Mt. Taylor Ranger District
Acting District Ranger: Ryan Washam
Address: Mt Taylor Ranger District, 1800 Lobo Canyon Rd.; Grants, NM 87020
The Mt. Taylor Ranger District is comprised of two mountain ranges, Mt. Taylor and the Zuni Mountains, totaling nearly 520,000 acres of National Forest land. Elevations range from 6,500 to 11,301 feet. Mt. Taylor is an area of special religious and cultural significance to several Native American communities. Mt. Taylor and the Zuni Mountains are rich in cultural resources including many historic sawmills and logging communities. The Grants area, like much of New Mexico is rich in history.
Mt. Taylor Ranger District is a great place to explore both the history of the area and to see some great things currently going on.
About Mt. Taylor
There are actually two Mt. Taylors – the mountain and the Ranger District. They’re located in Grants, New Mexico – about an hour west of Albuquerque. The area has a rich history – both ancient and recent. Mt. Taylor, the mountain, is a dormant volcano named after President Zachary Taylor. However, eons before, it was known to the Acoma as Kaweshtima; to the Hopi Tsiipiya; to the Zuni as Dwankwi Kyabachu Yalanne; and to the Navajo Nation as Tsoodzil. It is a spiritual and cultural site for as many as 30 Native American tribes who go there to collect plants, stones, minerals, pigments, feathers, soil and sand, in addition to hunting, religious pilgrimages, accessing springs, and as a place for special offerings.
The Mt. Taylor Ranger District’s roots are a little more modern. The District evolved from additions to the small forest reserves first set aside in 1906. Much of the area was logged before being designated as National Forest. Today, visitors can find remnants of the many historic sawmills and logging communities in the area.
The District brought together history and recreation when they developed the Hilso Trailhead, which was named for the historic Hilso Sawmill. Visitors will catch glimpses of the remains of a thriving sawmill community as they ride through parts of the 26-mile trail system. Hilso was dedicated in 2011 and quickly became a popular location for biking and as a top-flight mountain biking destination.
The trailhead was developed following years of collaboration between the Mt. Taylor Ranger District and their business, county, state and federal partners. Some of these same partners have joined forces to develop the Zuni Mountain Trail Partnership. This ambitious project resulted in designating over 180 miles of trail network of interconnected mountain bike and hiking trails in the Zuni Mountains.
Logging is also the basis for a fascinating auto tour in the District. The Zuni Mountain Historic Auto Tour is a 60-mile route that starts near Grants, New Mexico and finishes near Bluewater Lake. Each of the 18 stops on this self-guided tour offers a glimpse of logging operations and what life was like in the logging camps.
The Mount Taylor area and the Zuni Mountains was a major east-west flight corridor since the earliest days of aviation. It is also the site of numerous plane crashes – both civilian and military. This history sparked three Passport in Time projects on the District to explore the aviation history of the area.
- The first project, completed in 2009, was to locate the crash site of the “City of San Francisco,” plane that went down in a violent thunderstorm in 1929. Eight people died in what was the country’s first major airline disaster over land.
- The 2010 project focused on recording beacon sites on the old Los Angeles-to-Amarillo (LA-A) air route, which traversed the Continental Divide over the Zuni Mountains. This network of lighted beacons was an essential part of the development of early cross-country airways for night navigation during the 1930s.
- The goal of the 2011 project was to preserve and to create interpretive information about Beacon Site 61, which sits atop a ridge on the Continental Divide at the Oso Ridge Fire Lookout (elevation approximately 8,700 feet). The site includes the base of the long-gone beacon tower, which also held a fire lookout cab, and the original generator hut that housed the power to light the airway beacon. A 1930s cabin that was the residence for the lookout is also squeezed onto the small volcanic knob near the currently used lookout tower.
For more information about Cibola County aviation history, please go to the Cibola County Historical Society.
Mt. Taylor Ranger District has in cooperation with Forest Steward Guild and the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) helped implement the restoration projects on the district. A mutual concern about high fire risks, the need to restore a culturally important landscape and watershed, and the desire to support local forest-based industries led to the development of the Zuni Mountain Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP). This program has received a grant of $400,000 to restore the Zuni Mountain landscape to historic vegetation conditions using thinning and prescribed fire. The materials from the thinning will provide firewood for personal use and commercial contracts. When completed, the landscape will have fewer small diameter trees but maintain larger trees and more open areas to allow grass and herbs to recover. This will increase resilience to climate change and may increase water availability.
The Bluewater Ecosystem Restoration project implementation is almost completed and Puerco Landscape Planning Project NEPA decision has now cleared the way for similar projects on the western end of the Zuni Mountains.
For more information about the Mt. Taylor Ranger District, please call (505) 287-8833.