Sangre de Cristo Mountains

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This article is about the greater Sangre de Cristo mountain range. For the northernmost extent of the same name, see Sangre de Cristo Range.
Sangre de Cristo Mountains
Blanca Peak
Highest point
Peak Blanca Peak (East of Alamosa, Colorado)
Elevation 14,351 ft (4,374 m)
Coordinates 37°34′39″N 105°29′08″W / 37.57750°N 105.48556°W / 37.57750; -105.48556Coordinates: 37°34′39″N 105°29′08″W / 37.57750°N 105.48556°W / 37.57750; -105.48556
Length 242 mi (389 km) north-south
Width 120 mi (190 km) east-west
Area 17,193 sq mi (44,530 km2)
Etymology Sangre de Cristo (Spanish: Blood of Christ)
Country United States
States Colorado and New Mexico
Parent range Rocky Mountains

The Sangre de Cristo Mountains (Spanish for "Blood of Christ") are the southernmost subrange of the Rocky Mountains. They are located in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico in the United States. The mountains run from Poncha Pass in South-Central Colorado, trending southeast and south, ending at Glorieta Pass, southeast of Santa Fe, New Mexico. The mountains contain a number of fourteen thousand foot peaks in the Colorado portion, as well as all the peaks in New Mexico which are over thirteen thousand feet.

The name of the mountains may refer to the occasional reddish hues observed during sunrise and sunset, and when alpenglow occurs, especially when the mountains are covered with snow. Although the particular origin of the name is unclear, it has been in use since the early 19th century. Before that time the terms "La Sierra Nevada", "La Sierra Madre", "La Sierra", and "The Snowies" (used by English speakers) were used. Sometimes the archaic Spanish spelling "Christo" is used.

Land management and recreation overview

Sangre de Christo Mountains to the East of Santa Fe, taken during a winter sunset after a snowfall on 29 January 2013

Much of the mountains are within various National Forests: the Rio Grande and San Isabel in Colorado, and the Carson and Santa Fe in New Mexico. These publicly accessible areas are popular for hunting, camping, hiking, mountain biking, backpacking, climbing, and cross-country and downhill skiing.

The mountains include two large wilderness areas, the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness in Colorado and the Pecos Wilderness in New Mexico, as well as some smaller wilderness areas, such as Latir Peak Wilderness. The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve lies on the southwest side of the mountains in Colorado.

Subranges and prominent peaks

The Sangre de Cristo Mountains are divided into various subranges, described here from north to south. Use of the terms "Sangre de Cristo Range" and "Sangre de Cristo Mountains" is inconsistent and either may refer to either the northernmost subrange, the southernmost subrange, or the mountains as a whole.

Sangre de Cristo Range

The Sangre de Cristo Range, the largest and most northerly subrange of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, runs directly along the east side of the Rio Grande Rift, extending southeast from Poncha Pass for about 75 miles (120 km) through south-central Colorado to La Veta Pass, approximately 20 miles (32 km) west of Walsenburg. They form a high ridge separating the San Luis Valley on the west from the watershed of the Arkansas River on the east.


The Crestones are a group of four 14,000 foot (4,268 m) peaks (fourteeners) in the Sangre de Cristo Range above Crestone, Colorado.

Spanish Peaks

The Spanish Peaks are a pair of volcanic mountains, West Spanish Peak and East Spanish Peak, located in southwestern Huerfano County, Colorado., the Spanish Peaks were designated a National Natural Landmark in 1976 as one of the best known examples of igneous dikes. The mountains can be seen as far north as Colorado Springs (133 miles), as far west as Alamosa (85 miles), points south to Raton, New Mexico (65 miles), and points east of Trinidad (up to 15 miles).

Culebra Range

The Culebra Range runs almost due north and south, with its northern limit at La Veta Pass in Colorado, and its southern limit at Costilla Creek, just south of Big Costilla Peak in New Mexico. Its highest point is Culebra Peak (14,047 feet/4,282 m), which is notable for being the only fourteener in Colorado which is on private land. Climbers wishing to ascend Culebra must pay a fee (currently US$100 per person), and the number of climbers per year is limited. Standing to the east of the main crest are the two prominent Spanish Peaks (West: 13,626 feet/4,153 m; East: 12,860 feet/3,920 m). Unlike the rest of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, these are volcanic, with conical shapes and prominent dikes radiating outward. These peaks were important landmarks on the mountain branch of the Santa Fe Trail.

