San Mateo Peak

Distance: 8 miles (roundtrip)

Season: Spring, Summer, Fall

Water: None, do not rely on San Mateo Spring

Trail Condition: Moderate to Good


This is an extremely remote hike that sees very few people, but provides great opportunities for Wilderness solitude in the Apache Kid Wilderness.

The hike begins at the Springtime Campground located at the end of Forest Road 225A, which branches off Forest Road 225, 1/2 mile before the campground. IMG_20170515_123926851.jpg

From the trailhead, follow the Apache Kid Trail – Trail #43 upstream along the often dry creek that passes the campground on the east side of the wash. This first section of the trail at the bottom of the canyon is in a shaded ponderosa forest. After a short ways, the trail crosses in the Wilderness and eventually cross the drainage and begins a steep climb.

At this point, the large trees fall away and the exposed slope creates the potential to be extremely hot. The trail contours away from the canyon as it climbs through rocky terrain. Just before reaching the crest, the trail reenters shaded ponderosa forest.

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View from the San Mateo Crest

Turn right once atop the crest to remain on the Apache Kid Trail. The next half mile is flat and offers easy walking and pleasant views to the west over Milo Canyon.

After passing the junction for the Milo Canyon Trail – Trail #49, the trail reenters a shaded, forested canyon and resumes climbing at a relatively steep pitch. It passes the San Mateo Spring, which was completely dry as of June 2017. Do not count on this as a water source.

After another half mile, there’s a junction for the Cowboy Trail – Trail #44. Turn left to complete the final 3/4 miles to the summit.

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The first section this trail was littered with downed trees to an extreme degree. Even so, the underlying trail was in good condition and easy to follow despite the gymnastics required to climb up and around the many obstacles.

The trail clears after a little bit and climbs gently through an aspen grove to the large flat summit, which features a largely intact fire tower and cabin. The best views are from the northwest side of the summit.

Enjoy a relaxing lunch before returning the same way to the trailhead.

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