Leader Mark Dunham
There were 11 attendees plus guests.
San Pedro Parks is a large Wilderness with good road access to the perimeter, in the NW corner of the Jemez Massif. As the Club seeks more moderate hikes, this area offers superb high mountain walking on gentle trails, with incredibly moist and lush conditions for NM, and more reminiscent of coastal Oregon/Washington. It is a 2 hour drive via either NM 550 or NM4/126, but so are many other fine destinations in our very large state.
On a fine Saturday AM, 5 hikers carpooled from Santa Fe, meeting 4 already camped near the trailhead off FR70, and 2 more driving from Albuquerque, to explore some relatively unknown terrain for most of us, the San Pedro Parks Wilderness near Cuba, NM. The chosen route was to enter via the San Gregorio Trailhead #51 (offering a gentle ascent), then cross to the Palomas trail 50, but loop back to the San Gregorio before arriving back at FR70.
The hike proceeded for 16 miles over 8 hours, first by ascending the slow and gradual rise up Clear Creek past San Gregorio Reservoir, where many happy fisherfolk were seen. Some downed timber was encountered just above the reservoir, but all was negotiated without difficulty.
We then reached the top of our hike where Trail 50 intersects Trail 51 in large open parks as seen below. The area is used extensively by traditional community members, for grazing cattle on the lush grasses. We did not notice much impact on the stream banks, since the grass is generally back from them. But this still leaves plenty of room for wildflowers and ferns of every kind, making for a vastly wetter landscape than normally see at this altitude in NM. These meadows exist from 9000’ elevation and higher; the one above is at ~10,000 feet near the highest point in the Wilderness. Below is a nice photo by Ken Krasity of some of the great flower displays.
We chose to return on Palomas Trail 50, which returns to FR70, but we looped back to San Gregorio where our cars were. There is a decent cross-cut trail from Palomas at the Rito Las Perchas crossing, back to Damian Meadow on Trail 51, but we chose to bushwhack instead to the headgate of the Cuba Ditch, and walk the ditch back to the cars at San Gregorio. This worked, but the bushwhack through ½ mile of canyon with deadfall requires some thought to stay high on the North side, where there is a clear area until the junction with Rio de las Vacas, and then the ditch starts ¼ mile downstream and is a fine trail back to San Gregorio where it crosses the trail 1/3 mile from the parking lot.
Summary & Recommendation: This area is highly recommended to those seeking moderate but lovely hikes near Santa Fe, and also as a possible camp spot, which many were doing the day we were there. We found oceans of green grass, ferns, and flowers, and many fine examples of the namesake parks surrounded by some of the happiest looking spruce ever seen in NM. Some minor deadfall was encountered on Trail 50 and 51, which can easily be negotiated, but some work clearing both of these main trails would be welcome.
Regarding SR126 across the Jemez, it is now paved in a spacious style to at least 12 miles total out of Cuba, and also to the Seven Springs Hatchery on the East end. This still leaves a good 10 miles of dirt and gravel between, for those of us who remember rougher times. Driving times to/from DeVargas Mall were almost exactly the same, at 2 hours.