East of Hillsboro to Emory Pass


Mile posts (MP) are every mile on this route and start at 0 at the west end of NM-152 near Silver City.  In this tour, MP numbers decrease as you go west.  Intermediate numbers, like 53.1 indicate where the point is between two MPs.  This is rugged country filled with the opportunity for accident and the occasional encounter with a rattlesnake, caution is advised.

Much of this route follows the Percha Creek drainage, especially noticeable once you reach Hillsboro.  Technically the Percha Creek drainage is what is called underfit, meaning that the stream is smaller than what the valley should appear to have.  In this case, reduced stream flows are most likely associated with climatic change over a significant period.  During Kingston and Hillsboro’s heydays the stream ran much more than today. 

MP-53.1 - The Beginning of the foothills.  (Our video of this Auto Tour starts here: East of Hillsboro to Hillsboro.)

12 miles from the Junction of Highway 152 and Interstate 25.  A gate (below) on the south side of road provides access to South Wick’s Canyon.  The “trail” follows a sandy wash with rocky sections which narrows to a slot canyon just before it joins Percha Creek.  Wick’s Canyon (or Wick’s Gulch) cuts through Tertiary Kneeling Nun Tuff on top of Cretaceous andesite.


A gate (below) on the north side of road leads to North Wicks Canyon.  Many old (and current) mining claims and the ruins of old homes are found along the road.

Ready Pay Gulch.  A gate (above) on the south side of the road leads to old (and current) mining claims and a series of old roads.  The old road which meanders south provides access to Percha Creek (County Road Bo23).  Vehicles must be four-wheel drive with  high clearance to negotiate this road.  Hiking down into the Box and turning upstream you will see the ruins  (bridge foundations - upper right in photo) of an old pipeline on the rock bluffs.  In about 1900 it was a nice destination for an outing (photos below) - somethings never change.
Access to a wash which starts east of the road is possible, providing access to Percha Creek.  An old road which angles off to the southeast near the bottom of the first hill (from NM-152) crosses the flats and provides great views, but no access, into the Percha Box.  The wash at the bottom of the first hill continues almost to the Percha Box but access to Percha Creek is blocked by a hundred foot cliff.


North side of road (right as you head toward Hillsboro) is a gated “trail” which has access to the old Opportunity and Snake Mine workings, extreme caution is advised, many open pits.  Ocotillo begins to appear in numbers on the hillside.


South side of road.  Gated “road” eventually leads to a Percha Box overlook.


Just before sharp left turn.  Roadcut on the right (north) exposes volcanic rock from the Cretaceous.  Brown Bliss Sandstone is exposed in the roadcut on the left.


A fault (photo right) is apparent in the roadcut on the left (east).  To the left is Lower Bliss Sandstone and on the right is Upper Bliss Mudstone
in thin layers (photo just below on right).  The Mudstone contains mica.


Warm Springs Wash.  After crossing the culverts at the bottom of the hill there is a road to the north (right as you come into town).  A parking area immediately
to the right allows access to the wash.  Downstream Warm Springs Wash meets Percha Creek near an old mill site and a dramatic outcrop (Saddle Rock - photo right from 1900).  A wonderful example (photo in right column) of geologic forces is on the south side of the Percha at the confluence of Percha and Warm Springs.  The area downstream from here is the subject of the video: Percha Pools.

Immediately across from the parking area and up the hill, via an old road, there is access to the facilities of the old Snake Mine.  Dangerous shafts are all about.

Up the road is the Hillsboro Transfer Station (trash).  Farther up the wash are the Warm Springs and numerous mining claims.  The ruins of the Snake Mine in about 1900 are on the hill to the east (photo right).  See video of this area in  Trip Up The Warm Springs Canyon Road.


Entrance to Hillsboro.  See the Hillsboro page and the Hillsboro Walking Tour.  Hillsboro was a gold mining town, unlike Kingston and Lake Valley which were silver mining towns.

Just before the East Bridge (over Percha Creek) there is slag on both sides of the road from the old Hillsboro smelter.

Crossing the East Bridge there is a small park on the north side.  The Black Range Museum and Sue’s Antiques are on the south side of NM-152.

New Mexico Highway 27 Junction:  See TOUR 3 - Hillsboro to Nutt

“Downtown” Hillsboro

The US Post Office (photo right) is located in a building built in the 1890’s.

