Iron Gate to the Rio Mora

Fall colors along the trail to the Rio Mora
A relatively flat trail with excellent views of the Valle del Rio Mora. In the fall, excellent colors await you.

Hike data:

Controlling agency: Santa Fe National Forest; Pecos/Las Vegas Ranger District
Region: North-central; Pecos Wilderness.
Elevation:
start: 9399ft; 2865m end: 9265ft; 2824m
min: 9265ft; 2824m max: 9698ft; 2956m
elevation gain/loss: 433ft; 132m.
Elevations from GPS
Length: 7.46mi; 12.00km. Out-and-back distance.
Trail:
surface: mixed
condition: Eroded and "root"y in places.
ease of following: Easy
obstacles: None.
Lots of horses use this trail.
Fee: $2.00. Day use fee. Camping fee is $8.00.
Season: April 01 to November 30. Access is closed starting December 1, and it reopens in spring when the road is passable.
Dogs: Yes.
Bikes: No. Most of the trail is in wilderness.
Handicapped accessible: No.
Trailhead facilities: cooking grill, picnic area, trash can(s), vault toilet(s).
Hike attractions: scenery, wildflowers, wildlife.

When we hiked it:

Date: 2005-06-13
Time it took us: 8:23. Round-trip time plus exploration at the bottom.
Usage (people/hour): 2.12.
Cleanliness: 8.5. Many people camping near the river failed to take out their trash. Most of the other litter was near the start of the trail.

Waypoints:

Waypoint Type Description
240250Trail junctionSanta Fe National Forest trails 240 and 250 junction
248THTrailheadSanta Fe National Forest trail 248 at Iron Gate campground
249250Trail junctionSanta Fe National Forest trails 249 and 250 junction
249262Trail junctionSanta Fe National Forest trails 249 and 242 junction
249XX1Trail junctionJunction of Santa Fe national Forest trail 249 and a closed trail
249XX2Trail junctionJunction of Santa Fe National Forest trail 249 and a closed trail
250GATETrail pointGate across Santa Fe National Forest trail 250
MORAVIEWTrail pointGood views of Mora Flats in the valley below
IRNGTCampgroundIron Gate campground

Maps:

Paper maps:
Map name Cartographer Year Scale Topo map? Online access Notes
Guide to Indian Country of Arizona Colorado New Mexico Utah Automobile Club of Southern California 1998 1:0 N from Amazon (purchase) Good overview road map for northwest NM. No scale is given on the map. The corner coordinates are approximate.
Pecos Wilderness, Santa Fe and Carson National Forests US Forest Service 2004 1:54000 Y from Amazon (purchase)
Santa Fe BLM 1996 1:100000 Y from Amazon (purchase)
Santa Fe USGS 1954 1:250000 Y from sar.lanl.gov (free)
Santa Fe National Forest US Forest Service 2004 1:126720 N from Amazon (purchase) East half
Wildernesses of New Mexico US Forest Service 1981 1:1000000 N No online copies. Base map with national forests, wilderness areas and highways.

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Getting to the trailhead:

From I-25, take exit 299: Glorieta/Pecos. Follow the signs to Pecos.

At the stop sign, turn left. A sign here indicates a left turn will take you to Cowles and Terrero.

Follow the winding road through part of the town of Pecos and then through the Pecos River Valley. This road will take a little while to drive; don't be in a hurry.

After the Terrero General Store, the road deteriorates some. You continue for several miles, then watch for a sign for Forest Road 233 and Iron Gate. Take this road. The sign says that this is a limited use road: not suitable for low-clearance vehicles. They are correct. I would not recommend taking a low-clearance car up this road.

Follow the road about 5 miles to the Iron Gate campground. The trailhead is at the north end of the campground loop road.

Richard Liska and Michael Wester at the trailhead

About the hike:

The trail between two trees
You start out at the trailhead and head uphill, and almost immediately enter the wilderness. You are walking amongst Aspen and Douglas Fir. After about 1/4 mile, you come to a junction and a sign indicating what you find if you go left or right. Take the left trail (trail 249).
The trail climbs slowly and gently. About a half a mile down the trail, you reach another junction, where 249 and 250 go different ways (GPS: 249250. Take the right trail (250).
A squirrel
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As we were walking the trail, a squirrel came down a tree and scolded me from not far away. Immediately after I took the picture, he ran back up the tree.
After about half a mile, you come to another junction, this time trails 249 and 262 (GPS: 249262). Go left.
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tree roots in trail
The trail has areas where it has eroded and many tree roots are visible (and a tripping hazard). Watch your step.
The trail follows the ridgeline.
hiking along the trail near the ridge line
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Walking along the ridge, you get many great views.
The trail goes up and down, remaining at about the same elevation as you follow the ridge line. After a bit of walking, you get your first view of the Mora Flats.
A view of the Mora Flats
elk print in mud
Keep your eyes open for signs of wildlife. This elk track shows someone was here not too long ago. One time when camping at Iron Gate, I saw a female elk on the trail just outside of the campground.
As you can see, we hiked this trail in the early fall. Richard Liska stands in a particularly colorful area.

A little ways after your view of the Mora Flats, you leave the ridge and the trail begins to gently descend.

Richard on the trail
gate across trail
About 2.6 miles (4.2 km) from the trailhead, you come across this gate (GPS: 250GATE).
You continue to get great views across the valley. From the dead trees, it appears that there was a fire several years ago.
dead trees across valley
elk in water hole
Continue to keeo your eyes open for wildlife. We saw this elk drinking down in the Mora flats.
One area of the trail has a lot of tree damage from a storm or avalanche.
down and damaged trees
stream crossing the trail
The trail crosses several springs and streams. How much water you see will depend on the recent rainfall.
3.6 mi (5.9 km) from the trailhead, you reach the bottom and this junction of trails 250 and 260 (GPS: 240250). A sign indicates that you can go straight and take trail 240 to Las Trampas or turn left and go on Rociada Trail 250. Go straight (right in the photo).
Diana Northup at the junction
A view up the Rio Mora
The Rio Mora is ahead of you. This area would be a great area to backpack into and camp. Unfortunately, too many people have failed to follow "leave no tracec" ethics, and we found litter and many campfire rings along the river.
Return via the same route that you took to get to the Rio Mora. Continue to keep your eye open for wildlife like this grouse we saw.
grouse in grass
View south from trail 248
One time we hiked this trail, when we reached the junction of 249 and 262, we continued straight, taking 248 to the Iron Gate road. This route has some extra scenery, but you will need to hike back up the road to get to the campground. This extra distance is not included in the distance given above.
Our friend, Michael Wester, called this view of aspens "a flea's-eye view of a dog".
Aspen forest on trail 248
Pecos Baldy from 248
We got this view of Pecos Baldy near the end of the hike (near the Iron Gate campground).

Plants we saw along the trail:

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