San Pedro Parks Wilderness is a unique alpine landscape that takes hikers through mixed conifer forest to one lush meadow after another at an elevation that averages around 10,000 feet.
Located east of Cuba in Santa Fe National Forest, the wilderness area provides abundant opportunities to find solitude in a tranquil setting. A popular access point is Vacas Trail, which can be found by taking Forest Road 70 off of N.M. 126. San Gregorio Reservoir is about a 1-mile hike from the trailhead and is a popular spot for fishing. Other trails fan out north from here deeper into the wilderness.
The “parks” in San Pedro Parks refers to the many large meadows that are scattered throughout the wilderness. Bluegrass, oat grass, sedge, rush and Rocky Mountain iris are among the varieties of grasses found in the meadows, which can remain wet and boggy even late into the summer. San Gregorio Reservoir is the only lake of size in the wilderness, though there are many mountain streams.
The land is so lush that the vegetation can conceal trails. There are tall wooden poles sticking out of the ground every few hundred feet in some areas to help orient hikers and keep them moving in the right direction. I used a trail app to stay on course, and there were multiple occasions it steered me back on track.
San Pedro Parks Wilderness is located in the Nacimiento Mountains. Rather than high peaks, the mountains seem more like rolling hills and only a few areas require a steep ascent.
The fresh mountain air is interrupted intermittently by the stench of cattle, who occupy many of the meadows. San Pedro Parks is open to cattle grazing for ranchers with permits and hundreds roam the wilderness.
Several interconnected routes make up the wilderness area’s trail system. Vacas Trail runs up the heart of the wilderness and is intersected by multiple trails that can be taken to create loops. Hiking the length of Vacas Trail (10.2) takes hikers to the Continental Divide Trail, which runs through the wilderness before heading up to the Chama River and Carson National Forest.
Location: 13 miles east of Cuba via N.M. 126 and Forest Road 70 (Google Maps)