The building which houses the General Store Cafe was built in 1879 and has been continually occupied since that time.  In the past the building has been a bank, a post office, a general store, a drug store and now a cafe.  It retains the ambiance of the 1880’s and serves excellent US and Mexican food Friday to Wednesday 8-3.

Turning right on Fourth Street leads to limited access to the North Percha Creek drainage.  Once over the dike and through the low-water crossing the road forks, Cunningham (access to the ranch of the same name) is to the left and Fifth is to the right.  In a few yards Fifth crosses the stream bed of North Percha.  Most of the property in this area is private.


Leaving Hillsboro you cross the West Bridge over Percha Creek.

Hillsboro to Kingston on NM-152 (Video)

MP - 46.1

The High Bridge. The abandoned bridge on the south side of the road was built in 1927 and is the oldest steel-deck truss bridge (Warren design) in the state.  Just before the parking area at the bridge, there is an unconformity visible in the road cut on the north side of the road (photo above).  Here Santa Fe Group gravels are covered by basaltic-andesite lava which covered the area roughly 30 million years ago.  Continuing westward the road cuts through more of these lava beds.  The canyon cuts through basaltic andesite.

MP - 45

Road cuts in this area are through lakebed deposits from the Oligocene.  In addition to plant fossils (including pine cones and needles) there are thin seams of poor quality coal lignite).

MP - 45.1

A geologic unconformity is visible here.  Note that the lakebed deposits are tilted.  These beds were eroded and at some point later the gravel beds were deposited - creating the unconformity, which represents a gap in geologic time.

MP - 44.4

Road cuts are through Pennsylvanian Limestone.

MP - 44.2

Here you cross the outer fault of the Emory caldera - one of the largest in the world.  About 35 million years ago, the caldera collapsed spewing ash into the sky sufficient to cover hundreds of square miles of the surrounding area with a deposit 500 - 600 feet deep.  The deposit is known as the Kneeling Nun Tuff deposit.  There are excellent views of this deposit along NM-27.  See the NM-27 Auto Tour.

MP - 43.2

Remains of the old road between Hillsboro and Kingston is visible on the right.  This is the road traveled by Sadie Orchard’s Stage Coach Line - see Tales of Lake Valley.

MP - 43.1

This bridge over Percha Creek was built in 1929 and is considered structurally deficient (sufficiency rating of 34.7 out of 100) by NM DOT.  As you cross the bridge heading west, Star Peak is directly in front of you.  Star Peak is a rhyolite intrusion - flow banded.

MP - 43.1

Just past the bridge on the right, vitrophyre deposits are visible. 

MP - 42.9

Headquarters of the Bason Cox ranch is on the south (left) side of the road.

MP - 42.1

Roadcuts are through Pennsylvanian Limestone.

MP - 41.8

Roadcuts are through the Mississippian Lake Valley Formation.  Percha Shale is exposed in the roadcuts ahead.

MP - 41.5 

Forest Service Road provides access to many hiking areas including; Carbonate Creek, North Percha Creek, and Cave Creek. 

FR-157 (North Percha Road) from

NM-152 to Carbonate Canyon (Video)

MP - 41.4

At his point you are crossing the inner fault of the Emory Caldera ring-fracture zone.  To the east there is Paleozoic limestone and shale.  To the west of the fault is rock of the Rubio Peak Formation which is exposed in roadcuts.

MP - 41.3

South Percha Creek has joined Middle Percha Creek just downstream from here.  This span over the Middle Percha was build in 1929 and is considered structurally deficient (sufficiency rating of 37.1 out of 100) by NM DOT.

MP - 40

US Forest Service Kingston Campground is on the right.  Check for campground closures when planning on camping in the areas.

MP - 39.8

Entrance to Kingston on right.


Kingston was the the most significant mining town in New Mexico in the 1880’s.  Before that it was inhabited by a number of indigenous peoples including the Mimbres and later by Apaches led by Victorio, Nana, and others. With the collapse of silver in 1893 Kingston, like Lake Valley, quickly became a “ghost town”, but in the case of Kingston - not quite.

