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Lookout Mountain via the Sierra Blanca Crest Trail

  • Mar 12, 2011 · 7:00 AM

Lookout Mountain is the highest peak in Lincoln County (and I think the 3rd highest peak in New Mexico?) It's a stone throw away from Sierra Blanca Peak, which is the tallest southernmost peak in the continental USA.

We'll be hiking the Crest Trail up to Lookout Mountain, starting at the Scenic Trail (which starts north of the Ski Apache's parking lot). The climb is over 2000 ft in 3.5 mi (~7 mi roundtrip), peaking at 11,500 ft. Needless to say, it's strenuous, though the trail itself is well-maintained and otherwise an easy walk (no climbing involved). Note that this is almost 3x the elevation of El Paso, and the elevation will make breathing challenging. See our route via KML (for Google Earth) or on Google Maps (the file says 8 mi, which assumes we walk towards the Sierra Blanca Peak fenceline). At the top of Lookout Mountain, there is both a seating area and snack stand (see photo). While tough, this isn't the middle of nowhere—please join!

Every foot of the trek is a gorgeous vista of the Capitan Mountains, and once at the top, more gorgeous views of all directions. If you don't want to hike back down you can take the gondola (for a fee), or ski down (not sure how that'd work).

Meet:

  • Las Cruces: At 7:15 am, K-Mart parking lot on North Main/US 70 and Del Rey, near Shell. See map (OpenStreetMap or Google Maps). Get onto US 70 and head west until you hit Ruidoso, then pass it to get to Ruidoso Downs.
  • El Paso: At 7:00 am, Walmart at Transmountain/US 54 at the west-most parking lot towards US 54. See map (Google Maps). Take US 54 north to Alamogordo, and then get onto US 70 west (don't veer north on US 54 when it splits in Tularosa).
  • Ruidoso: At 9:00 am, Ruidoso Downs Walmart parking lot, northwest corner, on US 70. See map (OpenStreetMap or Google Maps). Ruidoso Down is a mile or two west of Ruidoso on US 70, and the Walmart turn-off has a traffic light—you can't miss it.

Traffic tip: don't speed in Tularosa (speed limit: 35 mph) or Mescalero (45 mph).

Tentative weather report: high of 67°F, night low of 36°F. There will be snow, but probably very, very little. It is always windy at those altitudes, so bring a wind breaker.

While 7 mi may seem short, you'll definitely get a workout from the altitude. We can find another trail in the area (there are many) afterward if people want to tack on more mileage.

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  • Derrick

    Just a correction, this is by far not the 3rd highest peak in NM. Sierra Blanca itself is I think number 12. If interested, I am leading a backpacking trip in July through the NM backpackers group. Welcome day hikers. Been here a couple times, such a beautiful hike.

    March 24, 2011

  • renee s.

    great hike if people were better prepared for the snowy conditions.
    remember we all need a lunch break. lets try it again in the summer
    when there is no snow. i was happy that i got to practice my driving!

    March 13, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    Yeah, sorry. That was meant for the adventure group.

    March 9, 2011

  • Samat

    Er, Rosa, not sure why you're mentioning climbing gear? we are doing *no* climbing this Saturday. AFAIK Sierra Blanca Peak itself (which we're not doing) doesn't really require gear either. I've set our Ruidoso meeting point to the Ruidoso Walmart on US 70?does anyone have any better/easier-to-find meeting points up there?

    March 9, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    Desert divers is one place in el paso that rents gear. Google climbing gear, there used to be at least 3 sites.

    March 9, 2011

  • Samat

    Yes, I think?

    March 8, 2011

  • Samat

    Let's just go ahead and do it on the 12th, since that was originally decided. I called the forest service, and according to them the trail is still in good shape.

    March 8, 2011

  • Samat

    The long way (which I think we'll need to take) is the Crest hiking trail, 7 mi roundtrip. It's over 2000 ft climbed in a short distance, and at high altitude (11.5k feet, 3x the elev. of El Paso), so I'd say pretty difficult (if you have a heart problem, I'd really think twice). I don't know how cold it'll be (it's been relatively warm up there this winter), but it is the top of a ski resort (they generate snow) and will be windy.

    March 3, 2011

  • Sal

    oop's I'm very flexible on date but the 12th sounds good to me also. Virginia it did select a day, the question is how do I clear it..

    February 27, 2011

  • Sal changed the date and time to Saturday, March 12, 2011 at 7:00 AM

    February 27, 2011

  • Samat

    I had taken the Crest Trail up (or tried to, rather) in June, and yeah, "trashed" is a good word. It's littered with large, downed trees and parts are heavily eroded. The ski slopes were much easier.

    October 1, 2010

  • Cesar G

    I know that well used trail was pretty trashed earlier this year with a bunch of fallen trees from all the snowfall this past winter. I have no clue if its been cleaned up. I know last time I hiked Southfork 2 years after the flash flood it was still in pretty bad shape.

    September 30, 2010

  • Derrick

    oh yeah, unless it has been changed in a year, I didnt need a permit..

    September 30, 2010

  • Derrick

    this can be done as a day hike. I have done it twice. If you park outside the ski area you can take the well used trail to the crest trail and lookout mountain and then just shoot straight up the side of the peak. takes about 5 hours. If you take the trail its 9.5 miles up to sierra blanca. So about 8.5 to lookout. not a bad hike.

    September 30, 2010

  • Cesar G

    oh yeah definitely. It would only be like 10 miles round trip plus a lighter pack. We saw quite a few day hikers that morning.

    September 28, 2010

  • Samat

    I think this could be a day hike---I went up to Lookout Mountain and back (taking the "long" way) in some 4 hours for some 7 mi total?

    NM-532 (the ski resort access road) is open from 8 am-4 pm (uphill) AFAIK, and there is a parking area outside the ski resort. The jeep trail was "open" when I went a few weeks ago, but I don't think it's meant for public vehicle use.

    I received the same treatment when I tried to get a permit.

    September 28, 2010

  • Cesar G

    btw Im not sure where you get those permits. I tried calling and getting information about these permits since I read about them as well but no one had an idea what I was talking about or put me on hold for minutes then just hung up on me. So we decided to go without them and just be respectful of the peak.

    September 28, 2010

  • Cesar G

    We did Sierra Blanca last year but as a backpacking trip. Camped out by the ski lodge and checked out the sunset on Lookout and hit Sierra Blanca the next morning. I think I know which jeep trail your talking about. There was one that went to the ski lodge but the entrance to Ski Apache was closed so not sure if you can drive up there. Theres is a trail that takes you to Lookout which is what we took. I believe its 4 miles to lookout then another mile to Sierra Blanca. No climbing needed

    September 28, 2010

8 went

  • Samat
    Organizer,
    Event Host
  • Timmy +1
  • A former member
    +1 guest
  • A former member

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