We had hoped we might be able to do the rock climbs we planned up on
Sandia Crest, but the morning was again too cold for such pursuits and we
needed another plan. Eric had been to most everything around the Albuquerque
area, so he threw me a bone, agreeing to do a repeat to Manzano Peak, a P2K in
the southern part of the Cibola National Forest. It's also the highpoint of
the Manzano Mountain Wilderness. There are trails reaching the
summit from various directions, the easiest from the east side of the range
at the Kayser Mill TH. With the Jeep we were able to drive the rough last mile
of Forest road, making for a 6.5mi roundtrip effort with 1,800ft of gain. The
distance can be shortened considerably if one wants to tackle some steep
cross-country with thorny bushwhacking - see for example Steven Song's TR
for details. We decided to make an easy day of it by just following the trail.
We spent more than an hour and a half traveling from Albuquerque to the TH,
but much of it is scenic New Mexico backroads that we found enjoyable.
Starting out at 8:50a, we followed the trail through oak, pine
and aspen forests (and a short section of trail across
a boulder field) to reach the crest of the range in an hour and
twenty minutes. Beautiful hiking weather, temps in the low 50s, and blue skies.
From the crest, the trail turns south towards the summit, taking
another 30min to reach the highpoint at just over 10,000ft. There are
few views until one reaches the top, which nicely pops out above the surrounding
forest. There is a cairn, a summit sign, and a busy, weather-beaten
register. We spent some time at the summit to take in the views
stretching over much of the flatter stretches of the state. We
returned back via the same route, finishing up
around 12:40p, just shy of 4hrs for the effort.
This bonus summit lies about 9mi to the NNE of Manzano Peak, in the same
range. It is crowned by a lookout tower, a drive-up on good dirt roads suitable
for all vehicles. We had to drive back down to the town of Manzano (apple, in
Spanish) before ascending Forest Road 245 back up to the crest, about an hour
between the two. One can follow the Manzano Crest Trail on foot between our
two summits (and even further north, past Bosque Peak), but that would best be
done with a car shuttle and more energy than we had today. We drove to the end
of the road where a gate leaves a short walk of less than a quarter
mile to the lookout. The lookout was unmanned currently, leaving us the
place to ourselves to take in the views up and down the crest,
and east to the plains stretching across half of New Mexico. A pretty
chill day, overall, one thoroughly enjoyed.