Ascent of South Fork Peak on 2018-09-13

Climber: Fred Brown

Other People:Solo Ascent
Only Party on Mountain
Date:Thursday, September 13, 2018
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:South Fork Peak
    Location:USA-New Mexico
    Elevation:11978 ft / 3650 m

Ascent Trip Report

Hike originates from property belonging to the El Salto Land Assn located just east of Arroyo Seco. The El Salto Land Assn has two trailheads: the El Salto Waterfall and the Canoncito. The association requires a $5 fee per person which is paid at a self-serve kiosk located along the trail. You also must sign a liability waiver. When I did the hike there were no waiver forms nor pay envelopes at the pay station so I just slipped $5 into the payment slot. I made a mark on the corner of the bill just in case. The addition of pay stations/kiosks is recent. There is no need to stop at the green house along El Salto Road to pay and sign the liability waiver which was the case before the installation of pay stations.

Canoncito Trail. 4.6 miles one way from El Salto Road to a saddle located between South Fork Peak and Peak 11574. Elevation of the saddle is about 11335 ft. There are no signs marking the trailhead or Canoncito Trail. The trailhead is located on a single track road located south of the Arroyo Seco Creek. The pay station for the Canoncito Trail is located about a 100 yards down the trail from the parking area.

Directions to the trailhead: From Taos head north and turn onto NM-58 heading toward Taos Ski Valley. You will eventually go through the small village of Arroyo Seco which requires slowing down to 25mph. Just as you leave the village the highway makes a hard left turn, don't turn, go straight ahead onto El Salto Road and proceed generally east for about 1.6 miles. The first mile is paved then the road turns to gravel. You will encounter a sharp left over a bridge. You will immediately see a parking space for one car on your right and space for two cars on the left. After parking walk back over the bridge to a dirt road paralleling the stream and head east toward the canyon.

The hike: As you hike up the road/trail you will see a yellow sign on a tree to your right noting, Private Property - Permit Required, followed shortly by a gate and pay station. The trail follows the Arroyo Seco Creek for the first 3.5 miles and requires multiple stream crossings. This section of the trail is obvious and easy to follow. The last mile is marked by small cairns. You will arrive at a saddle located less than half mile west of South Fork Peak. The hike up South Fork Peak is steep and is mostly a bushwhack. Fortunately the forest is not thick nor is deadfall an issue. Should you decide to push onto Vallecito Peak, its about two miles one way mostly in open forest and high country meadow.
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El Salto pay station (2018-09-13). Photo by Fred Brown.
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Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:643 ft / 195 m
    Total Elevation Loss:348 ft / 106 m
    Round-Trip Distance:0.8 mi / 1.3 km
    Route Conditions:
    Weather:Pleasant, Breezy, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:643 ft / 195 m
    Distance:0.4 mi / 0.7 km
    Start Trailhead:Saddle Between S Fork Pk & Pk 11574  11335 ft / 3454 m
    Time:30 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:348 ft / 106 m
    Distance:0.4 mi / 0.6 km
    End Trailhead:Saddle Between S Fork Pk & Pk 12232  11630 ft / 3544 m
    Time:15 Minutes
Ascent Part of Trip: El Salto - South Fork - Vallecito Pk Loop

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Saddle Between S Fork Peak & Pk 115742018-09-13 a3185 ft / 971 m
2South Fork Peak2018-09-13 b643 ft / 196 m
3Peak 124292018-09-13 c819 ft / 250 m
4Vallecito Mountain2018-09-13 d368 ft / 112 m
Total Trip Gain: 5015 ft / 1529 m    Total Trip Loss: 5015 ft / 1528 m

Other Photos

Click on photo for original larger-size version.
Sign posted on the El Salto Canoncito Trail near the trailhead (2018-09-13). Photo by Fred Brown.
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