|Elevation Gain||522 ft|
|My Time||1 hr 13 min|
Lookout Point at Villanueva State Park
The Lookout Point trail at Villanueva State Park is an enjoyable hike to a hilltop that crosses the Pecos River. Villanueva State Park is a small park south-east of Santa Fe. The park features fishing, camping, tubing and more. The Lookout Point trail is the most popular hiking trail that is on the moderately challenging and available to somewhat skilled hikers.
The trail head for the Lookout Point trail is a located near the middle of the campground. There is a bit of parking behind the bathroom structure. To start the hike you have to cross the Pecos River. Luckily there is a long and really cool bridge that makes the crossing easy.
From the far side of the river the trail begins. The Lookout Point Trail is a loop so you can go either way. There is a bit of a rock scramble if you head to the left. I find it easier to handle the scramble on the way down so it might be easier to head to the right first. More on the loop below but first a quick mention of the Pecos River.
One of the first and last things you will see on this hike is the Pecos River. The wide river ran brown when I was there in the beginning of September. The river cuts between the campground and the ridgeline and you can really see how it shapes the landscape of the park and the area.
As you get a little bit higher up on the loop you begin to see some of the surrounding farms. It was very interesting to me to see, from above, how the river controls the vegetation. Near the water, nice and green. Away from the river, dry and dusty desert. I have always known how important water is in the west but it was fascinating to see it like this.
The Southern Loop
As I mentioned earlier, there is a scramble to the left when starting the loop and I found it easier to start to the right and to take the loop counter-clockwise. The trail is narrow and rocky and follows the river for the first half mile. This section isn’t too steep and has a bit of tree cover making for an enjoyable section of the hike.
There are some cool historic markers on this section of the trail as well. The first talks about a small section of old fencing. This was used by people to thresh wheat by lining the ground with wheat and then having horses walk in a circle. The steep hill made sure the animals wouldn’t run away.
The next marker talks about conflicts in the area. The area started as a Mexican territory in the 1820’s. There was an invasion by the Texas territory in the 1841 changing the name to the “Hills of Texas”. Finally, in 1846 New Mexico was occupied by the United States and the army was sent to disperse a group of insurgents who were based in what is now Villanueva State Park. I think the history of these area’s are pretty amazing so I always try to pass it on when I see it.
The Steep Walk Up
After the markers the trail takes a turn to the east and gets really steep. This section of the trail has an incline of a 16-20% grade over a half mile. The trail also takes you out of the trees and begins to be a bit more exposed at this point.
After a quick switchback the trail comes to a junction. Uphill will take you to the Lookout Point and continuing straight will continue the loop.
The trail to Lookout Point is a short tenth of a mile that starts with a 14% grade but gets less steep the higher you go. When you make it to the top of the hill there is a concrete viewing area to your left. The trail then continues to the right across the flat hilltop until you find a series of structures. The structures look like they may have been picnic areas at one time but they no longer have tables and only a portion of the roofing remains that provides a bit of shade.
From the top of the hill the views are pretty spectacular of the surrounding valley and to some buttes in the distance. There isn’t much shade up top and on a hot summer day I didn’t stay long. To leave you will need to hike down the short spur and then have the option of going back the way came or taking the long northern trail to finish off the loop.
Finishing the Loop
As you finish the loop the steeper descent paired with the sandy terrain makes footing a bit tricky. If you continue on the north side of the loop to finish the entire loop you will have to contend with 16-19% grades on the way downhill. The top section of the northern loop also gets a little hard to to follow. The sandy trail blends with the surrounding terrain and I actually got a little lost and ended up against a fence. Be very careful to make sure you follow along or use some mapping software.
This northern section also brings you right up to the edge of a seriously vertical drop. Make sure you don’t get too close and if you have a pet with you make sure to keep a close eye on them to make sure they don’t too close to the edge.
The last quarter mile of the trail brings you back to the Pecos River. On this part of the trail you will be on a series of boulders and rocks that keep you above the river. This is also where you will run into the short scramble. If you have taken the loop in this direction you will need to do a bit of a butt slide to get off the rocks and back down on the trail to finish off the hike.
A quick trip across the bridge finishes off this really enjoyable hike. The hike is short but still challenging. It also has some history. The river, hill, and topography of the area all combine for a great experience!
Video of Lookout Point at Villanueva State Park
I created a time-lapse video of my hike to Lookout Point at Villanueva State Park to give you a feel of what the hike is like. If you enjoy this video make sure to subscribe to my YouTube Channel. It is free to subscribe and you will get updates on the latest content.
Distance and Eleavation
If you don’t have the AllTrails app you might want to check it out, I really love mine. It records your progress and is a great way to search for hikes that are nearby and gives you difficulty measurements. According to AllTrails today’s hike was around 2.32 miles and had a total elevation gain of about 522 feet including undulations. That put the high point at around 6,184 feet. I was also moving for a total of 1 hour 13 minutes.
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The hike up to Lookout Point at Villanueva State park was more challenging that I thought it would be. There is a decent amount of elevation, up to about 20% grade in spots, and a small scrambling spot near the bridge. The trail was also very sandy in late summer which made the downhills a little tricky to keep from slipping. Overall, I am going to rate this as a moderate hike and you will want to have some hiking experience and some good footwear to make it.
The trail is mostly narrow and relatively rocky throughout. There is a bit of a scramble if you go left after the bridge. It is easier to handle the scramble if you take it on the downhill side of the loop at the end. As you get to the top of the loop near the Lookout Point, the trail gets relatively hard to follow. It is sandy and not very well defined. At one point I found myself up against a fence because I couldn’t follow this short section of trail at the top.
I would recommend a good pair of hiking boots or shoes to deal with the rocks and to have grip on the rugged terrain.
The Lookout Point trail at Villanueva State Park is located directly behind the bathroom building in the center of the campground of the park. There is parking for 3 or 4 cars behind the building and there are restroom facilities there as well. Villanueva State Park has requires a day pass of $5 to enter for vehicles.
Wrapping up Lookout Point at Villanueva State Park
My hike to Lookout Point at Villanueva State Park was really enjoyable. I really enjoyed the Pecos River crossing and watching as I made my ascent up the hill. I had no idea that I would be doing some learning but was excited to see the historical placards. It always gives me a special feeling when I can imagine the history of the people who were on the lands I hike on.
The trail was a lot steeper than I expected and the narrow rocky terrain made for a really fun hike. It might be a bit more challenging than some people can handle, especially with a bit of a scramble. Overall though, the hike is really enjoyable and it gives some really nice views of the river valley. I also really liked the Villanueva State Park. It was quaint and had plenty of campsites for people to enjoy the natural beauty.
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