Rocky Mountain elk, Bighorn Sheep, mule deer, and golden eagles all share these mountains. The Rocky Mountain Bighorn found in the Pecos Wilderness is usually quite tame. They will walk up to your camp and beg for food. The Bighorn's digestive system is very sensitive, though, so please don't give them any people food.
Golden Eagles can sometimes be seen circling high above. They are so graceful as they circle the sky in search of their favorite lunch: any available kind of rodent. Eagles are sensitive to intruders in their space. Many of their eggs never hatch because curious people keep parents away from the nest site and the eggs get too cold. Please respect these beautiful birds and keep away from their nests. There are also some mule deer and Rocky Mountain elk that make the Pecos Wilderness their summer home. The higher elevation is cooler and often lush with their favorite foods: grass and new aspen growth.
The Pecos Wilderness is some 223,333 acres of gorgeous countryside in northern New Mexico. These are the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, steep on the west side but reasonably gentle on the east. Close to the mountains we're talking heavily forested slopes above deep, narrow canyons. The ridges are rugged with many peaks above timberline. The lower mesa tops are long, broad and grassy. You can find top notch trout fishing at 15 of the high mountain lakes and along more than 150 miles of the crystal clear streams that flow down from these mountains. Elevations range from a low of 8,400' to a high of 13,103' at the summit of South Truchas Peak, New Mexico's second highest.
An easy day hike here can take you through alpine, wildflower-strewn meadows past dramatic rock cliffs with 100-foot waterfalls to steep talus slopes. The peaks are high and can carry snow well into June. The spruce, fir, pine, and aspen forest is filled with elk, deer, black bear, wild turkey, and one of North America's biggest herds of Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep. The trail system in these woods is extensive, and busiest in the summer. About 25,000 acres are in the Carson National Forest, and this northern section of the Pecos Wilderness is probably the least visited part of the Wilderness.
Where's the Fish?
Every few years, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish stocks many of the lakes in the Wilderness with native cutthroat fry, using a helicopter. A fishing license and trout stamp are required. If you would like more information, contact the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish.
Rocky Mountain elk
Typical Pecos Weather
Average annual precipitation is 34-40 inches, about half from summer rain and half from winter snow. Average annual temperatures vary between 80° in the summer and -20° in the winter.
Most people visit Pecos Wilderness between July 4 and Labor Day. In late June or early September the weather is usually crisp and clear and there are fewer people around.
July and August are rainy months with almost daily afternoon showers. Be prepared. Visitors should carry rain gear and a good tent if staying overnight. Daytime temperatures in the summer are often in the 80's but can drop dramatically when a storm moves in. Nights are cold, occasionally below freezing. Snowfall usually begins in early October. The wilderness is open to cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in wintertime. Beware, the avalanche danger can be significant.
Beware of lightning on the high ridges. Since the top of your head will probably be the highest and best target around, get off the ridge if thunderclouds come overhead. If you are climbing in the Truchas Peaks area, leave early in the morning in order to avoid the early afternoon thundershowers.
Take proper clothing. Temperatures can drop precipitously. Wet clothing can chill the body very quickly. Even when wet, wool is best for retaining heat; cotton next to the skin will keep you damp and will wick your body heat away. Dress in layers that you can easily add or remove as the temperature changes. And make sure someone who's not with you knows that you're out there...
The Truchas Peaks rise above Pecos Wilderness
Lower photo courtesy of the US Forest Service