Carson National Forest
In the Tusas Mountains
Carson National Forest is 1.5 million acres of some of the most beautiful countryside on Earth. Located in Northern New Mexico, Carson National Forest is home to Wheeler Peak (elev. 13,161'), New Mexico's highest mountain. Also within the boundaries of the Carson National Forest are the ski areas of Red River, Sipapu and Taos Ski Valley. On nearby private lands you'll find Angel Fire Ski Resort and the Enchanted Forest Cross Country Ski Area.
The Valle Vidal Unit was “donated” by Pennzoil Corporation (seems they had an IRS problem) to the people of the United States, through the US Forest Service, in 1982. This 100,000 acres was once a private playground for Herbert Hoover, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, and Cecil B. DeMille.
Valle Vidal is being managed to enhance its wildlife - especially the 2,000 trophy head of elk. Motorized travel is restricted and there are special hunting and fishing seasons and bag limits. In addition to regular hunting and fishing licenses, Habitat Improvement Stamps are required. These are available at local sporting goods and department stores along with regular licenses.
Valle Vidal has two campgrounds and numerous parking areas for those heading into the backcountry. In addition to trout streams throughout the unit there are several fishing ponds, including one set aside solely for children.
Latir Peak area from Questa
The only National Forest Service facility with live, native wildlife, from horned owls to bears to porcupines, is near Abiquiu at the Ghost Ranch Living Museum. You'll also find exhibits of northern New Mexico plant life and environmental and archaeological displays at the Ghost Ranch Living Museum.
Carson National Forest includes some 86,193 acres of wilderness and proposed wilderness. In wilderness areas, foot and horseback travel is allowed but no mechanized equipment (not even mountain bikes or hang gliders). The Wilderness Areas are:
- Wheeler Peak
- Latir Peak
- Cruces Basin
- Columbine-Hondo (proposed wilderness area)
The Carson National Forest has 400 miles of mountain streams and many lakes, most of which are stocked with native trout by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. In addition to the mule deer, antelope, elk, mountain lion, black bear and bighorn sheep, the Forest is inhabited by many species of smaller animals, songbirds and raptors (red-tail hawks, falcons and bald eagles).
With more than 330 miles of trails and forest service roads, there's lots of opportunity for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and 4-wheel exploring. In the winter time, most of these same trails and roads become excellent snowmobile and cross-country ski trails.
In the Tusas Mountains
The Rio Grande Gorge at Wild & Scenic Rivers Area, northwest of Questa
Click on either of these maps to get a larger version