Burro Peak • Range Highpoint: Big Burro Mountains
• South-Central Grant County

Date Climbed
March 15, 2007

8,035 feet

8 miles round trip

7 hours

2,100 feet (gross)

Clear, bone dry, warm

2,010 feet

Click on the thumbnail to see a full-size version

Friendly Hot Springs Kitty
(and soon-to-be mommy kitty)

The Big Burro Mountains
from White Signal Road

Jacks Peak has the towers
while Burro Peak is to the right

Beth hiking up the trail

Jacks Peak can now be seen
from the trail. Burro Peak
is partially obscured on the left

An old standing chimney

Now we see Burro Peak
in all its glory

And there's the summit rockpile

N.M. PageMain Page


Burro Peak is a gentle-shaped hump of a mountain, located in the high desert between Lordsburg and Silver City in southwest New Mexico. This low range, called the Big Burro Mountains, serves as an effective natural boundary between the highlands surrounding Silver City are the starker deserts near Lordsburg. The peaks themselves don't jump out at you, but have a nice uniform shape. Most people would probably not bother climbing Burro Peak on its own merits, but it does sit astride the Continental Divide, and the fine Continental Divide Trail (CDT) passes right over the summit. As is often the case with these sublime desert ranges, what looks to be a dull and uninteresting place seen from afar is a lovely wilderness of high-desert scrub, pinon and juniper woodlands and some stands of fir and pine when seen up close.

Beth and I were here this past November, celebrating Thanksgiving up in Silver City with a hike up Black Mountain in the Pinos Altos Range. We also took a day out to visit the nearby Faywood Hot Springs, and had plans to drive up the service road to nearby Jacks Peak, from where Burro Peak is just a short hike away. However, we encountered soft sand where the map said the road should be. Mot wanting to chance getting stuck, we abandoned this attempt and resolved to come back another time.

So here we are now, a few months later, taking a few days to do a couple hikes and soak in some hot springs for my Spring Break. We started with a nice hike up Hachita Peak down in the bootheel, then a couple days at Faywood Hot Springs, which was a blast, including a batch of playful cats that roam the area. (Update 2010: It was owned by a couple, and after the man passed away, his wife no longer wants to own the place and has been trying to sell it. The whole property covers a square mile. They were asking a huge sum, in the millions, last I checked. No one has come forth to purchase it yet.) From Faywood, we took a dirt road called White Signal Road that cuts directly across from Faywood to state route NM-90 very near the Burro Mountains. This drive was very scenic, and saved us about 30 miles by not having to go up through Silver City. Burro Peak and its subsidiary peaks, Ferguson and Jacks, stood ahead of us as we drove (Jacks has the towers).

After a short drive along NM-90, we pulled out onto Gila Forest Road 828 near a pass, found the trailhead for the CDT, and decided to grind up a nearby road about another half-mile, parking amid some sparse trees that would keep our truck hidden a little better (it also cut off a little distance since the trail was nearby). We were at 6,400 feet elevation, and it was starting to get rather warm, much more than one would expect for this time of year. A fluke heatwave had built and would raise temperatures into the 90s in the deserts. We'd have warm 70s and 80s up on the mountain. We started our hike around 11 a.m.

The temperature as we started was probably in the mid-70s, but the day was totally clear and bone dry, with humidities in the single percents. The lower trail is high desert scrubland transitioning into the more typical juniper woodland, but the mostly open terrain and radiated heat made for some warm early going. We went slow and stayed on the trail. Quickly, it was evident it did not go where it was shown on the map. It actually trended west and went around a small hill at 6,848 feet, going clock-wise, then up and on its north side east again, to connect up with the trail as shown on the map. We took a couple GPS readings to be sure. We took breaks often to combat the heat and stillness. Shade was scant at first but more plentiful as we hiked higher. In the shade the temperature was very nice. The heat we were feeling had more to do with the reflected heat coming off of the rocks, soil and grasses open to the sun. And there were bugs.

On our second break we took another GPS reading and found that we were back on the route shown on the map. From here on up the going was fairly easy, with nice gradients on a well-marked trail with few obstacles. The route pretty much straddles the main south ridge, the continental divide itself. Sweat pouring off my right side would hit the ground and eventually work its way into the Carribean Sea, for example. We hiked up and down many little bumps, often losing 20-30 feet at a time, then regaining it. In the meantime Beth's back and neck started to act up, seizing on her and causing her great pain. Every few minutes we'd stop and do some stretching exercises, accompanied by severe beatings to her back muscles by me to get them to behave. Beth soldiered on, and we took it slow.

