Distance: 10.6 miles (11.2 miles from bottom of the road)
Season: Late Spring, Summer, Fall
Trail Conditions: Moderate to Poor
If you’re sick of the crowds and up for a challenging hike, this out and back day hike may be worth the recommendation. Located on the east side of the Pecos Wilderness, Spring Mountain is a rather unremarkable bump along the Skyline Trail, and to get there you’ll have to tackle plenty of downfall and poorly maintained rough, rocky trails. However, you are unlikely to encounter other hikers and the unique views of the high peaks of the Pecos make the hike well worth the effort for die hard fans of the Pecos Wilderness.
From Las Vegas, follow NM-518 north to the turnoff for NM-94. Turn left onto 94 for 9 miles, and then continue straight to follow NM 105. Follow NM 105 for 3.5 miles and then stay straight again to pick up NM 276. The road will eventually turn to dirt and shortly after that, you will reach a gate. The gate should not be locked so close it behind you and keep going until you reach a fork in the road. Go right to follow FR 391E. The road will climb, wrap around a small drainage and continue to a point after which it will drop again. Before the road takes another hairpin turn, an unnamed road continues uphill on the left. You can either park at this junction or continue up this rough road for another 1/3 mile to a small clearing with the foundation of an old building and a junction with another road. This is the last best place to park for the Sparks Trailhead.
From the parking area, continue to follow the road uphill. After about 150 yards, the road will start to narrow into single track. You should see a brown trail sign with the number 250 indicating the Mora Flats Trail – Trail #250.
At this point, there is a low road – where the sign is posted – and another trail that climbs steeply to the left. This is your trail.
The first mile is the steepest section of the hike, so don’t worry if it’s a little more than you expected. At times the trail is wide and ill-defined and is consistently rocky. This entire section of the Mora Flats Trail includes numerous social trails formed by cows (most likely) that go off on either side. You will notice many of these trails, but remain on the main, widest trail that largely remains on the ridge.
After a mile or so, the trail narrows a bit, and becomes slightly better defined. Eventually the trail will briefly level off. Enjoy the respite because it doesn’t last long. Just as the trail reaches one last final push to the Skyline Trail, it crosses over to the southside of the ridge. Again, ignore the may social trails that will go off to both the right and left.
As you close in on the Skyline Trail, the dense forest will fall away and rocky meadows will take its place. In this section, large cairns will help guide you where the tread becomes minimal.
NOTE: On the return trip, this section is less intuitive than on the way up, so pay attention and take note of a few landmarks to make your return trip easier.
After 2.2 miles from the Sparks Trailhead and 2.5 miles from the road junction, you will reach a junction with the Skyline Trail – Trail #251 in a large open ridge top.
Before turning south on the Skyline Trail, soak in the view. From here, you should be able to see Lake Peak, Santa Fe Baldy, East Pecos and Pecos Baldy, Trailriders Wall, the Truchas Peaks, and Chimayosos Peak. Below you, you should also be able to see Hamilton Mesa It’s a unique view that is unrivaled anywhere in the Pecos.
From the junction, turn left (south) to follow the Skyline Trail. The first 1/3 mile or so is through open meadow and will, unfortunately, likely be the easiest walking of the trip. After passing through a small stand of trees, you’ll be confronted with a burn area that stretches across the wide ridge.
Largely, the trail through this mess of downfall is fairly easy to follow, despite significant downfall. Clearly, trail crews had been through the area following the fire, but it appeared to be a few years since their last jaunt, and a fair amount of fresh downfall has accumulated. The trail is cut wide, so even where there are a lot downed trees, you should be able to find the trail. However, in parts, the trail meanders across the ridge, so if you get to a spot where the trail seemingly disappears, look to your right or left for cut logs and you should be able to pick up it fairly easy.
Over the next 2.5 miles, the trail traverses the burn area with small stands of unburnt timber interspersed. At points, the trail is in better condition than others, but as along as you pay attention, you should be able to make your way. Climbing over the deadfall definitely gets tiring though.
After 2.5 miles, you’ll enter a stand of old growth timber and come to a junction with the Los Esteros Trail – Trail #226. Continue straight. From here, it’s about 1/2 mile to the unremarkable summit of Spring Mountain. As you approach the summit, you’ll get views of Elk Mountain, which is 5 miles further south along the Skyline Trail.
You’ll cross through one more section of downfall, but largely the trail remains in mature forest and is free of any obstructions. Eventually, you’ll climb gently and reach a small clearing with a not-so-prominent ridge. This is the inconspicuous summit of Spring Mountain, which largely just serves as a destination to justify this hike. To your west, enjoy views of Deception, Lake and Penitente Peaks.
Return the same way that you came.