Hike of the Week: Sierra Ladrones and Riley Ghost Town

Thanks to Heather Kline for submitting this Outing of the Week. If you and your family members are not sure what to do this weekend, this hike and road trip have been dog-tested and resulted in tail-wags of approval.

Sierra Ladrones and Riley Ghost Town

As many of you know, Sierra Club has extended the national moratorium on Sierra Club-sanctioned outings through July 4, 2021. For those of us who love the outdoors and the natural treasures that surround us, we will continue to offer outings information to our Rio Grande Chapter-wide network of friends.

This edition of the Outing of the Week features the area near the Sierra Ladrones, the mountain range between Albuquerque and Socorro visible on drives south on I-25. This area is a checkerboard of private ranches, BLM, Wilderness Study Area, and Cibola National Forest land, including vast expanses open for exploration. The views are incredible, both from the road and up in the mountains.

Location: Socorro area
Difficulty: Moderate-Strenuous, approximately 9 miles roundtrip to Ladron Peak, 3000 feet of elevation change, out & back. Because it’s an out & back trail, you can turn-around whenever you wish
Hiking time: 1-6 hours
Cost: $0
Dogs: Allowed on leash
Map: BLM | Visit Socorro

The Hike: Depending on how far you climb, this is a moderate to strenuous ascent. There are other ways to reach the flanks of the Sierra Ladrones, but this approach is perhaps the most accessible and gradual. It starts on a spiny ridge as the road curves south towards Magdalena, easily visible upon approach. There is no official trail, but from the bottom of the ridgeline, simply start climbing and follow it as far as you’d like to go towards Ladron Peak. Once you climb to the top of the ridge there are great views in all directions, so if you’re just looking for a good photo opportunity this is as far as you need to go. If you’re aiming for the peak it’s a steady but gradual climb most of the way, with a few steep sections. The final ascent of the peak is quite strenuous, and would make for about a 9-mile round trip. Definitely prepare for changing weather conditions and dress in layers. Bring plenty of water and extra food. The Sierra Ladrones are some of the most rugged and least traversed mountains in the area, making them an exciting but also daunting adventure. Most of this area is out of cell phone range, so be prepared. Best seasons for this hike would be spring and fall.

The Scenic Route: If you’d like to add or substitute a longer scenic day trip, continue on the ghost town of Riley (formerly known as Santa Rita), between Bernardo and Magdalena. From the ridge, keep driving south on B12, which will eventually turn into Forest Road 354. 2-WD cars can make this drive most of the time, though it is quite bumpy and high clearance is recommended. Just north of the town you will cross the Rio Salado, which does usually have a small amount of flowing water. Don’t drive through if there has recently been a lot of rain. You will be able to see an adobe church and stone schoolhouse from the road on your left – this is Riley. For your return trip, keep driving down Forest Road 354 (which passes some excellent areas for dispersed camping) to Magdalena, or turn around and go back the way you came through Bernardo.

To Get There: Take I-25 south from Albuquerque. At the Bernardo Exit (175), take a left turn from the exit ramp onto a frontage road heading south. You will pass an RV park and continue driving south until the road ends. Take the gravel road heading west, B12. Eventually this road curves south towards Magdalena. The entire route between Bernardo and Magdalena is about 40 miles. For the hike, set your odometer when you turn onto B12. Park at the junction of B12 and another dirt road heading northwest, at mile 18.8.

Terry Owen, Club-Rio Grande Chapter-Outings Chairman
March 31, 2021

Hike of the Week: Sierra Ladrones and Riley Ghost Town