The Penas Negras Trail is a 6.7 mile trail that starts at the Penas Negras Trailhead on FR 70 and ends at Las Vacas Trail – Trail #51.
Trail Conditions: Moderate
Las Vacas Trail to FR 70
From the junction with the Las Vacas Trail – Trail #51, cross the meadow, and climb back up into the dark, mature forest. For this brief section, the Penas Negras Trail runs concurent with the Continental Divide Trail until the next junction in about 1/2 mile.
From here, the CDT turns north, and the Penas Negras Trails turns south (right). This next section of trail cuts through mature, old-growth forest without too many breaks through meadows. There are a handful of downed trees here and there, but everything is easily passable.
Eventually the trail does cross through some larger meadows, and although rare, the tread through these sections is in good condition and should be easy to follow.
After 2.5 miles you will reach another signed junction. Stay right (straight) to cross through the large meadow in front of you. In addition to the trail, there should be a handful of wooden posts to help mark the way.
Soon after this junction, you will come to another with the Perchas Trail – Trail #418. From this junction, continue straight to remain on the Penas Negras Trail. This first part can be a little tricky to pick up, so be watchful.
Continuing straight, you will drop slightly into the draw that makes up the headwaters of the Rito de las Perchas. Enter the forest, and you should be able to pick up the trail again at this point.
From here, the trail traverses through a series of meadows and forests. There are a number of wooden posts that help lead the way so hopefully you shouldn’t have too much difficulty. The trail eventually enters a large meadow with posts marking the way.
Eventually, you will reenter the forest. There’s some downfall initially, but nothing too terrible. However, after a little bit, you will reach a particularly bad section with intense blowdown for about 1/3 mile. The underlying trail is easy to follow, but there are a couple places where the blowdown can make it difficult to find.
Luckily, this stretch of downfall quickly subsides, and smooth sailing will resume. Shortly after returning to good trail, you will exit the Wilderness and again, shortly after that, the trail enters a large meadow where the underlying tread fades.
Continue in the same direction, keeping about 100-150 feet between you and the edge of the mesa to your right. Eventually, the trail will reemerge just as you join an old road bed.
NOTE: If you are coming from FR 70, you will be on this roadbed and you will need to look for a fork marked by a cairn and wooden post. The road goes right, and the single track trail goes left.
Follow the old road bed for the next 3/4 mile. It will eventually descend and then immediately climb again. The road then curves to the left, but the trail continues straight. Cairns help mark the way.
It remains on the ridge for a couple hundred yards more until dropping steeply for 1/2 mile on single track to FR 70 and the signed trailhead