Ascent of Sun Mountain on 2016-06-16

Climber: Phil Robinson

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Thursday, June 16, 2016
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Sun Mountain
    Location:USA-New Mexico
    Elevation:7955 ft / 2424 m

Ascent Trip Report

I am not interested in lower elevation peaks in New Mexico, but added a list called the Santa Fe Classics and I already had 17 of the 22, so I decided to get the remaining 5 of the classics, 3 today. This hike starts in Santa Fe. The trailhead is located in the NE corner of the Saint John's College parking lot. This is a wonderful, close hike for the Santa Fenans, but not as lush as the mountains directly north of the city. Horses, bikers and hikers are all welcome on the first 2 peaks.

I left my home at 5:15 AM, June 16, 2016, and was hiking by 6:30 AM. It was great to have a short drive! It was a cool morning, 49 degrees, and heated up later in the hike to the mid 80s. This would be a great hike in the early spring or late fall, middle summer can get a little hot. The starting elevation of the hike is 7316 feet, then drops a little to 7300 feet. There was a trail almost the entire hike, and after so many hard bushwhack hikes, it sure felt great. The only part of the hike that did not have a trail was the last push to the top of Sun Mountain. It was a hard 33 degree chug straight to the top. I followed the trail to the top of Atalaya Mountain through a beautiful forest of mostly ponderosa pines. At one point there is a decision to make, the steeper route or the easier route. I chose the steeper route. It had a 21 degree grade and to me, seemed pretty easy. I got some great pictures of a very attractive gray squirrel on the way up. The trail follows a little valley then a ridge to the top. I arrived at Atalaya Mountain, elevation 9121, after hiking 3.4 miles. This is the highest elevation of the hike. It took 1 hour and 45 minutes. Throughout the entire hike there are spectacular views, but the views were somewhat marred by forest fire smoke that had blown in from a fire in the Manzano mountains that are located to the south. I continued on to Picacho Peak to the northwest. I started following the trail, but it looked like it was going to another valley so I bushwhacked along the ridge. I did not need to be doing this. For the most part, you can trust the trail to get you to the next peak. I arrived at Picacho Peak, elevation 8577, after hiking for 2 hours and 45 minutes from the start. The total distance traveled was 4.8 miles. Heading down can be a little bit of confusion deciding which trail to take. For the most part I made sure I was on the trail heading south along the ridge. It began to warm up as I headed down the mountain. Near the bottom it would have been best to have headed south a little and reconnected with my starting trail, instead I ended up on a gravel road in a residential area. I went down the road, then south and reconnected with my original trail. When I reached the bottom of the valley I headed up towards Sun Mountain. I crossed a barbed wire fence and found a nice little trail that had been edged with many rocks so that you could see it well. It must have taken lots of work. Thanks to whoever did that! The trail had slight switchbacks until the final push to the top, then I could no longer find the trail. This last chug up the mountain was the hardest part of the hike. I arrived at the top of Sun Mountain, elevation 7952, after hiking about 5 hours. The total distance was 8.3 miles. The views of Santa Fe are great from this vantage point and when I looked back at the first 2 peaks I hiked, it looked like I had covered lots of ground. I headed back down a little different way, then connected with the rock lined trail to the bottom of the mountain. I followed another trail that headed northwest but it looked like it was going towards someone’s backyard so I went back over the fence to the original trail. After a short hike I was back at the car. It was 12:20 PM. I had hiked 5 hours and 50 minutes. I did not stop any on the hike other than taking pictures and looking around. The total distance was 9.4 miles. The total elevation gain for all 3 peaks was 2825 feet.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:627 ft / 190 m
    Total Elevation Loss:25 ft / 7 m
    Round-Trip Distance:4.6 mi / 7.4 km
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Bushwhack
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:602 ft / 183 m
    Distance:3.5 mi / 5.6 km
    Route:St Joseph Parking to Atalaya Mt to Picacho then SW
    Start Trailhead:Picacho Peak to Saddle  7353 ft / 2241 m
    Time:2 Hours 15 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:25 ft / 7 m
    Gain on way out:25 ft / 7 m
    Distance:1.1 mi / 1.8 km
    Route:NE down mountain
    End Trailhead:St. Joseph Parking Lot  
    Time:50 Minutes
Ascent Part of Trip: Atalaya Mt +2

Complete Trip Sequence:
 Sun Mountain2016-06-16 c627 ft / 191 m
1Atalaya Mountain2016-06-16 a1851 ft / 564 m
2Picacho Peak2016-06-16 b347 ft / 106 m
Total Trip Gain: 2825 ft / 861 m    Total Trip Loss: 151 ft / 46 m
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Phil Robinson
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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