Taos Mountains

The Taos Mountains span the western lobe of the range from Costilla Creek in the north, to Tres Ritos in the south. They include the highest point in New Mexico, Wheeler Peak 13,161 feet (4,011 m), which is part of the small Wheeler Peak Wilderness. Other notable peaks include Pueblo Peak 12,305 feet (3,751 m), which rises dramatically above Taos Pueblo, and Latir Peak 12,708 feet (3,873 m). Williams Lake is located below Wheeler Peak in the Wheeler Peak Wilderness.

Taos Ski Valley lies just to the west of Wheeler Peak. Much of the central portion of the Taos Mountains are on Taos Pueblo land. As viewed from Taos, they are locally called "Taos Mountain."

The southern portion of the Taos Mountains, between Palo Flechado Pass and Tres Ritos (US Route 64 and NM Route 518), is lower and less dramatic than the northern section, with its high point being Cerro Vista, 11,939 ft (3,639 m). The Fernando Mountains are a small subrange lying in this section, just south of US Route 64.

Cimarron Range

The Cimarron Range lies across the Moreno Valley to the east of the Taos Mountains. It is a lower range, with its highest point being Baldy Mountain (12,441 feet/3,792 m). The Philmont Scout Ranch lies on the east side of the Cimarron Range.

Rincon Mountains

This is a minor subrange, significantly lower than the rest of the Sangre de Cristos; it lies east of the southernmost portion of the Taos Mountains.

Santa Fe Mountains

Rounding out the Sangre de Cristo Mountains are the Santa Fe Mountains, which include all peaks south of NM Route 518. This group lies near Santa Fe and surrounds the Pecos Wilderness, which protects the source watershed of the Pecos River. The peaks include Truchas Peak (13,102 feet/3,994 m) as their highest point. Other notable peaks are Santa Fe Baldy (12,622 feet/3,847 m) and Jicarita Peak (12,835 feet/3,912 m). The Pecos Wilderness is crossed by many trails and is popular for backpacking and for fishing in its high alpine lakes.

