Cumbres Pass-CDT North Trail Hike – 07/07/2022

Our first hike on a 3-night camping trip into northern New Mexico (actually just across the state line into Colorado). We set up the R-Pod in the USFS Trujillo Meadows campground. Reservations are not offered, but there are 41 campsites so we anticipated that we would get one. And we did – there were only a few (<10) campers in the campground on our arrival and the host told us that the campground is not heavily used. After touring the maze of roads looking for the best site, we chose one near the entrance and on the highest point in the campground. The view from there was the best.

The Drive In

Late afternoon view from the door of our RPod camper.

We drove from Albuquerque to Chama and continued on NM 17 up to the crest of Cumbres Pass (the highway becomes CO 17 as it passes into Colorado). For a good part of the way, Hwy 17 follows the tracks of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, aka Cumbres and Toltec Railroad to the crest where there is a small railyard. Continuing past the crest for 1/4 mile, we turned left onto FR 118 (a good Class 3 road, tho’ there are some sections of serious washboard); in 2.5 miles turn right at the entrance to the campground. (Adjacent to the campground is Trujillo Meadows Reservoir. There are some sites that look down upon the reservoir and there is a road from the campground entrance to a boating ramp; we did not investigate either.)

The CDT crosses CO 17 just below the crest of Cumbres pass, to the west; from the campground we returned to CO 17, turned right, back over the crest. Less than 14 mile below the crest there is parking on the south side of CO 17. The trailhead for the CDT going south is located there. For the trailhead northbound, cross the road and continue up and under the railroad trestle.

The Hike


Notes about the Google Earth screenshot: the graph at the bottom shows elevation of the track (pink area) and speed (the blue line).

I hiked this bit of the CDT last year while Pat attended a workshop in Chama, and for some time I’ve looked forward to revisiting it with Pat. Donning our packs and crossing the road, we walked beneath the RR trestle to the trailhead, where Pat signed us in. We then headed past the trailhead sign and into the woods; we were quickly above 10,000 feet elevation.


About 1/3 mile on, we left the woods behind, entering a meadow for a few hundred yards. Then it was onto hillside slopes for most of the remainder of the hike. Here we enjoyed a great vantage point to watch the Cumbres & Toltec steam locomotive and excursion cars climb the last few hundred feet elevation to Cumbres Pass.

The trail is well used, a smooth trail surface, little worn into the ground. We passed through open forest, occasionally with fallen trees. About 1.3 miles on we came to the first of two water crossings, nice flow of water but rocks ready for us to cross on. We continued on for 2.3 miles, enjoying fabulous views of the valley and mountains to the west of the trail.


We have puzzled over how to convey to readers of this BLOG the beauty of scenery all around us on these hikes. I think Pat has found the answer in this video.


Total Distance:  4.79 miles
Elevation: start  9,965 ft, maximum  10,299 ft,  minimum 9,965 ft
Gross gain: 334 ft.  Aggregate ascending 1,052 ft, descending 1,053 ft
Maximum slope: 29% ascending, 25% descending, 6.4% average
Duration: 3:37

GPS Track Files for Download
If you haven’t explored these hiking tracks with Google Earth, I urge you to try it. With the virtual 3-dimensional presentation, achieved by panning and tilting the view, you can get a much better idea of the hikes and terrain than you can get from the screenshot above. For some ideas, check out  Using Google Earth Track Files.

Related Posts

Red Lake Trail Hike – 07/08/2022
Cumbres Pass/CDT North Hike – 08/12/2021
Cumbres Pass/CDT South Hike – 08/13/2021

References and Resources

USDA Forest Service: CDNST – Cumbres Pass North Trailhead # 813
AllTrails: Cumbres Pass CDT North

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