San Pedro Parks Wilderness

The San Pedro Parks Wilderness is located in southern Rio Arriba County in northern New Mexico and part of the Santa Fe National Forest. It is 41,132 acres (16,646 ha) (64 sq miles) in size. Elevations range from 8,300 feet (2,500 m) in the southwestern corner to 10,592 feet (3,228 m) at San Pedro Peaks near the center of the wilderness.[1] Although the park's average elevation is over 10,000 ft,[2] there are vast green forests, with several valleys dispersed throughout, these meadows are known as "parks", which are referred to in the title, "San Pedro Parks". While San Pedro Parks Wilderness is primarily used for hiking and camping, activities such as climbing, kayaking, and rafting are also popular, along with seasonal activities such as hunting and skiing.


A map of the Cuba Ranger District of the Santa Fe National Forest showing the location of San Pedro Parks Wilderness.

In 1931, San Pedro Parks was designated a "Primitive Area" by the U.S. Forest Service. In 1965 it was accorded Wilderness status and protection. U.S. Wilderness Areas do not allow motorized or mechanized vehicles, including bicycles. Camping and fishing are allowed with proper permit, but no roads, buildings, logging, or mining are permitted. Wilderness areas within National Forests and Bureau of Land Management areas allow hunting in season

Horseback riders in the San Pedro Parks Wilderness.

Topography, flora, and faunaEdit

San Pedro Parks Wilderness is located in the Nacimiento Mountains, the western finger of the southernmost Rocky Mountains. The nearest town is Cuba, New Mexico. The wilderness is approximately 10 miles (16 km) by 7 miles (11 km) in size. Some of the hiking and horseback trails leading into the wilderness are steep but the heart of San Pedro Parks is a plateau, about five miles by six miles, at an elevation of 10,000 feet (3,100 m). Vegetation on the plateau consists of grassy meadows, called "parks," interspaced with forests of Engelmann spruce, other conifers, and Quaking Aspen. The plateau is laced with several small streams which support populations of Rio Grande cutthroat trout. San Pedro Peaks rises gently among the meadows to an elevation of 10,592 feet (3,228 m) feet. Wildflowers of many species abound. The meadows known as "parks" consist primarily of bluegrass, oat grass, sedge, rush, and Rocky Mountain iris.[3]

San Pedro Parks receives about 35 inches (89 cm) of precipitation annually, making it one of the wettest areas of New Mexico. Snowfall is heavy in winter and snow cover persists until late May. Many of the meadows are boggy from the heavy precipitation.[4] San Gregorio reservoir is an artificial lake about one-half mile long and one-half mile wide at an elevation of 9,400 feet (2,900 m) on the southern edge of the wilderness.

Animals found in San Pedro Parks are typical of the southern Rocky Mountains: mule deer, black bear. wild turkey, and, especially, elk. A large herd of elk summers in the wilderness.[5] In addition, as of 2004 there are 730 head of cattle that are permitted to graze inside San Pedro Parks.[6]


Part of the park has a humid continental climate of the warm-summer type (Köppen: Dfb) and higher areas a continental subarctic climate (Dfc) with short summers (using the 0°C isoterm), being the most southerly place in North America where the second climatic type is found, except for isolated mountains to the south where the scale of some maps do not allow the visualization.[7][8]


About 100 miles of trails crisscross San Pedro Parks. The most popular is Vacas Trail, 7.5 miles (12 km) long. The trailhead is on Forest Road 70 and the trail leads north past San Gregorio Lake and continues to San Pedro Park, the largest meadow in the wilderness. Vacas trail intersects many other trails.[9] About 8 miles (13 km) of the Continental Divide Trail passes through the northeastern part of the wilderness.[10]

Fishing for stocked rainbow and Rio Grande cutthroat trout is popular in the San Gregorio Lake and several small streams.[11] Cross country skiing and snowshoeing are popular sports during the winter.

In the fall, San Pedro Parks becomes a hunting ground, with hunters coming for elk, deer, bear, and grouse.[12]

During winter, the parks are open for snowshoeing and cross country skiing.

Motorized and mechanized vehicles are prohibited throughout the wilderness.

Vacas Trail/San Gregorio TrailheadEdit

Of all the trails in San Pedro Parks the Vacas trail is the most popular. Starting at the San Gregorio Trailhead, the Vacas trail is 10.69 miles to San Pedro Park, which is the largest "park" in the Santa Fe National Forest wilderness.[13] The elevation at the San Gregorio Trailhead is approximately 9,000 ft, with the climb up to San Pedro Park being gradual.[14] Along this trail there are several parks that appear as breaks from the primarily spruce vegetation.


  1. ^ Delorme, West Region, 6.0
  2. ^ " - San Pedro Parks Wilderness - General Information". Retrieved 2017-05-04.
  3. ^ " - San Pedro Parks Wilderness - General Information". Retrieved 2017-05-04.
  4. ^ Martin, Craig. "Elk, Solitude, and Trout in the San Pedro Parks.", accessed 22 Apr. 2012
  5. ^ Martin, Craig. "Elk, Solitude, and Trout in the San Pedro Parks.", accessed 22 Apr. 2012
  6. ^ "San Pedro Parks Wilderness" (PDF).
  7. ^ "Interactive North America Koppen-Geiger Climate Classification Map". Retrieved 2019-03-08.
  8. ^ Zifan, Ali (2016-02-20), English: USA map of Köppen climate classification, retrieved 2019-03-08
  9. ^ Parent, Laurence. The Hiker's Guide to New Mexico. Helena, MT: Falcon Publishing Co., 1991, pp. 35-38
  10. ^ Julyan, Bob. New Mexico's Continental Divide Trail. Englewood, CO: Westcliffe Publishers, 2000, pp. 272-273
  11. ^ "San Pedro Parks Wilderness.", accessed 22 Apr 2012
  12. ^ " - San Pedro Parks Wilderness - General Information". Retrieved 2017-05-04.
  13. ^ " - San Pedro Parks Wilderness - General Information". Retrieved 2017-05-04.
  14. ^ "Vacas Trail/San Gregorio Trailhead".

Coordinates: 36°05′38″N 106°48′48″W / 36.09389°N 106.81333°W / 36.09389; -106.81333