Friday, June 13, 2014

Moon Mountain Trail - Santa Fe, NM

Moon (l) and Sun (r) Mountains stand above the St. John's campus
In recognition of National Trails Day (Sat. June 8), I'm using this week to post write-ups and maps of a few lesser-known area trails. Unlike the more remote settings of the previously posted south-side trails, Moon Mountain and the route up to its summit sit hiding in plain sight among the nearby trail systems of the Santa Fe Foothills.

Moon mountain sits just south of Sun Mountain and just west of Atalaya but gets little love from hikers and trail runners. In fact, those two hikes are the most trafficked within city limits yet across the way on Moon one generally has the whole summit to themselves. One explanation may be that the hike to Moon is a bit longer (than Sun), but the obvious problem is that the trail is a lot less defined, un-marked, and requires a bit of adventure and route-finding to get where you're trying to go. I've never seen a map of the area before, printed or otherwise.

Picacho Peak as seen from the approach
Atalaya as seen from the Moon Summit
Moon summit - just a bunch of rocks until you put some shoes on them
Sun Mountain from the steep west descent off Moon
I prefer to hike/run Moon from the St. John's College trailhead, stretching out on the approach up the Arroyo Chamiso before motoring up the switchbacks to the summit. The trail up Moon's north face really doesn't switch all that much, meaning there's some steep direct climbing and the trail is often in various states of eroded wash-out. That said, roundtrip distance is only about 4mi without extenders.

One such extender is the convenient linkup with Sun Mountain, though combining the climbs can be a tough effort over the ~5mi distance. The trail runner's prize is a four summit linkup of Sun/Moon/Atalaya/and Picacho. Fun, but quite a bit tougher than it sounds.

Distance:  ~4mi loop
Max Elev:  8,085ft
Net Climbing:  ~900ft

View Moon Mountain - Santa Fe, NM in a larger map

Related Posts:
 - Apache Canyon Trail Loop
 - Eldorado Community Preserve Trails
 - Picacho Peak Summit


  1. Great post. Two things about the Sun, Moon, Atalaya, Picacho link up that frustrate me. First, the trail(s) I've found climbing Moon from the saddle with Sun are super steep, and really a scramble not a run- which is fine actually but I'd love to find a more runnable route. Second, I can't figure out how to hit Atalaya from Moon by heading east, ie without having to drop back down to St. Johns and then head up Atalaya by the usual route from the college. Any pearls of wisdom there?

  2. Mike - Appreciate the comment, glad the post was helpful. The routes up Moon are screamers. There are more gradual routes to the summit but they're really unofficial linkups navigating the arroyo, dirt roads, and a few short foot paths before topping-out from the south. I generally won't publish 'trails' of such questionable character. Of course they're often the most fun. The best way to link Moon to Atalaya is with a southern linkup, ascending Atalaya's long southern ridge. The trail ip there is much less traveled than the standard route up the west face but can be found on most maps of the SF foothills.



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