Named for one of history’s most influential conservationists, the Aldo Leopold Wilderness protects the roughest, wildest portions of one of New Mexico’s roughest, wildest corners: the Black Range. The Forest Service manages this 202,016-acre wilderness, which was established in 1980 and lies just east of Forest Service Road 150 from the even bigger Gila Wilderness.
The Aldo Leopard Wilderness drapes the southern spine and subsidiary ridges of the north-south-running Black Range, mostly composed of Tertiary-era volcanics. McKnight Mountain rears to 10,165 feet in the southern portion of the wilderness, marking the highest summit in the range. The topography is rugged, consisting of sharp ridges and broad benches broken by deep canyons. The Continental Divide hugs a portion of the Black Range crest to 10,015-foot Reeds Peak, where it curves southwestward out of the wilderness.
Major drainages include the Mimbres River, Diamond Creek, and the headwater streams of Seco Creek. Some springs and creeks are seasonal, while others are perennial.
From canyon riparian communities of willows, cottonwoods, boxelder, and Arizona sycamore, slopes in the Aldo Leopold Wilderness rise through juniper, pinyon, ponderosa pine, and oak woodlands to about the 7,000-foot level. Higher montane and subalpine forests include Engelmann and blue spruce, white and subalpine fir, and quaking aspen.
Wildlife is rich. Small creatures include numerous kinds of lizards, snakes, rodents, and bats, while medium- to large-sized mammals range from gray foxes, bobcats, and ringtails to coyotes, black bears, mountain lions, mule deer, and elk. The Wilderness also falls within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s recovery area for Mexican gray wolves, first reintroduced into the region in 1998.
The Wilderness is named for Aldo Leopold, a pioneering ecologist and conservationist best known for his seminal 1949 text on the “land ethic,” A Sand County Almanac (and Sketches Here and There). In his early career, Leopold worked for the Forest Service in the Southwest and was instrumental in the designation of the country’s (and world’s) first wilderness area, the Gila Wilderness, which adjoins the Aldo Leopold Wilderness.
A 33-mile-plus section of the Continental Divide Trail traverses the Aldo Leopold Wilderness, and there are also many miles of additional hiking trails.
Leave No Trace
How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the Aldo Leopold Wilderness.
Digital and paper maps are critical tools for wilderness visitors. Online maps can help you plan and prepare for your visit ahead of time. You can also carry digital maps with you on your GPS unit or other handheld GPS device. Having a paper map with you in the backcountry, as well as solid orienteering skills, however, ensures that you can still route-find in the event that your electronic device fails.
Motorized equipment and equipment used for mechanical transport is generally prohibited in all wilderness areas.
This includes the use of motor vehicles, motorboats, motorized equipment, bicycles, hang gliders, wagons, carts, portage wheels, and the landing of aircraft including helicopters.
New Mexico Wilderness Act - Public law 96-550 (12/19/1980) To designate certain National Forest System lands in the state of New Mexico for inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System, and for other purposes