The Mountains of New Mexico
Gallinas Peak • Highpoint: Gallinas Mountains
• Lincoln National Forest
• Lincoln County

Gallinas Peak from the east

Gallinas from the south

The last few feet of road

Dixie, barking at me

Lookout tower atop Gallinas

Date: August 8, 2007 • Elevation: 8,637 feet • Prominence: 2,167 feet • Distance: 2.4 miles • Time: 1 hour • Gain: 370 feet • Conditions: Pleasant but with clouds developing

New MexicoPB

Gallinas Peak is the highpoint of the Gallinas Mountains, in the transition zone between the mountainous central spine of the state, and the flatter plains to the east. The closest towns are Carrizozo and Corona, and the flats surrounding the mountain range are high-elevation rangeland with grass and cactus, plus long stretches of lava fields.

I was spending a week in New Mexico, hiking the handful of prominence peaks out this way. I was staying in Capitan, and earlier today had hiked to the summit of Capitan Mountain. When I returned to Capitan, it was not yet noon. I had two other peaks planned, this one and Carrizo Peak. While Carrizo Peak was closer to Capitan, Gallinas Peak was faster, and given the nature of the weather this time of year, it made sense for me to drive the 50 extra miles and hike Gallinas Peak today, then hike Carrizo Peak tomorrow with a dawn start.

From Capitan, I went west on US-380 to Carrizozo then north on US-54 toward the town of Corona. I didn't quite go all the way to Corona, as my turn-off to Gallinas Peak was before the town, and about 30 miles north of Carrizozo. The highlight of this leg of the trip was being tailed by a cop. I had my cruise control to 65 mph, figuring I was okay. He started to pass me but then he rode abreast with me. Then I slowed down ... then he got behind me again. Crap, I didn't need a ticket. But then he gunned his cruiser around me and was off like the wind, 90 mph, heading north. He got a call, I guess. I was probably in for a ticket otherwise.

South of Corona, I went west onto Gallinas Road, entering onto Forest-owned land after a little over a mile. The main obstacle here were giant trucks hauling gravel out from a nearby pit. Once on forest lands, I followed FR-161 west, then northwest, for 9.5 miles to the junction with FR-99, which is signed for Gallinas Peak, 5 miles distant (the sign my way was absent, but the sign for southeast-bound travelers was still up). I went north on FR-99 for three miles to a junction with FR-102, which is the spur road to the top. I decided to drive a bit farther, and covered a little less than a mile when I found a wide place to park, roughly 8,300 feet elevation. I wanted a short hike to the top, and from my truck, the summit was about 1.2 miles away, with about 370 feet of gain. I carried just my camera and water.

The hike took 20 minutes, and there I was, the top. As I walked the last few feet, I started to get howled and barked at, and quickly a little bull-terrier came bounding out of the little residence at the base of the lookout tower at me. I said "hello" and a woman's voice answered, and soon, she came out to say hi and to settle down the dog, who was barking furiously at me. The woman was the lookout, tasked to sit up in the tower and look for fires. Her name was Linda, and was very friendly. She put her dog, Dixie, back into the residence so it wouldn't continue to bark and leap at me. This dog meant business!

She invited me to the top. The views from the tower were excellent, and she showed me the recent burns in the range, including a big fire from 2004 and another from 2001. To the north, the Sangre de Cristos were barely visible while the Manzano and Sandia ranges were much clearer to the northwest. To the west were the Chupadero Mesas, while south was the big hump of Oscura Peak on the White Sands Military Reservation. Southeast was Carrizo Peak and my morning objective, Capitan Mountain, now engulfed in bigger clouds. Around us we had clouds but no imminent storm activity. It was very breezy and nice overall. Looking east was the high plains and grasslands of eastern New Mexico.

After 30 minutes with Linda, I decided I should get moving. She was super nice and obviously enjoys the company to relieve the boredom. I was her first visit for the day, but she says she'll get 5 or 6 people on a weekend day. I asked about looping out of the forest via the rest of FR-99, instead of backtracking, and she said it's a great drive and suggested it, so that's what I did. The road went through the heavy burn areas, plus thick forest and canyons. In time I was back to FR-161 and then back on to the highway. It was close to 2 p.m. and I figured a shower sounded real good. The drive back to Capitan took an hour, and I spent the rest of the day lazing around. I had a meal at the nearby Smokey Bear Cafe. It wasn't great food, but the price was right.

The next morning I hiked Carrizo Peak.

(c) 2007, 2019 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.