Loma Alta • Highpoint: De Baca County

Date Climbed
March 15, 2000

5,583 feet

1.5 miles round trip

45 minutes

150 feet

Brisk and clear

128 feet

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Loma Alta

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Loma Alta is a small complex of mesas in the eastern New Mexico high plains, the highest of which is the highpoint of De Baca County. The mesas are located in the west portion of the county, south of highway US-60, about a half-hour drive west of Fort Sumner, the county seat. Roads get near, and even to the top, of the highest of the mesas. Access does not seem to be restricted.

De Baca County sits at the transition between the plains of the east and the low hills that eventually become the large peaks in central New Mexico. The county itself has few people, no more than 3,000, making it one of New Mexico's least populated counties. The entire economy seems to be ranching. Tourism is light as De Baca County is off the main interstates, but fans of the Old West know to visit Fort Sumner and the nearby memorial and museum to the shooting of famed outlaw Billy the Kid by lawman Pat Garrett in the 1870s.

It was late in the day and I had already visited four county highpoints, although three of them were easy plains counties in which I had to do just a minimal amount of walking. But I was doing a lot of driving, easily over 400 miles by the time I arrived into De Baca County. Prior to arriving here I had just visited the highpoint of Roosevelt County. From there, I met up with US-60. I passed through Fort Sumner, got gas, then passed through a very large grassland fire west of town.

I drove 31 miles west on US-60 to near milepost 293 and turned south onto an excellent dirt road ("Perez Ranch", if I recall correctly). I drove south along this excellent dirt road for 1.5 miles to a large triangle intersection and turned right (west) onto a secondary dirt road that was in fairly decent condition. A mile later, I passed a large set of railroad tracks, taking care to not get smashed by the trains, which seemed to come by about once every 10 minutes. The road after the tracks deteriorated, becoming soft in places. I parked about a half mile past the tracks and started my walk from there.

The hike was short, a simple gain up moderate slopes of sparse grasses and low cactus. In short time I was on top the mesa. From here, I walked the entire length of this little mesa, maybe a half-mile from end to end, covering any ground that looked like a contender, and seeking out the brass benchmark on the westernmost area. I found it, and satisfied, walked back the way I came. I noted that if I'd stayed on the road I was one, it would have eventually turned and started up the mesa, which suggests that this highpoint can be done mostly by driving, although I think high clearance is a minimum requirement.

I did this hike around 4 p.m., a total of about 45 minutes and about 1.5 miles of overall hiking. The sky was clouding up and a front was moving in. After leaving Loma Alta, I stayed the night in Vaughn, 25 miles to the west. The next morning I tried and failed on my visit to Mesa Leon in Guadalupe County. It had snowed, the ground was covered with it, and the fog was very thick. I decided to scram and head south toward the Carlsbad area and bypass this weather. I came back a year later and successfully completed Mesa Leon.

(c) 2000, 2011 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.