At its height, Kingston is said to have had 5,000 (the exact number is in dispute) residents, 22 saloons, a bank, 3 hotels, 3 newspapers, an assay office, some churches and an opera house.

Sadie Orchard started her first brothel on Virtue Avenue in Kingston and then moved on to several other lucrative ventures. 

Teapot Dome conspirators Edward Laurence Doheney (photo right) and Albert Bacon Fall knew each other from their days in Kingston.  Doheney worked the Iron King Mine north of town and later the Mount Chief Mine, he left Kingston in 1891.  Fall was the attorney who successfully defended the accused in the Fountain murder trial.

There are claims that Mark Twain visited and wrote about one of the local residents, Sheba Hurst, in his book "Roughin' It", unfortunately Roughin’ It was published in 1872, roughly 10 years before Kingston was founded. 

James McKenna wrote of the stories of Apaches, miners, outlaws (Toppy Johnson and others), and wild times in his book Black Range Tales.

Eugene Manlove Rhodes (the “cowboy chronicler”) used this town as the setting for some of his western books, and was said to be fond of getting into a card game here. Rhodes was not financially stable and when he could not afford his rent, Albert Fall (see above) gave him a home at White Mountain, New Mexico.

The Victorio Hotel housed the well-to-do visitors. Lillian Russell's dance troupe performed at the local opera house.

The Black Range Lodge was a boarding house during mining days.  The Lodge is now a bed-and-breakfast with periodic music and workshops on building techniques like straw bale construction. The large lobby was built (1940‘s) from the materials dismantled from Pretty Sam's Casino.

The Percha Bank Museum is owned by Cranberry Press next door, and is open on weekends, see the Kingston Walking Tour page. 

Following “Main Street” west towards the Black Range provides access to hiking areas up the Middle Percha Creek Drainage.

Kingston to Emory Pass Video

MP 39.2

Kingston Cemetery.  Medal of Honor Recipient Burial Site.

MP 39.2 

A gated track provides access to Scenic Trail Number 796.  Coming from the east 39.2 is just past the “Entering Gila National Forest Sign”.  Seventy-five feet up the track there is a large cairn, turn left on to Trail 796 (6,480 feet in elevation).  The photo here is at the beginning of the trail.  Over the next 4.5 miles this trail climbs at a moderate incline, with a fairly “flat” portion half way along the route, for 1800 feet to Emory Pass.  Except for short sections near the top of the trail, where it traverses a hillside with slide material which has filled in the trail, this trail is in good condition.  The human intrusion of note is a very rusty jerry can tied to a tree with barbwire at a level section of trail where it goes through a beautiful Ponderosa Pine forest.  On summer days it will be very hot because of extensive sections of open southern exposure.  Highway 152 is often in view below the trail.  Portions of this trail burned in the Silver Fire of 2013.

MP - 39.1

Roadcuts are through the Rubio Peak Formation.  Outcrops of Precambrian Pickett Springs granite in the area have been dated to 1.6 billion years before present.

MP - 38.6

Roadcuts are through Pennsylvanian limestone.

MP - 36.1

The Silver Fire burn area is clearly visible to the south as you climb the mountain toward Emory Pass.  See the Silver Fire Blog for details of the fire - as it happened.  Plants in this area include Pondeosa Pine, Mountain Laurel, Alligator-bark Juniper, Squaw Apple, and oak species.

MP - 36

Roadcut is through Devonian Percha Shale.

MP - 35.8

Roadcut exposes a fault on the eastern margin of the Emory Caldera horst block.

MP 35.6 

South Percha Creek.  The trail starts at a turnout on the south side of Highway 152.  From the turnout an “abandoned” road (picture right) travels down to the stream bed.  The grade is moderate and there are many softball sized rocks requiring careful placement of the feet to avoid twisting an ankle.

Portions of this old road
burned in the Silver Fire of 2013, as did the Black Range generally.  The fire tended to be very spotty except along the high ridges where practically everything burned.

The old road ends at its intersection with South Percha Creek which flows from the canyon to the right.  Drummond Canyon is more or less in front of you as you stand at the base of the road and look across the stream.  Turn right and go up Percha Creek.  There are a number of old shafts and diggings in this area (Gray Eagle Mine) as well as the ruins of some old mining shacks.  The way up the stream valley is by following game trails and bushwhacking.

