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My Life Outdoors

Nogal Peak – 9957 feet – Lincoln National Forest, New Mexico

Looking out across the Sacramento Mountains north of Sierra Blanca one peak stands out among the rest. Nogal peak is one of those mountains that calls people to climb it, and it has been calling my name every since I first noticed it in the Lincoln National forest outside of Ruidoso New Mexico.

Nogal Peak – Lincoln Natioal Forest, NM

My family and I had decided to get away for the weekend with the hopes of catching one last ski day at Ski Apache. I watched all week as the base declined 10 inches a day in the warm 70 degree weather. By the time we made it out there the conditions were too far gone for an enjoyable ski day. So we made the best of it and went hiking in the pleasant springtime temperatures.

Ski Apache two days before they closed for the season.

We were looking for an easy hike with little to no snow drifts. We had hiked a little the day before but got caught in waist deep snow along the trail. The crest trailhead would provide exactly what we needed with mostly southern facing slopes and deciduous scrub oak keeping the snow at bay. I had my family with me, including my parents. The ranger said the Crest trail would provided great views with easy terrain. I pulled out the topo and noticed the Crest Trail skirted the south side of Nogal Peak. I thought I might bushwhack out to the top while my family took in the views from the ridge atop Crest Trail. So we took the long winding dirt road out to the Crest Trailhead.

Once we started out on the trail I noticed a marked trail heading up the east slope of nogal. The sign read “Nogal 1.1 miles.” I thought 1 mile is nothing and directed my family off our planned trail onto the Nogal Peak Trail. Before we had gone a half mile it became apparent this trail was no piece of cake. We stopped atop the first large knob along the east ridge and ate lunch. The short steep hike up to this knob had whipped my parents out. The peak seemed so close and I convinced them to keep going a short distance.

Hiking with my daughters along the Nogal Peak trail
Ski Apache and Sierra Blanca to the South as viewed from the Nogal Peak Trail

Looking North East from the Nogal Peak Trail

Looking East from the Nogal Peak Trail
Just before Lunch on the Nogal Peak Trail

As we entered the scrub pine it became apparent this trail was only getting steeper. My parents decided to head back to the car while my wife, daughters and I continued toward the top. At times the trail was so steep we had to scramble up rocks while hanging on to scrub pine for balance. This began to concern me when I thought about the hike back down with my two year old on my back. But my fears were unfounded.

My wife heading up the steep Nogal Peak Trail

My Wife and daughter stand atop a small knob just below Nogal Peak
Looking down on my parents headed back to the car.
Looking Down the Nogal Peak trail
A picture my dad took of us hiking up Nogal Peak
Hiking up Nogal Peak with my two year old daughter on my back.

We made it to the top and took in the views of White sands to the southwest and to the northwest the site of the first Atomic Bomb Test just past the Carrizozo Malpais lava flow. We spent sometime enjoying the summit views while my two year old added rocks to the summit carin. Before long it was time to head back down and rejoin my parents.

Me on Nogal Peak

My two year old adding rocks to the Summit Cairn

Looking South from the summit

Looking West from the Summit

The canyon to the west of Nogal Peak

One of two summit markers on Nogal. The Rock Cairn was on top of the main summit marker.
The small town of Carrizozo and the Carrizozo Malpais Lava Flow. I believe the first a-bomb testing site can be seen in this photo but it is hard to make out where. 

All in all Nogal peak is great short (but not easy) day hike. The trail is steep and rugged gaining over 1,000 feet of elevation in 1.3 miles. The best access is from the Crest Trailhead at the end of a long dirt road (FS 108). I thought I was going to destroy my parents minivan high clearance vehicles are definitely recommended.

White Mountain Wilderness – Lincoln National Forest – New Mexico

The Hike:
Miles: 1.3 one way
Starting Elevation: 8792 feet
Ending Elevation: 9957 feet
Elevation Gain: 1165 feet

I highly recommend the Map and Guide book featured below. The map is published by the Lincoln National Forest Service for the White Mountain Wilderness. I use it extensively when hiking in the Lincoln National Forest. Purchase it through this link and help support MyLifeOutdoors.

