Sunday, January 22, 2017

Otowi Peak - Buckman, NM

Statistics: The Otowi Peak trail is an out and back hike of 4 miles total with an elevation rise of 1223 feet to the summit.

This is an extremely rewarding hike... as long as you can find, and stay on the trail. I say this because there are literally no formal markings on this entire hike, including where the trailhead starts, which is odd since there is a comfort station (aka really smelly porta-potty) in the parking lot. You'd think they would at least put up one little sign that says "Otowi Peak that-a-way" or something, but alas... there is nothing.

But then that's what we're here for!

The first thing to note about this hike is that even though AllTrails shows it as a loop hike, it really isn't. The "loop" they're referring to is the left leg in the map above, which is nothing more than the GPS trail of the guy who hiked along the mesa's edge. There is no formal trail so if you do try to follow that leg you will be walking all over native plants and forging your own way. Even though it's beautiful and tempting, we don't recommend it.

That being said, we do think it's worth a short walk to the edge once you come down off the peak to take a peek (not a pee) over the edge. It's really quite stunning, but you probably shouldn't do the whole mile of the leg if you care about the environmental impact of your hiking boots. As you should.

Now, getting down to the business of the hike itself... this is where our information comes in handy.

First of all, it's worth noting that the drive to the trail itself is a little rough, as you have to do the last 10 miles on a very wash-boardy gravel road, with numerous muddy spots. We came here in January and there was a couple of places starting to get pretty muddy so if you go in the spring or after a lot of rain, just make sure you have a vehicle that can handle it.

Once you get to the parking area, you see the blue pipe fence just across from the out house. The yellow gate is where you enter the trail.
 Taken with the river to my back
Taken at the river by the parking lot. That peak in the distance is your destination!

This is where you enter. You can either climb under or go around the fence to the right.

Once you get underway you will go a short distance and get to a second, identical kind of gate. After you pass through that you will only go about 50 yards and the arroyo will be on your right. Take a right onto that and start walking.

In just a few minutes you will come up against another blue fence. Climb under that and keep going... straight ahead.

In precisely .55 miles, you will come up against a cairn, or stack of rocks. This is where the actual trail up to Otowi Peak begins. Follow that yellow arrow up the trail to the left (note: that yellow arrow isn't there in real life. I just added it to the picture).

If you blow past this you will miss the trail altogether and your hike will consist of a nice walk down an arroyo... which isn't bad, but it doesn't get you to top of Otowi Peak.

Once you head up the trail the elevation will rise quickly (about 400 feet in a half mile) and the numerous cairns will be your friend. At about 1.5 miles you will reach the mesa and the trail will level off nicely. And then you see it... Otowi Peak itself!

At this point you're all... "OMG, do I like have to climb up that too?!"

And the answer is yes, you do, because that's the point of the hike. Duh. And you must. Because it's beautiful at the top. The odd thing is, the Peak looks like it's about about 10 miles away from here, but in reality it's only 1/4 mile. So it doesn't take long at all.

Spoiler Alert! Here's a few pics of what you'll see from the summit, so don't look if you want to experience it live for the first time.

Official survey marker

The Rio Grande!
Crazy beautiful mountain ranges all around you
Charli - chillin at the top (she probably won't be there when you climb it)
The mesa on the hike back down
And finally, a quick 360° view from the summit!

It's a very nice 4 mile hike with a rewarding destination. Just watch for the many cairns and you'll be fine. OR... you can accidentally miss the first one and start your hike bouldering up the gut of the wash for the first 1/4 mile, thinking it is a lot harder of a hike than it really is. Not that we did that or anything. Not us.

(pssst, hey dummy... the actual trail is up and to the left)


  1. thank you so much for the detail; looking forward to it!

  2. Thank you so much for the info - doing this hike next week (December 5th’17) No snow this year yet.