Distance: 11.2 miles
Season: Late Spring, Summer, Fall
Trail Conditions: Good to Excellent
There are a number of other trip reports that pass through the Beatty’s Cabin area, but it’s such an iconic part of the Pecos and a wonderful day hike that I felt it was worth it’s own report, especially for anyone interested in a day hike to the area. The hike starts by climbing up to Hamilton Mesa where you’ll get some of the best views of the high peaks of Pecos Wilderness on your way out. The descent into Beatty’s Cabin and the upper Pecos River passes through thick forest, but once you reach the river, you’ll be treated to sprawling meadows tucked away in a tight canyon that make a perfect place to stop for lunch before returning.
From Pecos, follow NM-63 north into Pecos Canyon. You’ll pass the town of Terrero and the roads will climb up on the east side of the river. Eventually you’ll pass the Mora campground and the road will climb again and you’ll reach a junction that points to the Iron Gate Campground. Turn right.
Follow this narrow road as it continues to climb. There will be a handful of smaller roads or driveways that turn off at a number of points. Stay on the main road, which passes through a small community with a number of homes. At points, it can feel like you are driving through a private subdivision (which you kind of are), but keep going. At points, the road can be rough, so a vehicle with good clearance is recommended and if there’s been any recent rains, 4WD is likely required.
The road keeps going until you’ll cross back onto national forest land and eventually deadend at the Iron Gate Campground. The parking area for the trailhead is at the top of the campground loop.
From Iron Gate, the wide, well-marked Hamilton Mesa Trail – Trail #249 switchbacks gently onto the ridge of Hamilton Mesa. After about 1/2 mile, you’ll reach a junction. Go left. In another 1/2 mile, the trail forks again. Go left (straight) to remain on the Hamilton Mesa Trail.
Within 1/4 mile of this junction, the trail pops out onto the wide, grassy Hamilton Mesa. This truly is one of the most iconic sections of the Pecos Wilderness. Soon enough, you will get views of the Truchas Peaks including Chimayosos as well as Santa Fe Baldy, Lake and Deception Peaks.
For the next 2.5 miles, the trail contours around the west side of Hamilton Mesa and remains relatively flat. As a result, the walking is easy so take your time and soak in the views. At a couple points, you’ll cross small springs. There’s enough water for dogs, but typically not too appealing for humans.
Despite the fact that you are crossing through thick, grassy meadows, the trail should remain easy to find across Hamilton Mesa thanks to regular foot traffic.
You’ll eventually reach the signed junction with the Larkspur Trail – Trail #260. Turn left to follow it downhill towards Beatty’s Cabin and the Pecos River. The trail, steep at times, cuts through lush vegetation as it drops about 600 feet to the water.
After 1.3 miles, you’ll reach a junction with the Bob Grounds Trail – Trail #270. Stay on the Larkspur Trail by going straight and continuing downhill. At points, the vegetation on this final stretch can become overgrown, but the trail should remain obvious.
Eventually, you should be able to see through the trees to the meadows on the opposite hillside. At this point you are close. Keep going until you reach a bridge crossing the Pecos River. You have now reached Beatty’s Cabin!
From here, you are welcome to go no further than the bridge and enjoy the sounds of the Pecos River. However, you can also wander both up and downstream from this point, and directly above you on the opposite hillside are two cabins that were built by the Forest Service long after Beatty’s original cabin was just a memory.
Once you’ve had your fill, return the way you came.