Notes on New Mexico Mountain Ranges

by Richard L. Carey,  3-20-01, Revised December 2015 (Corrections, additions by Richard Hensley)

 

My investigations have found 110 mountain ranges in New Mexico.  The tables list the highest point in each range and there are 112 entries because two ranges, the Cedar Mountain Range in Luna County and the Dona Ana Mountains in Dona Ana County have two named peaks with the same elevation.  Thus one entry for each of the ranges is listed as an alternate point (shown as “Alt.”).  Hikers wishing to do the range high points should probably hike to both summits since it cannot be determined at present which is the true high point.

 

  1. Steins Peak Range – This shows up as a range in Hidalgo County after a search in the GNIS, but an examination of the Doubtful Canyon map shows it to be an isolated peak that is a part of the Peloncillo Mountains.

 

  1. Sierra Rica – This range extends across the northeastern corner of the panhandle in Hidalgo County and crosses into Mexico.  The Mexican map has not been examined to see if the highest part of the range lies in Mexico.

 

The next four ranges, arranged here from west to east, are at the bottom of the panhandle in Hidalgo County and extend into Mexico and the Mexican maps have not been examined to determine if the highest points of these ranges are in Mexico.  The Whitewater Mountains are the one exception where P5910 ft. on the Whitewater Mountains map appears to be the highest point in the range.

 

  1. Guadalupe Mountains – At the southwestern corner of the panhandle in Hidalgo County these mountains extend into Mexico and Arizona.  There is a question as to whether Cloverdale BM  or Guadalupe Mountain is the highest point.  I have used Cloverdale since it isn't clear that the range extends up to Guadalupe Peak across Lion Canyon.

 

  1. San Luis Mountains – At the bottom of the panhandle in Hidalgo County these mountains appear to extend into Mexico where the range is called the Sierra San Luis.

 

  1. Whitewater Mountains – These extend into Mexico, but the highest point in the range is the one identified in New Mexico.

 

  1. Dog Mountains – At the bottom southeast corner of the panhandle in Hidalgo County these mountains appear to extend into Mexico.

 

  1. El Rito Mountains – Listed in the GNIS as in Rio Arriba County on an unknown map.  There is a town of El Rito west of Taos, but a search of most maps in this area does not reveal the range.

 

  1. San Luis Mountains, Animas Mountains and Guadalupe Mountains – The GNIS shows these three ranges as existing in both Hidalgo and Socorro counties.  In each case the range was found in Hidalgo County, but nothing was found in Socorro County.

 

  1. Tonuco Mountains – These are listed in the GNIS as being in Dona Ana county on the Selden Canyon 7.5 minute map. They are east of the Rio Grande River and is an isolated mountain and not a range.

 

  1. Elk Mountains – In Catron County.  These show up in a GNIS search as mountain, but on the Pitchfork Canyon map there is a range Elk Mountains (plural) shown.  The highest point is Elk Mountain.

 

  1. Long Canyon Mountains - These do not show up in a GNIS search, but there is a small range by this name in Catron County on the Collins Park map.  The highest point is an unnamed peak at 9403 ft.

 

  1. Little San Pascual Mountains – These also do not show up after a GNIS search, but they do appear on the San Pascual Mountain 7.5 minute map in Socorro County.  The highest point in the range is Little San Pascual Mountain.

 

  1. Canyon Creek Mountains – There is a possible alternate high point located about ¼ mile northwest of the point chosen.

 

  1. Mesa Mountains – Located in San Juan County in the northwestern part of the state.  They do not appear in a GNIS search, but do show up on the Mount Nebo map.  The highest point in New Mexico is an unnamed peak at 7153 ft.  In Colorado the high point is P7460 ft.

 

  1. Culebra Range – Located in Taos County in the north central part of the state, I have considered these a subrange of the larger Sangre de Cristo Mountains.  The range does not appear on the Big Costilla Peak 7.5 minute map as it should, but it does show up on the Wheeler Peak 100K map that covers the area.  The high point in New Mexico is the unnamed peak at P12,931 ft. south of Big Costilla Peak.  The range extends into Colorado and the highest point in the range is probably Culebra Peak at 14,047 ft. (Not verified at present)

 

  1. Tunitcha Mountains – These mountains are predominantly in northeastern Arizona and are a part of the larger Chuska Mountains.  They do extend a short distance into San Juan county New Mexico on the Tsaile Butte and Upper Wheatfields maps, however they are blended into the Chuskas with no clear separation from them so I have not included them on the range list.

