Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of our Nation’s Wilderness Areas!

On September 3, 1964 President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Wilderness Act. This historic bill established the National Wilderness Preservation System (NWPS) and set aside an initial 9.1 million acres of wildlands for the use and benefit of the American people. Now, 50 years later and as a result of America's support for wilderness, Congress has added over 100 million acres to this unique land preservation system.

Wilderness Videos:

The Cibola's Four Wilderness Areas

The United States was the first country in the world to define and designate wilderness areas through law when the Wilderness Act of 1964 was passed in a nearly unanimous vote. By doing so, Congress enacted landmark legislation that permanently protected some of the most natural and undisturbed places in America.The Cibola National Forest and Grasslands has four Congressionally-designated Wilderness Areas. They are:

Apache Kid Wilderness Area (Magdalena Ranger District)   Map

Magdalena Ranger DistrictThe 44,626-acre Apache Kid Wilderness Area is located on the Magdalena Ranger District. It was designated as a wilderness area in 1980. The Apache Kid Wilderness was named after the Apache Kid, a former U.S. Calvary scout who had a colorful history. Today, one mile from "Apache Kid Peak," a marker stands as a grave, where a posse claimed to have killed the Kid in 1894.

The wilderness is located in the southern San Mateo Mountains. Narrow, steep canyons bisect the peaks of the where elevations exceed 10,000 feet. The vegetation is typical of the region, with piñon-juniper woodland at lower elevations, spruce and fir and aspen at the higher elevations, and ponderosa pine in between. Human visitors are few, but wildlife is plentiful and includes: Coue's white-tailed deer and mule deer to elk, black bears, bobcats, cougars, antelope, javelina, coyotes, rabbits, squirrels, and quail.

There are many recreational opportunities, including hiking and camping. There are 68 miles of trails, approximately one third are in primitive condition, provide access to the wilderness.

Manzano Mountain Wilderness Area (Mountainair Ranger District)  Map

Mountainair Ranger DistrictThe 36,875-acre Manzano Mountain Wilderness Area is located on the Mountainair Ranger District. It was designated as a wilderness area in 1978. The word “Manzano” is Spanish for apple trees, which is what explorers discovered on the eastern edge of the mountains back in the early 1700. Apple trees are not native to this part of the country, so the mountains were named because of the discovery of these old apple trees.

Spread out across the western slope of the Manzano Mountain Range, this wilderness varies in elevation from about 6,000 feet to 10,098 feet. The terrain is steep and rugged cut with canyons and marked with outcroppings of rock. Thousands of raptors migrate along the Manzanos in spring and fall as they work their way between Canada and Mexico.

Vegetation consists of piñon  and juniper at lower heights, gradually taken over by ponderosa pine and then spruce, fir, and aspen higher up. More than 64 miles of a well-developed trail system provide access to the wilderness.

Sandia Mountain Wilderness Area (Sandia Ranger District)  Map

Sandia Mountain Wilderness in the winterOn the west side of the Sandia Mountains, lies the 37,200-acre Sandia Mountain Wilderness Area, located on the Sandia Ranger District. It was designated as a wilderness area in 1978. The wilderness is split into two sections because of the Sandia Peak tram that transports people 2.7 miles over deep canyon and breathtaking terrain. The tram has been in operation since 1966.

This popular wilderness area has an extensive trail system totaling nearly 120 miles. But if you’re seeking solitude, either stick to side trails or consider the other three wilderness areas on the Cibola National Forest.

Vegetation consists of spruce and fir dominate the high country, with stands of mixed conifers just below. Many raptors migrate through these mountains in spring and fall, sharing their territory with a few mule deer and black bears.

Withington Wilderness Area (Magdalena Ranger District) Map

Magdalena Ranger DistrictThe 19,000-acre Withington Wilderness Area is located on the Magdalena Ranger District. It was designated as a wilderness area in 1980. Withington Wilderness is located in the northern extreme of the San Mateo Mountains. Elevations range from 6,800 feet to 10,100 feet atop Mount Withington, which marks the center of the western boundary. The Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope observatory is located in the Plains of San Agustin just below Mount Withington.

Mixed conifers (pine, spruce, fir) grow in the shady bottoms of the area's steep-walled canyons, giving way to a woodland of pinion and juniper as the ground becomes more open and drier.

Many of the Withington trails are seldom used, promising solitude for the adventurous. Winters bring snow, and summers are often hot and dry. During the desert "monsoon" season, July and August, rainwater may flood the narrow canyons.


Did you know…No mechanized vehicles are allowed in a wilderness area? That means that bicycles, strollers,   etc. cannot be taken into any wilderness area.