Gold Hill P1K
Peak 12,060ft P300
Peak 11,849ft P300

Sun, Aug 2, 2020

With: Eric Smith

Etymology
Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX Profile

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Gold Hill is a P1K and the highpoint of the Columine-Hondo Wilderness in New Mexico, just north of the Taos Ski Area. We planned a moderate outing that would cover almost 12mi and 4,600ft of gain, not all that hard since most of it was on trail. We dropped Eric's car at the lower Gavilan Canyon TH to faciliate a loop hike and save us a few miles of road hiking at the end of the day. We then drove back up to our campsite at the ski area parking lot and started up the Bull-of-the-Woods Trail on foot around 6:20a. We followed this for 25min to a junction with the Long Canyon Trail where we turned left. This took us into the Wilderness area and a long, slow climb that would take us up to Gold Hill over the course of the next two hours. With 3/4hr remaining, we began to break out of the forest and soon found ourselves on easier terrain with grassy slopes and open views. This was the sort of alpine hiking I enjoyed most while in Colorado. It was a beautiful morning with cool temp, blue skies and clear views.

From Gold Hill's rounded summit, Wheeler Peak and the Taos Ski Area could be seen to the south, lower peaks in the other three directions. Our route would now turn to the southwest where we could follow more ridgelines for another three miles while tagging a small collection of summits. A few of these with little prominence are found only on PB and hardly count as separate summits, but we visited all four along the ridge, either directly on the trail or a short distance away from it. We spent just over three hours enjoying the hike, the views and the guilty pleasure of ticking off easy summits. To the north could be seen the Chevron Quest Mine, the renamed Molycorp Mine that extracted Molybdenum in open pit fashion from 1965 to 1983. The 328 tons of acid-generating waste rock that contaminated the surrounding soil, surface and groundwater qualified it for Superfund Site status. What a mess that is, turning the Red River blue. But I digress. We saw nary a soul for most of the day, even though it was a Sunday. After reaching the last summit, Peak 11,849ft, around noon, we returned to the last trail junction and followed the Gavilan Trail back down to the highway where we'd left Eric's car. We would meet a few parties on their way up during this descent, but overall it was surprising how few people are found on this trail network. We finished up around 1:30p, an earlier than usual finish, but we would find ways to fill up the remaining afternoon. First up, was a visit to The Bavarian for lunch and beer...

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