Mount Taylor • Highpoint: Cibola County
• Range Highpoint: North San Mateo Mountains

Mount Taylor

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Date: September 3, 2000 • Elevation: 11,301 feet • Prominence: 4,094 feet • Distance: 7 miles • Time: 3 hours • Gain: 2,100 feet • Conditions: Sunny and lovely

Mount Taylor is gigantic peak with a volcano-like profile rising to over 11,300 feet in elevation. Located in west-central New Mexico, Mount Taylor looms above the high deserts around Grants along Interstate-40, about a two-hour drive west of Albuquerque. It is one of the most prominent mountains in New Mexico, and because of its high visibility, Mount Taylor serves as one of the four sacred mountains of the Navajo, and the traditional eastern boundary of the Navajo homeland. Its Navajo name is Tsoodzil.

I was here as part of a Labor Day weekend of peakbagging in western New Mexico. After a long drive from my home near Phoenix, I arrived in the Grants area late yesterday afternoon with time to visit Cerros de Alejandro, the highpoint of McKinley County. It was too late in the day to hike Mount Taylor, so I stayed a night in Grants and awoke early for a hike this morning. In Grants, I followed First Street (state route NM-547) through the center of town, heading north into the foothills to the end of the pavement. A good forest road, FR-193, runs another five miles to the Gooseberry Trailhead (Trail #77). I arrived at the trailhead at 7 a.m. in fine weather, got situated and started my hike soon thereafter.

The initial portion of the trail was level and moderately forested. It drops into Gooseberry Draw, then up its other side. Form here, an old road-trail continues up the other side of Gooseberry Draw, running parallel to an old fence, before coming to a gate. Past the gate the road-trail barges uphill through the last of the thick forest onto grassy sloping meadows. Parts of the route were badly eroded. To here I had gained a thousand feet and covered 1.5 miles, roughly the halfway points for both the vertical as well as horizontal. I took a break sitting on the grassy slope. Aside from the beaten-up nature of the road-trail, everything else was lovely. Yes, at some point in the distant past, someone tried to build a road this high.

The trail narrows, no hint of there ever being a road this far up, which was nice. The trail gains a ridge and runs behind (relative to Taylor) a smaller sub-peak, then goes through a small pass and breaks back into the open, now on the slopes directly below Mount Taylor itself. The trail makes long, weeping switchbacks for the finnal few hundred feet to the summit. I arrived about 90 minutes after starting my hike, having covered 3 miles and slightly over 2,000 feet of gain to get here, and it was worth every step. The views from up here are stunning, mainly sweeping the south out over the badlands, canyons and volcanic plugs that populate the terrain in this part of the state.

I also inspected an interesting pit dug into the summit for some reason. The pit was probably six feet deep, an honest-to-gosh hole in the ground. I am pretty sure I was the first to summit today, having seen no one coming down nor passed anyone going up, but as I descended, lots of people were on their way up: hikers, joggers, people with kids and dogs. The fine nature of the trail and the generally moderate slopes makes this ascent one of the easiest and most pleasurable in the state for such a large, prominent and significant mountain.

I didn't know it at the time, but a "back way" to the summit can be hiked coming up the forest roads on the northwest side of the peak, near the Cerros de Alejandro hills I was on yesterday. A good road leads to Mosca Peak, the main "second" summit of Mount Taylor, on which sit the usual mix of communications towers. A short trail from there leads to Mount Taylor's summit. Actually, I am glad I didn't go that way. This route from the south was just fine the way it was. I was back to my truck by 10 a.m.

My only regret: I had exactly one photo left on my roll of film for this hike and I wasted it on some lame, into-the-sun photo of the trail and ridge, and of course, it came out looking like crap. So I have no photos of my ascent. See, back in the olden days, in 2000, digital cameras were very expensive and most of us used film cameras. A few years later I stopped by for a better shot of the peak, albeit from a distance.

From here, I drove south through Los Lunas and Socorro to visit my second objective for the day, Socorro County's South Baldy Peak.

(c) 2000, 2016 Scott Surgent. For entertainment purposes only. This report is not meant to replace maps, compass, gps and other common sense hiking/navigation items. Neither I nor the webhost can be held responsible for unfortunate situations that may arise based on these trip reports. Conditions (physical and legal) change over time! Some of these hikes are major mountaineering or backpacking endeavors that require skill, proper gear, proper fitness and general experience.