as Acorn Woodpecker, Hermit Thrush, Mountain Chickadee, Nuthatch, Titmouse, and a variety of warblers. There is prime habitat for the Mexican Spotted Owl and Peregrine Falcon.
The Black Range is aptly named. In past times it was also know as Sierra Diablo, the "Devil Range. It''s deep canyons and steep, densely forested slopes give the range a darkly ominous and impenetrable appearence on the horizon. The Range is about 70 miles long and runs north and south. It parallels the Rio Grande River to the east and the Mimbres River to the west. Caution: Altitude sickness is a potential problem for those coming to this altitude from lower elevations.
Map + Directions
From the town of Hillsboro go 17.8 miles west on NM 152. At the crest of the Black Range turn right (east) at Emery Pass Vista and go one-tenth mile to the vista parking area. The trail head for #79 going north toward Hillsboro Peak is just before you enter the parking area. Parking for #79 going south toward Sawyers Peak is on the west side of NM 152 across from the turnoff to Emery Pass Vista. From Silver City go east on U.S. 180 about six miles then turn left on NM 152. Follow NM 152 about 32.5 miles to Emery Pass Vista.