Bag the big head in New Mexico

Hike up Cabezon for a picnic and a top-of-the-world view
Michelle Pentz Glave

Rugged Cabezon Peak teases weary Albuquerque commuters from 80 miles off, peeking up over the northwest horizon like a geologic pencil eraser. With an elevation of 7,785 feet, Cabezon ― Spanish for "big head" ― is the most prominent of 50 volcanic formations in the region. Head out there before summer's scorch and thunderstorms to look for wildflowers on a pleasant hike to a viewpoint.

The trail starts with a moderate, one-hour climb to the base of Cabezon, a fine place to picnic as you take in the lonely Rio Puerco Valley far below. It's also the turnaround point if you aren't feeling adventurous; wear sturdy footwear and bring plenty of water.

Fit hikers can tackle the peak (wear a climbing helmet) on a steep, exposed, four-hour climb from the viewpoint up Cabezon's south side. A nontechnical rock scramble up a steep chimney, nicknamed the Bowling Alley for its loose rocks, provides an adrenaline rush. The reward? A chance to sign the summit registry and a giddy view.

INFO: Contact the Bureau of Land Management ( www.nm.blm.gov/recreation/albuquerque/cabezon_peak.htm or 505/761-8700) to check trail and road conditions and get directions before heading out.