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  • Guest

    April 4, 2012

    We did this back in 2006. One of the windiest trips ever, but well worth the effort. Thanks for the memories!

  • Rita Wechter

    April 4, 2012

    I was traveling through the Lincoln National Forest last week. I didn't have time for a hike, but I did make a stop at the National Solar Observatory in Sunspot where a 400 foot long telescope takes pictures of the sun every minute. Views to the west from the town of Sunspot were similar to your views from Nogal peak.
    Also I stayed in the town of Cloudcroft at the Cloudcroft Lodge. It was a great trip!
    Rita Wechter

  • Linda Williams

    April 4, 2012

    Looks like a good hike. Nice views! That's great you could include your entire family in your outing.

  • Norman Rick

    April 4, 2012

    I've hiked Nogal Peak a couple of times with my students in the summer. Once during a ferocious thunderstorm! It is a tough hike for anyone but a good one. I don't plan on doing it again….

  • Steven Smith

    April 4, 2012

    I love being able hike with my family. Even with the extra weight on my back.

  • Steven Smith

    April 4, 2012

    I have only been to Cloudcroft once…and haven't ever really gotten the chance to hike around there. I hope to someday. Beautiful area.

  • Steven Smith

    April 4, 2012

    It was a little windy for us…but only for short times then it would be all calm. Not like the Guadalupes. Have you ever been there?…one of the windiest places on earth if you ask me.

  • Steven Smith

    April 4, 2012

    How did your students fare on Nogal? Seems steeper…but a lot less intense then Guadalupe Peak. Why not go back?

  • Steven Smith

    April 4, 2012

    Your comment reminded me of a hike my family took to Mount Livermore in the Davis Mountains. We were hit by a ferocious thunderstorm and lightning struck the summit less then a half mile from us.

    Have you ever hiked Livermore?

    Read about my Livermore Hike here: https://mylifeoutdoors.com/2010/04/mount-livermore-summit-attempt-davis.html

  • Misti Little

    April 4, 2012

    Looks like a great hike. My brother did a lot of hiking in NM as a Philmont Ranger but I haven't been to the state! Living on the east side of Texas it isn't likely I'll get there any time.

  • Sonja

    April 6, 2012

    Glad to see you in NM! When did you do this? Things change so quickly in March . . . we wanted to do a White Mountains backpack for my birthday (the 23rd) but earlier in the week there was quite a bit of snow and we were advised not to go. We went to the Black Range in the Gila instead, which was great . . . but now I've got to find time to get to the Sierra Blanca before the inevitable closure . . .

  • Steven Smith

    April 6, 2012


    What closure are you referring to? We were there on 3-31-12. We did some hiking from the scenic trail head near the ski area and found some pretty deep snow drifts. I'm not sure it would have too bad. I wished I was backpacking on this trip. I'm sure the snow was worse around the 23rd. I literally watched Apache's reported base go down 10 inches a day the week before we arrived. So they still had quite a bit of snow around the 23rd. I still want to get out to the Gila, but its a long drive for me. Next time your in the Lincoln shoot me a line, its less then 5 hours from us.

    Have you seen my Sierra Blanca report? https://mylifeoutdoors.com/2010/09/sierra-blanca-summit-hike-new-mexico.html

  • Steven Smith

    April 6, 2012

    Yes, East texas is a long ways from NM, thats for sure. Still Its worth checking out sometime. I'v never been to philmont but will be around the are this summer

  • Sonja

    April 12, 2012

    Oh, just the usual fire closure for the summer . . .

    The Gila is a long drive even for us, but hopefully you'll find yourself spending a nice vacation in the area. The mountains just go on forever — the wilderness experience is great.

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