Why Columbine Hondo

Rio Grande Gorge, New Mexico
Marissa Bracke
Nestled deep in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in northern New Mexico rests a gem ready for wilderness protection — Columbine Hondo.

Hikers, hunters, anglers and wildlife lovers treasure Columbine Hondo. The area preserves many natural wonders in addition to cultural and historical traditions including horseback riding.

Columbine Hondo’s natural beauty

Columbine Hondo is a wilderness study area located in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in northern New Mexico. Visitors are awed and inspired by the 12,400-foot "Gold Hill."

Due to its lush and roadless forests, Columbine Hondo is a wildlife haven, serving as the home for:

  • Elk and deer,
  • Mountain lion and black bear,
  • Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, and
  • Westslope, greenback, and Colorado River cutthroat trout

A critical wildlife corridor, Columbine Hondo links Wheeler Peak Wilderness and Latir Peak Wilderness areas. Without protection, wildlife could not easily travel between the two areas.

Incredible recreation opportunities

People come from all over the world to experience what Columbine Hondo has to offer. Located in Taos County, this 43,760-acre range is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream come true.  People come to:

  • Hunt and fish,
  • Horseback ride and camp, and
  • Hike, backpack and enjoy other non-mechanized activities.

Outdoor recreation is a key contributor to the county’s economic base.

Sustaining surrounding communities

Columbine Hondo contains important headwaters, or beginnings, of the Rio Grande and contributes to the protection of clean water for much of New Mexico’s population. These headwaters feed into the Red River and Rio Hondo that provide water for downstream communities.

Protecting Columbine Hondo

Congress formally recognized natural value of the Columbine Hondo area in 1980 and gave it interim protection as a wilderness study area. Designation as wilderness is the highest form of protection and bars any development.

While Columbine Hondo is protected as a wilderness study area, there is still work to ensure it remains protected and healthy for generations to come. At Wilderness, we work with people from across New Mexico who have come together to support the protection of Columbine Hondo.

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