We eventually worked our way up the only moderately steep portion of the hike, a short 300-foot gain section that put us on a high ridge just west of point 7,657. Jacks Peak and its towers were in plain view, while Burro's summit poked out behind as a gently-shaped hilltop, not too prominent above the intervening peaks. However, Beth's back was simply not going to allow her to push on. We stopped in a nice clearing and took a long breather to figure out what to do. She was rightfully frustrated. After a while she prompted me to go on and hit the top, while she would stay put. I had mixed feelings: I naturally want her to feel good and would prefer her to be with me, but where we were was pretty safe, and we were clearly the only people on the mountain that afternoon. We had packed in a small picnic-type blanket and some reading material, so we set her up on this spot, and I took off to go hit the top. I figured 90 minutes round trip. To lighten my load I left the pack with her, too, and just took some water and the camera with me.

By the map I figured about a mile to the service road and another half-mile to the top. I took off on a fast walk, reaching point 7,657 pretty quickly where to my surprise on this warm afternoon I found some remnant patches of snow still clinging to the ground. The trail swung north (my left) and started a series of small ups and downs over little ridge-line bumps. This went on for about 15 minutes, then soon enough I was out onto the service road. I made a point to remember this junction because it wasn't too well-marked otherwise. On the road I hiked up for a short bit, which was unexciting, then it started to level off a bit near some old foundations, including one with a still-intact standing chimney. By now Burro's mass was in plain view.

I took off cross-country, dropping into the small saddle between Jack and Burro, where I re-found the trail. The drop here was about 150 feet, then a gain of 250 feet to the top of Burro. This section was rockier than before, but soon it let off onto some nice grassy slopes, shaded in some good-sized pines. The summit is somewhat long and broad, so I stayed on the trail until it started to drop again. When it did so, I left the trail and with some luck, found the benchmark in a clump of rocks on my first try. I signed in to the small register, amused to see one other visitor on this day (who presumably came in from the north). To be sure, I visited and tagged two other prominent rock outcrops that had some probability of being the true highpoint. Satisfied, I hightailed it back down and back to Beth. I had said 90 minutes, and when I arrived back, I still had 10 minutes to spare. She was laid out, enjoying the sun, reading and soaking up the rays. The long rest had helped her back, which was good. It was now about 3 p.m. so we got moving.

We took the hike down slowly, even passing some cattle on the route, just a small group of four or so. Beth's back and neck started to give her trouble some more, but she was determined to push on, stopping only when the pain grew unbearable. We took a few breaks and took the actual hiking very slowly. By now the sun was low in the sky and the temperatures cooler but still very comfortable. We had a very enjoyable break where we watched the sun set behind a foreground ridge, and just enjoyed the solitude, the scenery, the quiet, the scents, everything. That Beth could not make the top was a bummer for both of us, and that her neck and back were in great pain was very frustrating, but in this one interlude, sitting together, the only two people on the mountain, in utter quiet, the whole picture came into focus, so to speak. This was the highlight of the hike, the highpoint, figuratively. It was truly a wonderful moment, pain nonwithstanding. My wife Beth is my love and my hero.

We eventually walked out to our truck, where we quickly changed out of our hiking clothes and got moving. We had a 25-mile drive to Lordsburg, then an 80-mile journey back into Arizona and our campground at the Essence of Tranquility hot springs in Safford. We had dusky light to Lordsburg, then pitch black to Safford. The drive went well, and we had a late dinner at the Golden Corral in Safford, arriving about 10 minutes before they closed. They were already cleaning up and we could tell they weren't too thrilled to see us, but we didn't care. Most amusingly, literally one minute before closing, a group of five people came in to have dinner. We rolled into the campground in darkness and set up the tent, and crashed. The dips in the hot water helped both our aches and pains, and it was the perfect tonic for Beth's back and neck muscles. We were home to Chandler by 3 the next afternoon ... in record setting heat. It hit 99 that day in Phoenix (100 in Tempe said the news), and this was just mid-March.

Burro Peak's stats are just an educated guess on my part. The signs were not helpful, but based on our usual rate, I figured we got in 2.5 miles before Beth had to call it quits, while the hike to Burro was a total of 4 miles from the truck to the top. As for the gain, the net would be about 1,640 feet, but this ignores the 150-foor drop and regain between Jack and Burro, so add on 300 feet. I also added on some more elevation to the gross gain figure to account for the numerous ups and downs we experienced. The 2,100 feet gross gain is a conservative figure, in my opinion. If none of this interests you, the hike itself is very nice and worth it regardless of the nibbly arithmetic presented here.

I'm actually glad we abandoned our attempt from November. The day-hike was much more pleasurable than driving the road, and one I would suggest for a nice easy outing in a very un-traveled part of the state.

(c) 2007, 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.