U.S. Department of the Interior
Bureau of Land Management
In case of emergency:
Leave No Trace: Plan ahead and prepare - Travel and camp on durable
surfaces - Dispose of waste properly - Leave what you find - Minimize
campfire impacts - Respect wildlife - Be considerate of other visitors.
BLM Rio Puerco Law Enforcement – 505/761-8700
Immediate Emergency – 911
BLM 24-hour Santa Fe Law Enforcement – 505/827-9377
Bureau of Land Management
Albuquerque District, Rio Puerco Field Office
100 Sun Ave. NE
Pan American Bldg., Suite 330
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87109
reathe in all the mystic lore and outdoor adventure
New Mexico has to offer, at this well-known landmark
in the Rio Puerco Valley—Cabezon Peak. Rising nearly
8,000 feet above sea level, Cabezon is the most
prominent of about 50 volcanic necks in the lava fields of
The name “Cabezon” is derived from the Spanish noun
“cabeza,” meaning “head.” Cabezon translates as “big head.”
The peak is believed to have religious significance for the
Pueblo and Navajo Indians, and remnants of their visits still
exist. The Navajos have various lore associated with Cabezon,
one of which explains that the peak and local lava flows came
from a giant who was slain upon Mount Taylor. The giant’s
head became Cabezon Peak and his blood congealed to form
the Malpais, or “bad land” volcanic flow to the south.
The region’s volcanic
necks formed when
molten lava worked
its way to the earth’s
layers deposited by
an ancient inland sea
that covered the area.
Millions of years of
erosion have removed
much of the softer
exposing the basalt
columns or “necks.”
Cabezon, rising nearly
2,000 feet above
the valley floor, is a
popular area for rock
climbing and scrambling. A visitor’s register, located at the
parking area, indicates that hikers come from as far away as
Europe to experience a climb that is considered appropriate for
both beginning and intermediate-level skills. The climb is not
recommended for either children or pets.
A dirt road located on the west side of Cabezon, which
connects with BLM Road 1114, leads to the trailhead. A
primitive trail along the south side of the peak, which leads to
the summit (refer to the map), takes between 4 and 6 hours
to climb. The round trip hike is approximately 2 ½ miles. The
ascent of the chimney near the south-east portion is marked
by cairns. A hand line (special rope used by climbers) may
be needed to ascend the rocky ledges to the top. The trail is
accessible year round, however, the upper trail and chimney
can be treacherous when there is ice and snow.
primitive recreation, including grazing, outfitting/guiding,
commercial filming, group activities, educational group
activities and scientific research.
Vehicle travel off existing roads is prohibited. Restrictions
apply to all off-highway vehicles (OHV’s), all-terrain vehicles
(ATV’s) motorcycles, and bicycles.
Unless authorized, camping, or occupying any site on public
lands, for a period longer than 14 days within any period of 28
consecutive days is prohibited.
Because of loose rock, we recommend that you wear a hard
hat and sturdy footwear for safety; also, take along plenty of
water. A successful climb to the summit will reward you with
an expansive view of the Rio Puerco Valley. You may want to
bring a compass and map to locate and identify surrounding
Plants and Wildlife
Piñon and juniper trees are dispersed among the rock-strewn
foothills of the peak. The desert floor offers numerous grasses,
cacti, and shrubs. Summer showers encourage the blooms of
sunflower, cactus flowers, evening primroses and asters.
Bird life at Cabezon includes meadow larks, jays, quail, doves,
red-tailed hawks and sharp-shinned hawks. Area mammals
include rabbits, prairie dogs, badgers, and rodents such as
kangaroo rats, rock mice and pack rats. The elusive coyote is
always present and serves to help keep the numbers of small
mammals in balance.
Hikers should be aware that rattlesnakes are active during
Obey posted fire orders. No fires shall be left unattended.
Fireworks are never allowed on public land.
Entry into the area is best gained by turning westward from US
550 onto County Road 279 approximately 20 miles northwest
of San Ysidro. A green highway sign (labeled “San Luis,
Cabezon”) marks the turnoff. Continue 12 miles (south-west
past the village of San Luis) to the Cabezon turn-off onto BLM
Road 1114. The pavement ends just beyond San Luis.
At the intersection of CR 279 and BLM Road 1114, you will
pass by the ghost town of Cabezon. Follow BLM Road 1114 for
2.9 miles to the dirt route that leads east to the trailhead.
Travel on CR 279 and BLM Road 1114 is good during dry
conditions. During the rainy season, normally in spring and late
summer, the roads can get slippery and rutted. During winter,
the area can be unreachable. Check with the BLM about road
conditions before your visit. Use of this area is regulated only
to the extent needed to protect the resources and ensure your
Approximately 8,000 acres around Cabezon Peak have been
designated a Wilderness Study Area (WSA).
The BLM is directed to preserve the wilderness values of
the Cabezon WSA for the long term. This involves protecting
the area’s special features and natural qualities, including
outstanding opportunities for solitude and primitive recreation.
Preserving wilderness values is a difficult task that requires
a commitment from you as well as the BLM. The challenge
for land managers is ensuring the use of other resources and
activities within the WSA is compatible with its Wilderness
resource. The challenge for you is to use the area in harmony
with the Wilderness environment.
Use of this area is regulated to protect the resources and
ensure your safety. You do not need a permit to climb Cabezon
Peak. However, permits are required for most uses other than
This well-known landmark, in the Rio Puerco Valley, is the most prominent
of some 50 volcanic necks found in the region and can be seen for miles.