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My Life Outdoors

Santa Fe Baldy and Lake Katharine – 12,622 feet – Pecos Wilderness New Mexico

This is part three of our 4 day hike in the Pecos Wilderness – New Mexico. Read Part One – Hiking to Lake Johnson. and Part Two – Lake Katharine.

What is it about water we find so amazing. We are drawn to it in nature in all its forms. Low lying fog, sun shining through morning dew, a mountain stream or an alpine lake. No matter what form it takes, water fascinates us. An amazing view is made that much more amazing when water is present. Spending one night at Lake Katharine in the Pecos Wilderness of New Mexico and I was in love. Little did I know just how amazing she truly was.

Lake Katharine from the summit of Santa Fe Baldy

We woke up early. The sun was just beginning to kiss the top of the ridge surrounding Lake Katharine. Our plan was to summit 12,600 foot Santa Fe Baldy towering high above the lake. A trail lead to the south away from the lake and eventually around the rim to the summit. But that wasn’t the path for us. The day before we had met an old timer camping on the backside of the lake. He recommended bushwhacking up the north ridge circling around to Santa Fe Baldy. He promised we would shave at least 2 miles off our hike and see outstanding views. His suggestion intrigued us, so we set off toward the north rim.

Lake Katharine in the early morning.

To reach a incline that was gradual enough for hiking we had to lose a lot of elevation. Which we really didn’t want to do. Instead we had the great idea to cut diagonally across a large boulder field. It was a mistake, The boulders were large, lose, and prone to sliding. We couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

Hiking across a dangerous boulder field.

As we began to climb the north ridge, Lake Katharine really began to show her beauty. The views from the ridge were breathtaking, made all the more magnificent with Katharine in view. We couldn’t stop taking pictures, it seemed every few feet provided yet another spectacular angle.

Bushwhacking up the north rim around Lake Katharine. The climb was very steep. 
We began to get our first views of Lake Katharine from these breathtaking vantages.
Taking in the views from atop the ridge
Looking down on our campsite from high above on the ridge
Lake Katharine and Santa Fe Baldy

Once on the ridge the hiking was easy. Large alpine meadows extend as far as we could see. Half way around the ridge we began to see marmots on the rocks. One Marmot tried to hide in plain sight, staying completely still, believing he blended with his surroundings.
We made it to the summit without much trouble. We spent an hour or so taking in the views and calling our wives with the small amount of cell service the altitude afforded us.

High Alpine Meadows on the Ridge Surrounding Lake Katharine

A Marmot who thought he was invisible
Santa Fe Baldy
Distant Mountain Views from the summit of Santa Fe Baldy
Looking down on Lake Katharine from the Summit of Santa Fe Baldy
Our Group on Santa Fe Baldy Summit

We decided to take the trail back to camp. The single track looked so appealing cut among the tall alpine grass. Plus we knew it would be much safer decline than our route up. We made it back to camp and sat down along the shore of the beautiful lake. We would rest a few hours before eventually packing up camp and leaving it all behind.

Lake Katharine from above
Heading back down the beaten path
Santa Fe Baldy Trail
Lake Stewart barely visible from the summit of Santa Fe Baldy
Single Track inviting us back down the mountain
Approaching TreeLine 
Lake Katharine Pecos Wilderness New Mexico
Lake Katharine
Santa Fe Baldy Trail
Heading back down the Trail

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

The Hike:
Starting Elevation: 11,742 feet
Ending Elevation: 12,622 feet
Elevation Gain: 880 feet
Distance: 4.3 Miles Round Trip

Getting There:
Lake Katharine: 35°50’4.73″N 105°45’1.97″W
Santa Fe Baldy:  35°49’55.54″N 105°45’29.48″W

Map of our path around the Santa Fe Baldy rim

Santa Fe Baldy Elevation Profile


  • Josh

    October 2, 2012

    Really epic pictures! Thanks for sharing.

  • Steven Smith

    October 2, 2012

    Thanks Josh, I' m transported back there every time I see them.

  • Keenan

    October 2, 2012

    Amazing pics – loved this post!

  • Steven Smith

    October 2, 2012

    Thanks for reading Keenan

  • Mike Green

    October 2, 2012

    Man that looks awesome. I miss the mountain lakes. We just don't have any in Arizona. I'm always hiking into canyons instead. Not that I don't like canyons, I do… There is just something extra special about lakes.

  • Steven Smith

    October 3, 2012

    I live in a state where there is only one naturally forming lake, and its really more of a swamp. Because of this I have always said I prefer rivers over lakes. And for the most part that is true, but as you say there is something extra special about lakes, at least Alpine lakes. They are breathtaking.

  • Tiffany

    October 4, 2012

    Love the pictures. They are incredible. The lake is beautiful surrounded by the mountains.

  • Steven Smith

    October 4, 2012

    It is amazing place, made even more amazing by how hard it is to get there.

  • Jean @ MyCamperTrailer

    October 5, 2012

    Wow! I just love those photos. Indeed an amazing view. It is indeed a beautiful place to see. Lovely! Thanks a lot for the share.

  • GSMNP Hiker

    October 5, 2012

    Steven as always your hikes and pictures are beautiful . Thanks so much …. GSMNP Hiker

  • Misti Little

    October 16, 2012

    Great hike! We recently hiked up Aasgard Pass in the Enchantment's of WA….that's a steep incline too! Really loved your photos…

  • Wet-Feet

    November 7, 2012

    Awesome trip log Steven. Your photographs were fantastic as usual; know you shot a lot of 'film' ~so, the careful selection belies how much fun you had. Nice following your GPS track as well as taking advice to approach from N Ridge route. We ALL hate giving up hard earned elevation when we know our camp is finally yet higher, by that's the ice cream some don't taste. Check Gila, some good stuff there too. peace bro.

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