The stream flows down the mountain in a very narrow stream canyon.  After about a mile the canyon broadens into beautiful flats with large pines.  The area is mostly clear of low vegetation.  Half way through this extensive “flat and broad” area thee is a spring at the old cabin site (cabin long gone).  Status of this area is undetermined after the fire.

At this point a way back to Highway 152 leads up the canyon to the north following an old trail, very hard to decipher, very grown-up, but a gentle grade with beautiful views back into the valley.  The “trail” intersects NM-152 at about MP 34.8.  It is close to impossible to locate this “trail” head if you don’t have good directions, the trail is not discernible - it is simply a way forward which is less overgrown than its surroundings.  Not obvious at all.

Unless you know the location of the old trail it is probably best to bushwack back down South Percha to the old road.

MP - 35 

Mississippian and Pennsylvanian strata, including significant marble layers are found throughout this area, including the South Percha and Drummond Canyon creek beds.

MP - 33

The rock from here to the summit is Rubio Peak volcaniclastic.

MP 31.7

Emory Pass Overlook is at the end of a short road to the right.  Emory Pass is 8,828 feet in elevation.  Trails to the north (Hillsboro Peak [10,020 feet in elevation] and beyond) and south (Sawyer’s Peak [9,660 feet in elevation] and beyond).  These trails were heavily burned during the Silver Fire.

The road over Emory Pass was dedicated on August 18, 1938.  Total construction cost was $750,000 over several years.

Looking east from the overlook you can see the Rio Grande River, Caballo Reservoir, and the Caballo Mountains.

The trail which starts near the Kingston Cemetery (MP 39.2) ends at the short access road to the overlook.


Watch our video of this road trip on

  The Roads of The Black Range 

portfolio on Vimeo to see all of our Auto Tour videos.  Or you can visit the individual segments of the tour by clicking below.

Segment 1: East of Hillsboro to Hillsboro

Trip Up The Warm Springs Canyon Road

Segment 2: Hillsboro to Kingston

Segment 3: NM-152 to Carbonate Creek on FR-157

Segment 4: Kingston to Emory Pass

The Percha Pools

South Wicks Canyon just prior to its confluence with Percha Creek.
Coyotes are found regularly in the area.
As are Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes.
All of  the trails and roads in this area provide access to rich flora communities.  Many types of cactus can be found in the area, for instance.
Percha Creek, at the “box”.
View as you turn the curve at MP 49.9.
The mill site on Warm Springs Wash now (above) and as it was in 1900.

Dramatic geologic features abound in this area.  At the Warm Springs/Percha confluence there is this example of tilting and an unconformity, in one feature.  This is the western fault of the Animas uplift.

Watch for bikes.

The Miller House is built from some of this slag from the old smelter.

With snow the streets can be

more deserted than usual.

The 1927 Bridge

Beautiful scenery along the way.
The unconformity at MP 45.1.
Pennsylvanian Limestone
Remains of the old road between Hillsboro and Kingston
The bridge at MP 43.1.
Star Peak (lit peak) seen from Hillsboro
Pennsylvanian Limestone
The bridge at 41.3.
Strawbale Construction Workshop in Kingston
American Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus), Black Bear, Wild Turkey, and sometimes Cougar are found in the Middle Percha Creek drainage.
Kingston Cemetery.  Medal of Honor Recipient Burial Site.
Trail 796 climbs for 2000 feet at  a moderate incline over its 4.5 miles.  It passes through a portion of the Silver Fire Burn (photo taken before the fire).
The Silver Fire of 2013 burn scar at MP 36.1.
Apache Plume which can be found along the side of the road at the start of this tour can still be found along the road 2,000 feet higher in elevation.
The old road cut down to South Percha Creek.  Photo above taken prior to the Silver Fire. The photo below, was taken shortly after the fire.

Marble strata in Drummond Canyon.

Emory Pass Overlook in winter.
The view from the Emory Pass View Point, looking east to the Caballo Mountains.  The Rio Grande is just visible at the base of the mountains.
Trail to Hillsboro Peak from Emory Pass Overlook in winter.  Before the Silver Fire of 2013.

This highway is part of the geronimo trail scenic byway

Designated by the Us department of transportation, federal Highway administration

  1. N.Percha Rd.


Emory Pass