White Mountain Wilderness
Located in the Lincoln National Forest in New Mexico.
The White Mountain Wilderness contains 48,143 acres and lies entirely within the Smokey Bear Ranger District of the Lincoln National Forest. It was established as a primitive area by Congress in 1933 with approximately 25,000 acres and was included in the National Wilderness System in 1964. Additional acreage was added in 1980. As with all wilderness areas, travel is by foot or horseback: no motorized or mechanized equipment of any kind is allowed. Mountain bikes are mechanized and therefore are not allowed in the Wilderness. Wilderness entry permits are not required at this time.
The Wilderness is 12 1/2 miles long and ranges from 4 to 12 miles wide. The west boundary is the National Forest Boundary. The south boundary borders the Mescalero Apache Reservation. The White Mountain Wilderness consists mainly of a long, northerly running ridge and its branches. The west side of this ridge is steep and extremely rugged with many extensive rock outcroppings, while the eastern side is more gentle with broader, forested canyons and a few tiny streams.
Elevations range from a low of 6,500 feet at Three Rivers Campground on the west side to a high of 11,580 feet near Lookout Mountain on the south. From Three Rivers to the crest there are four different life zones: Pinyon-Juniper, Ponderosa Pine, Mixed conifer, and Sub-alpine Forest. Abrupt changes in elevation, escarpments, rock outcrops, and avalanche chutes make for striking contrast and scenery. Interspersed along the crest are several meadows as well as some grass-oak savannahs which are the result of fires.
The weather, too, is directly related to elevation. Springtime is usually dry and windy throughout the wilderness. July and August are the rainy months with frequent afternoon showers. In summer, while the desert is sweltering, you may need a sweater or jacket in the high country. Autumn is a beautiful time of year with oaks, maples, and aspens adding splashes of color to the hillsides. The days are usually cool and sunny with little wind.
Winter in the wilderness brings a time of quiet beauty. Snowfall usually begins during the mid to latter part of November and can continue on through June. During the winter months, the higher elevations may be under six or more feet of snow while it is comfortably warm at the 6,000' level.
Wildlife abounds here. Hunting is permitted in accordance with State game regulations. Big game species include mule deer, elk. black bear and turkey. Porcupines, badgers, bobcats, gray fox, coyotes, skunks, spruce and rock squirrels and numerous species of mice, voles and rats are plentiful. There are many species of birds. Five species, the Northern Threetoed Woodpecker, the Clark Nutcracker, the Red-breasted Nuthatch, the Townsend' s Solitaire, and the Gold-encrowned Kinglet, have crucial habitats within the wilderness, mainly in the spruce-fir life zone. The habitat for these birds is considered critical as there is very little spruce-fir acreage this far south.
Fishing is limited to short stretches on the forks of Rio Bontio and Three-Rivers creek, where you may find a few 4 to 6 inch native trout, if your are lucky.
There is a developed and maintained trail system with 50 miles of trails within the wilderness plus 9 miles of access trails. Trails wind through the wilderness, generally following either ridges or canyon bottoms. Many old trails exist that are not part of the system. These trails were not built to any standards, yet continued use persists from hiking and prospecting activities. Water, while not abundant, can usually be found in springs and small streams scattered throughout the area: treating the water is always a good precaution. There are no visitor convenience improvements of any kind within the Wilderness.
Almost all of the system trails are easily negotiated by hikers and backpackers as well as horse users. Most of the trails tie into the Crest Trail 25 which runs southwest from Monjeau Lookout to Ski Apache ski area and then north to Nogal Canyon.
For more information contact: Lincoln National Forest.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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