 

  1. Tusas Mountains – The GNIS lists these as located in Rio Arriba County on the Burned Mountain map, but an examination of this and the adjacent Mule Canyon and Las Tablas maps shows a ridge by this name.  There is also a lone Tusas Mountain shown.  The ridge is extensive and long enough that it could be considered a range, but since it is shown in several places as a ridge I have not included it.

 

  1. San Pedro Mountains – Located on the Nacimiento Peak map in Rio Arriba County.  There is another point with the same elevation about 1/8 mile to the southeast.

 

  1. Sierra Larga – This range in Socorro County has several possible highpoints on the ridge of the same elevation.  After a careful survey with a 32X automatic level on 5-14-06 the largest closed contour at 7000 ft. was found to be the highest point.  It is about 8 to 10 feet higher than P7010 ft., which is 2.06 miles south.  All of the other 7000 ft. closed contours were sighted and found to be lower.  La Cebolla to the west is considered a separate peak since the Sierra Larga name on the map does not extend over near this peak, but seems to refer only to the north-south ridge east of La Cebolla.

 

  1. Sierra de la Cruz – This is an isolated peak in Socorro County and is not considered a mountain range.  It is on the Sierra de la Cruz map and is northwest of La Cebolla Peak.

 

The next five ranges, arranged here from west to east, extend into Texas and the Texas maps have not been examined yet to determine if the highest points of these ranges are in that state.  The Guadalupe Mountains are the one exception where Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas, is definitely the range high point.

 

  1. Franklin Mountains – Located in the southern and central part of the state in Dona Ana County.  The range extends into Texas and the highest point of the range is North Franklin Mountain at 7192 ft.  In New Mexico the highest point of the range is North Anthonys Nose at 5388 ft.

 

  1. Hueco Mountains – This range in Otero County also extends into Texas and the highest point there is Cerro Alto at 6787 ft.  In New Mexico the highest peak is Bassett BM, 6057 ft., on the Mountain Tank map.

 

  1. Cornudas Mountains – This range in Otero County also extends into Texas, but the high point is in New Mexico and is Wind Mountain, 7280 ft., on the Cornudas Mountains map.

 

  1. Brokeoff Mountains – A spur of the Guadalupe Mountains in Otero County.  The high point in New Mexico is on the New Mexico, Texas state line on the Panther Canyon map.  The range extends into Texas and a likely high point is Cutoff Mountain at 6953 ft.

 

  1. Guadalupe Mountains – This range in Eddy County extends into Texas with the range’s highest point being Guadalupe Peak, 8749 ft., in Texas.  In New Mexico the highest point is an unnamed peak close to the Texas border on the El Paso Gap map.  The point at 7500 ft. (interpreted) is also the high point of Eddy county.

 

References: 

  1. “Guide to the New Mexico Mountains” by Herbert E. Ungnade.
  2. “The Place Names of New Mexico” by Robert Julyan.  University of New Mexico Press, 1996.
  3. “The Hikers Guide to New Mexico” by Laurence Parent.  Falcon Press, 1991.
  4. “Hikers and Climbers Guide to the Sandias” by Mike Hill.  University of New Mexico Press, 1977.
  5. “El Malpais, Mt. Taylor and the Zuni Mountains” by Sherry Robinson.  University of New Mexico Press, 1994.
  6. “The Maxwell Land Grant” by William A. Keleher.  Reprint 1984 by University of New Mexico Press.  Originally published: 2nd edition New York, Argosy-Antiquarian, 1964.
  7. “New Mexico in Maps” edited by Jerry L. Williams.  2nd edition by University of New Mexico Press, 1986.
  8. “Topographic Quadrangle Maps of Gila National Forest”.  A spiral-bound book of all the 7.5 minute maps in the Gila National Forest reduced to A size pages.  Produced by the U.S. Forest Service, Southwestern region.