Distance: 13.2 miles (full loop)
7.6 miles (Hermit Peak, out and back)
Water: Water available in Porvenir Canyon, dry along Trail #223
Season: Summer and Fall
Trail Conditions: Good
Hermit Peak is 10,000 foot granite monolith that stands west of Las Vegas, on the east side of the Pecos Wilderness. Although it is much lower than other mountains in the Sangre de Cristo, it’s dramatic sheer face makes a must-hike.
From Exit 343 on I-25 and turn left at the bottom of the off ramp. After 1.9 miles, turn left onto New Mexico Ave., NM-329. After two miles, the road will turn to the right and reach a traffic light. Turn left here onto NM-65. Follow this road for 13 miles. You will pass the United World College before climbing above Gallinas Creek and then dropping to pass through the town of Gallinas. At a fork in the road, turn right to follow signs to El Porvenir Campground.
The road will end at El Porvenir Campground. Just before entering the campground, there will be some parking spots on the right. Park here.
Starting from El Porvenir Campground, start up the Hermit Peaks Trail – Trail #223 through the spaced out ponderosa forest. This first section of trail is far from pretty, but after about a mile, it enters a Douglas Fir forest with more shade that is far more attractive.
Between 1.5 and 2 miles, there’s a small bring in a gully on the right marked by a rotting Forest Service sign. When I did this trip in mid-May, there was enough water pooling for my dog to have drink, but not enough for me.
The trail climbs at a consistently steep grade through this section that only gets steeper as it switchbacks through a notch between two large granite monoliths. At about 3 miles, the trail gains a rock ridge with pretty views to the east. The last half mile to the top along the ridge is less steep.
Upon reaching the top of the large, flat mesa, you will see Hermit Spring, bound by rock walls with a metal lid. The spring no longer produces water. Take a right at the spring, and continue walking for about 10 minutes until you reach the true summit, which offers excellent views over the northeast plains of New Mexico. To the east you can see Las Vegas.
At this point, you can either turn around and return the way you came or extend the trip into a loop in Porvenir Canyon.
To extend the hike, follow the trail that parallels the ridge to the northwest. There are many downed trees over the next 3/4 of a mile, but the underlying track remains easy to follow.
At a small, marked junction, .4 miles from the summit, continue straight along the right fork. The trail descends steeply for another 1/2 mile but flattens out after that. For this entire section, the trail is relatively faint, but easy to follow as long as you stay diligent.
Two miles from the summit, you will pass a junction for the Rito Chavez Trail – Trail #220. Stay straight for another 1.2 miles. Along this section, the trail fades at a saddle but quickly reappears once you start climbing again.
The junction with the unnumbered Beaver Creek Trail is marked by a large cairn and would be difficult to miss.
Take a left to descend toward Beaver Creek and Porvenir Canyon. Again, the track is faint, but easy to follow. There are a few downed trees, but nothing that makes it unpassable.
After a mile, you’ll reach the junction with the Porvenir Divide Trail – Trail #247. Take left. After .7 miles, you’ll pass the Hollinger Trail – Trail #219 coming in from the right where a large tributary joins Beaver Creek.
The remainder of the trail is straight forward. There are many stream crossings that could be tricky in higher water, but after the non-winter of 2017/2018, there was shockingly little water in the creek.
You’ll be nearing the parking lot when you pass a large ponderosa pine leaning on a tall rock wall.
All the junctions along the trail are well-marked, making this loop easy to do in either direction.