Trip report July 2005 by Richard L. Carey.
The Capitan Mountains are in central New Mexico about 25 miles northeast of Ruidoso. They are a separate range that runs east-west for about 20 miles with the highest point being an unnamed peak in the center of the range. The range is in the Lincoln National Forest and much of the northern and eastern parts are in a wilderness area. Of the fifty most prominent peaks in New Mexico this summit is ranked 12th.
Getting to the peak: A forest road runs high up on the mountain to a radio site. From the small town of Capitan drive east on highway 380 about 2.3 miles to county road C001 on the left heading to Capitan Gap. This will become Forest Road 56 after some distance. At 5.0 miles on this road cross a cattle guard and enter National Forest land. At 7.1 miles go right at a junction at Capitan Gap. The road was recently graded in late June 2005 and was in good condition up the mountain for about 10 miles. At 12.1 miles go left at a junction at a sign for Padilla Trail. The last two miles are rocky and rough and four-wheel drive is needed. There is very little room to turn around so once you get on this you are committed to continue to the top. At the top at 15.1 miles is a radio site. This is a rocky place with little room to camp and a noisy wind generator adds to the unpleasantness. Just before the last left turn near the radio shelters is a sign for a trail heading east. If you want to camp I suggest finding a place several miles back to the west of the radio site.
Hike details: From the east end of the radio site head east on the trail for about 1.2 miles to the summit area close by the trail on your left. There is a sign and cairn at the top. The hike is short and takes about one-half hour each way.
Maps: Capitan Peak, 1:24,000 scale topo map, 1981. Lincoln National Forest map, Smokey Bear Ranger District.