The Mountains of New Mexico •
Little Florida Mountain • Highpoint: Little Florida Mountains
• Rockhound State Park (part)
• Luna County

Little Florida Mountain. The two highpoints are centered, slightly farther back

The steep messy chute I hiked to gain the higher elevation

Closer up in this chute. It was steep and loose and not very much fun

The two highpoint bumps

On the northern highpoint, which people say is the true highpoint (looking west)

South, the "big" Florida Mountains, and the chute (in shadow) I came up

North, the distant Cookes Peak, which I climbed almost exactly 20 years ago

West, Deming down below

View of the southern point

View back at the northern highpoint from the south one

Cool cairns at this southern highpoint

Date: March 10, 2024 • Elevation: 5,640 feet • Prominence: 1,040 feet • Distance: 4.4 miles • Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes • Gain: 1,030 feet • Conditions: Cool, sunny, very calm and nice

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Last Christmas, I was in the Las Cruces area climbing a few peaks, and looked over at the Florida Mountains, which lie west of Las Cruces about 50 miles, near the city of Deming. The "main" Florida Mountains feature a 4th-class pillar summit that I was not willing to do by myself. Instead, I looked over at the lower and easier Little Florida Mountains. I was curious, in part, because its west slopes are encompassed within the Rockhound State Park, popular with people who like to find geodes and semi-precious stones. It's one of few places that encourages people to take rocks with them.

This peak alone wasn't worth the time and cost to drive all this way (about 180 miles), so I combined it with another journey I had been wanting to do for awhile, a drive along the Geronimo Trail, a historic track that runs about 60 miles from Douglas, Arizona, to the Animas Valley in New Mexico. This I did yesterday, and by 4 p.m., I had located myself in Deming. I found a cheap hotel, instead of camping. Lows were forecasted to be in the 30s, and me at my advanced age, I'd rather not be cold if I can help it.

I was up very early the next morning, not by design. I just happened to wake early and couldn't fall back asleep. But I was in no hurry and certainly did not need to be moving at dawn. I let the sun rise a little to warm things up, and finally got rolling about 7 a.m., the sky just starting to alight in the east. From Deming, I followed the main east-west business route east, easing on to NM-549 where the business route bends back to Interstate-10. I was on this road a few miles, then onto Stirrup Road (NM-143), signed for Rockhound State Park, about 8 miles away still.

I arrived at the park entrance just as a worker was setting up some things. The day-use cost is $5 for a vehicle. I did not have exact change so I went online and paid it, taking about ten minutes. I should have just had a $5 bill on me. No matter. It was still dark and cold, so any few minutes of delay would allow the sun to rise some more.

I parked in the day-use lot, toward the right as one drives in. I was the first in the lot, and after getting situated properly, I started walking about 7:45 a.m.. The day was looking to be clear and mild with no clouds. For now, it was cold, but not uncomfortable, in the low 40s.

There are two trails that begin at the kiosk and signs. I went up and left and within moments, took a right at a massive boulder just lying there (it looks like it fell off from the cliffs above probably hundreds (thousands?) of years ago, and just rolled here and stopped). I followed the trail up a small hill to where it ends in a clearing with a bench.

I eased onto a slope in front of me, chock full of prickly-pear cactus. There were trails on this slope but nothing official. These trails branched everywhere, put in by the rock seekers. I always took anything that looked promising and went up. Things got steep but not too bad. In about ten minutes, I had gained about 400 feet and had come upon the park's boundary, marked by a small sign.

The next 250 vertical feet would be the most challenging of the hike. The plan is to somehow gain the slope above to top out on a higher plateau between two cliff outcroppings. Above this, higher cliffs form the western bulwark of the summit ridge.

I was on a trail so I followed it. It went steeply up and to the left as I looked up. In moments, it came to a patch of darker-colored gravel where the trail lost distinction. I found what looked like a trail that went more over than up. I followed it and it led me onto some sloping talus which I did not like one bit. The tread was loose and the slopes below steep with long runouts. I basically busted uphill once I had a chance and found the trail I should have been on.

I stayed on this meager trail and it led to the top of the slope. I was now on safer terrain, and from here to the summit(s) would be far simpler than what I had just come up.

Paths seemed to take me more east and southeast, aiming for the base of the southern slope of the summit ridge. I was aware there is a service road that leads north to some towers. I was willing to put in a couple tenths of a mile extra distance to get onto this road and follow it to the towers.

On the road, I just walked it, taking a left at a junction, going up to a tower that sat a little north of the northern summit point of the mountain, what others have deemed to be the actual highpoint. A right at the junction leads to another tower on a hill about 30 feet lower. This hill actually looks highest from down below, but it is clear it is not once near it.

I walked to the tower then up the remaining slope to the top. I had covered a couple miles with a little over a thousand feet of gain in about an hour. It was sunny up here and a little warmer, about 50°, and sometimes breezy, but not chilling. I spent some time looking around and enjoying the views. The big Florida Mountains rise close by to the south. The pointed Cookes Peak rose north. I climbed it almost exactly 20 years ago, and this peak was just the second summit I have climbed within Luna County, although I did not realize it at the moment. The views were excellent. Miles of flat desert plain interrupted by hills and ranges, some probably a hundred miles distant.

The summit ridge features two hilltops, both with elevations at about 5,640 feet. Some have claimed that this northern peak is highest, but looking over at the southern hilltop, it looked too close to call, and since I had to go that way anyway, it wasn't a bother. I had intended to tag both tops anyway. I just followed the ridge to the southern point, dropping about 60 feet in between. The southern hilltop featured more cairns, five or six, looking like someone was having fun building them. I found no registers at either hilltop, though.

I descended eastward off the ridge and back to the service road, then followed my route back to the top of the steep slope I had come up. There was more sun now and the chute wasn't as shaded as before. I followed the "trail" down to the boundary sign. This was a sketchy trail, very steep and narrow, and often loose. There were many spots were the slope below me would have been bad news had I slipped. I moved extremely carefully here, taking baby steps, until I was back to the park boundary.

The walk down from the boundary sign went much quicker, and I was back to my car a little before 10 a.m., a hike covering about two hours and fifteen minutes. There were more people out and about now. A few had ventured partway up the prickly-pear slopes but most stayed low. As I was descending the nasty slope up high, I could hear some guy coughing and banging his rock hammer against the rocks, but I could not see him. He was above me, probably at the base of one of the cliffs. That took some cojones to hike to there. I hope he got some neat rocks and a handle on that cough.

The hike had gone well and I enjoyed it a lot. I spent some time lazing in my car at the parking lot, talking with whoever passed by. I still had some miles to drive to get back to Bisbee, but I was in no hurry, and I worked in some bonus peaks to climb on the way back, which you can read about here.

The pronunciation of the word "Florida" is "flo-ree-da". It is a Spanish word meaning "flowery", presumably for the flowers that grow on the slopes. There weren't any out now, probably still a little early for the wildflowers to bloom.

(c) 2024 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.