Tres Piedras Ranger District

Desert landscape with a road going through on the right hand side and small mountain in background

The Tres Piedras Ranger District is named for the large outcrop of rocks near the district office. It is the largest district on the Carson National Forest, consisting of 388,000 acres.

One of the district's most distinctive features is San Antonio Mountain, rising 10,908 feet above surrounding sagebrush flats. It is the largest free standing mountain peak in the country. The mountain's rounded volcanic dome, nearly 4 miles across at the base, is a landmark that's easily spotted from many locations in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado.

The district is also home to one of the largest elk herds in New Mexico, with a large resident herd of about 2,000 elk wintering yearly in the San Antonio Mountain region.

Hopewell Lake, about 60 miles west of Tres Piedras, is a recreational hotspot, featuring fishing and developed campgrounds.

The area is steeped in history of the wild west. In the early 1880s prospectors fanned out though much of the northern and northwestern portions of New Mexico and, in some instances, made significant strikes. One of these was an extensive placer gold strike in the Tusas Mountains near modern-day Hopewell Lake. In the late 1800s, the introduction of the Denver and Rio Grande Western narrow gauge railroad, known as the Chili Line brought more visitors to the area. A small portion of the railroad is still being used and enjoyed by visitors today, and is known as the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad.

At its peak, the district provided grazing for nearly 2 million sheep more than 100 years ago. Along with grazing products, the train carried the massive products of the lumber industry. The railroad helped to facilitate the removal of several million board feet of pine taken from the mountains for rail expansion. U.S. Highway 285 closely follows the rail bed from Taos Junction to Antonito, and only the town of Tres Piedras remains.

Aldo Leopold, known as the father of conservation, was the second Forest Supervisor for the Carson National Forest in 1912 and relocated the Supervisor's Office from Antonito, Colorado to Tres Piedras. Called Mi Casita, the house that he built for his new bride, Estella, was recently renovated and is behind the post office off of US 285.

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