Rank Mountain Peak Subrange Elevation Prominence Isolation Image Comment
1 Blanca Peak Sierra Blanca !B9916165414218 14,351 ft
4374 m
!B9926077435655 5,326 ft
1623 m
!B9879776699204 103 mi
166 km
Blanca Peak in Colorado is the highest peak of the Sangre de Cristo mountains.
2 Crestone Peak Crestones !B9916201002402 14,300 ft
4359 m
!B9927643383526 4,554 ft
1388 m
!B9893064654421 27 mi
44 km
Crestone Peak is rock scrambles (Class 3) with some exposure and significant rockfall danger. (Image: Crestone Peak and Crestone Needle seen from the south)
3 Culebra Peak Culebra Range !B9916375289183 14,053 ft
4283 m
!B9927061187476 4,827 ft
1471 m
!B9890479661364 35 mi
57 km
(Image: Big Costilla Peak in the Culebra Range, viewed from Valle Vidal.)
4 West Spanish Peak Spanish Peaks !B9916680109961 13,631 ft
4155 m
!B9929760736505 3,685 ft
1123 m
!B9895993801508 20 mi
33 km
(Image: West Spanish Peak taken from the south)
5 Mount HerardPB Sangre de Cristo Range !B9916906736453 13,325 ft
4062 m
!B9935673943683 2,040 ft
622 m
!B9910813497218 4.6 mi
7.5 km
(Image: Sangre de Cristo range from the Great Sand Dunes National Park)
6 Wheeler PeakNGS Taos Mountains !B9917026308754 13,167 ft
4013 m
!B9930539253755 3,409 ft
1039 m
!B9889959021561 37 mi
60 km
Wheeler Peak, of the Wheeler Peak Wilderness, is the highest peak in New Mexico. Taos Ski Valley lies just to the west of Wheeler Peak. Much of the central portion of the Taos Mountains are on Taos Pueblo land. As viewed from Taos, they are locally called "Taos Mountain."
7 Bushnell PeakPB Sangre de Cristo Range !B9917069155755 13,111 ft
3996 m
!B9934027942726 2,405 ft
733 m
!B9902119232989 11 mi
18 km
8 Truchas Peak NGS Santa Fe Mountains PB !B9917071891268 13,107 ft
3995 m
!B9928937996823 4,001 ft
1220 m
!B9888702401356 42 mi
68 km
Truchas Peak is the highest point in the Santa Fe Mountains. (Image: Truchas Peak in winter from Española, New Mexico)
9 Venado Peak Taos Mountains !B9917356436236 12,739 ft
3883 m
!B9931971842142 2,954 ft
900 m
!B9901483321961 12 mi
19 km
(Image: Taos Mountain at sunset.)
10 East Spanish Peak Spanish Peaks !B9917397266607 12,688 ft
3867 m
!B9934119845287 2,383 ft
726 m
!B9911782676190 4.2 mi
6.8 km
East Spanish Peak is the lower of the two Spanish Peaks, two large igneous stocks which form an eastern outlier of the Culebra Range, a subrange of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. (Image: Spanish Peaks as seen from I25, Huerfano county, Colorado)
11 Santa Fe Baldy NGS Santa Fe Mountains PB !B9917441455990 12,632 ft
3850 m
!B9935861968397 2,002 ft
610 m
!B9902192452128 11 mi
18 km
Santa Fe Baldy is a prominent summit in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of New Mexico, located 15 mi (24 km) northeast of Santa Fe. It is prominent as seen from Los Alamos and communities along the Rio Grande in northern New Mexico, but is relatively inconspicuous from Santa Fe, as its north-south trending main ridge line is seen nearly end-on, disguising the size of the mountain. Santa Fe Baldy lies in the Pecos Wilderness within the Santa Fe National Forest, on the water divide between the Rio Grande and the Pecos River.
12 Baldy Mountain NGS Cimarron Range !B9917590083683 12,445 ft
3793 m
!B9932867218584 2,701 ft
823 m
!B9901886277363 11 mi
18 km
(Image: Baldy Peak summit ridge in the Cimarron Range.)
13 Greenhorn Mountain NGS Wet Mountains !B9917664968597 12,352 ft
3765 m
!B9929514137850 3,777 ft
1151 m
!B9893420350117 26 mi
43 km
Greenhorn Mountain is the highest point in the Wet Mountains of southern Colorado, just high enough to pass tree line which is about 11,500 feet (3,500 m) in this part of Colorado. The massive mountain can be seen from Pueblo and all along Interstate 25. The mountain is protected within the secluded Greenhorn Mountain Wilderness Area but is accessed by a few trails and a nearby 4-wheel drive road to the north.
14 Mount ZwischenPB Sangre de Cristo Range !B9917945329706 12,011 ft
3661 m
!B9934623277240 2,266 ft
691 m
!B9911030014472 4.5 mi
7.3 km
15 Cerro VistaPB Cerro Vista PB !B9918001379700 11,944 ft
3640 m
!B9933564824393 2,519 ft
768 m
!B9899641692604 14 mi
23 km
16 Mount PhillipsPB Cimarron Range !B9918168861105 11,745 ft
3580 m
!B9932084179281 2,921 ft
890 m
!B9905998660563 8 mi
12 km
Mount Phillips, formerly called Clear Creek Mountain, is located in Colfax County about 11 mi (17 km) south of Baldy Mountain in the Cimarron Range, a subrange of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of New Mexico. The peak was renamed in 1960 in honor of Waite Phillips, who donated the area to the Boy Scouts of America. (Image: Mount Phillips (tallest mountain, at center) seen from Baldy Mountain)
17 Mount MestasPB Sierra Blanca !B9918316261175 11,574 ft
3528 m
!B9934787914161 2,229 ft
679 m
!B9898234365274 16 mi
26 km
18 Iron MountainPB Sierra Blanca !B9918453535291 11,416 ft
3480 m
!B9936120017782 1,951 ft
595 m
!B9906781182532 7 mi
11 km
Panoramic summer view of the northern Sangre de Cristo Mountains from Westcliffe, Colorado

See also


  1. Robert Julyan, The Place Names of New Mexico, University of New Mexico Press, 1998.
  2. Chronic, Halka (1998). Roadside Geology of Colorado. Mountain Press Publishing Company. p. 36. ISBN 0-87842-105-X. 
  3. "National Registry of Natural Landmarks". National Park Service. June 2009. 
  5. ^ Butterfield, Mike, and Greene, Peter, Mike Butterfield's Guide to the Mountains of New Mexico, New Mexico Magazine Press, 2006, ISBN 978-0-937206-88-1
  6. Some sources only include the region north of Palo Flechado Pass in the Taos Mountains; however they do not give a specific subrange name to the entire southern portion. See for example the 1:250,000 scale USGS maps.
  7. ^ The elevation of this summit has been converted from the National Geodetic Vertical Datum of 1929 (NGVD 29) to the North American Vertical Datum of 1988 (NAVD 88). National Geodetic Survey
  8. The summit of Wheeler Peak is the highest point of the State of New Mexico.

External links

  • Sangre de Cristo Mountains @ Peakbagger
  • List of the 13-ers in Sangre de Cristo
  • NPS—TwHP: “Glorieta and Raton Passes: Gateways to the Southwest”a National Park Service Teaching with Historic Places (TwHP) lesson plan.

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