Sugarloaf Mountain • Highpoint: Harding County
• Kiowa National Grassland

A lone tree, a fenceline
stretching to infinity...

The volcanic summit

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Date: March 15, 2000 • Elevation: 6,455 feet • Prominence: 360 feet • Distance: 4 miles • Time: 1 hour • Gain: 400 feet • Conditions: Clear and chilly

I began today in Las Vegas, New Mexico, after driving yesterday from the Phoenix area and visiting Sandia Crest near Albuquerque. Today started cold, and I got an early start, hitting the road around 6 a.m. Today I'd be visiting the flat eastern New Mexico county highpoints, but first on the agenda was Sugarloaf Mountain, highpoint of Harding County.

From "Vegas", I followed Interstate-25 north to Springer, then US-56 east into the plains to the community of Gladstone. The whole town consisted of two buildings and a general store. I followed Union County Road 1 south from town, with a local dog running and barking at my truck as I drove through town. I followed this solid dirt road south and west a few miles until it turned into Colfax County Road 37. Another mile along CR-37, and I could see the dark top of Sugarloaf Mountain poking out above the yellow grasses of the rolling hills. I found a spot off the road to park.

Harding County is New Mexico's least populated county, with about 900 people, spread out among big ranches and a couple tiny settlements. The biggest town is called Roy, and the county seat, Mosquero, actually sits partially inside neighboring San Miguel County. It's mostly flat plains with rolling hills and some small canyons fronting a couple of creeks. Its highpoint, Sugarloaf Mountain, is a rocky hill on its north boundary, a volcanic remnant not uncommon in northeast New Mexico. It's actually an attractive little peak with a nice profile, surrounded by grasslands.

From my parking spot, a couple of tire ruts crossed at an angle and offered a path across the first half-mile of open scrubland. I aimed toward a distant tree, a single tree all by its lonesome way out there. When I got to it, I also came upon an old fence, running north-south along section-line boundaries. I followed this fence another half-mile to a junction with an east-west fence. I carefully hopped this fence, and angled southwest slightly. Here, the ground got rockier with football-sized lava rocks strewn about. Another half-mile or so, I gained a small ridge, and had an excellent view of the peak, itself another half-mile farther.

I dropped a little in elevation then gained up the minorly-steep hillside, coming to the summit quickly. The one-way hike had covered two miles and had taken just a shade over 30 minutes. The top is a pleasant rounded summit with rocks, and great views down onto the grasslands. The drop directly west was 500 feet, and off in the distance were the snow-clad Sangre de Cristo Mountains, and farther north, the southern Rockies.

The return hike took about 20 minutes, and in all, had been a complete pleasure. This was an unexpectedly pleasant highpoint, and I would love to go back someday, mainly to see if that tree is still there.

The day was still early and I had a full slate of highpoints still to visit. The next three would be easy ones, all located atop the Llano Estacado, about as flat a place as there is in the whole country. There'd be no hiking but a lot of driving. Next up: Curry County

(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.