Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Cabezon Peak Volcanic Field

Cabezon Peak is one of the best-known and most visible landmarks in northwest New Mexico, rising nearly 8000 feet above sea level. This giant volcanic plug is visible for tens of miles in all directions. Cabezon means “big head” in Spanish. It is the largest of about 50 widely scattered rocky volcanic necks in the Rio Puerco valley.

The region’s volcanic necks formed when molten lava worked its way to the earth’s surface through sedimentary rock layers deposited by an ancient inland sea that covered the area. Millions of years of erosion have removed much of the softer sedimentary rock, exposing the basalt columns or “necks.”

For further information, see the links at the end of the post.

I recommend watching the video on YouTube full-screen.

Video from Mavic 2 Pro on May 15, 2020

Access is off US-550 between San Ysidro and Cuba, NM. Turn west on the paved County Road 279 toward San Luis. If you are passing though on the highway, a detour to view Cabezon Peak close-up will only take a few hours.

After driving through the village of San Luis continue straight ahead at the intersection onto a gravel road. Watch for a "major" fork in the road that leads south, BLM 1114, at about 3.8 miles. Keep headed south and the access road will be on the east, just under 3 miles from the junction. Keep your eyes on the peak and it's hard to miss. The access road is unimproved dirt and may be impassable in wet weather.

Cabezon Peak and the surrounding Wilderness Study Area is administered by the Bureau of Land Management. Camping is allowed on BLM lands, however the area closest to the peak is steeply sloped and has only very limited areas for small tents; farther from the peak there are level areas. I would recommend camping far from the peak, following one of the side roads to find an attractive site. Alternately, instead of turning south toward the peak continue west on the gravel road into the Ignacio Chavez area where there are forested slopes and higher terrain.

  • My 360º Panorama of the volcanic field from near Cerro De Guadalupe: https://kuula.co/post/7Xr3J
  • BLM official Cabezon Wilderness Study Area site: https://www.blm.gov/visit/cabezon-wsa
  • BLM brochure: https://www.blm.gov/sites/blm.gov/files/NM_Cabezon_2018_508.pdf
  • Geologic Tour: https://geoinfo.nmt.edu/tour/landmarks/cabezon/home.html