Summit Trail

MODERATE 2 reviews
#33 of 38 trails in

Summit Trail is a 15.7 mile out and back trail located near Capitan, New Mexico that offers scenic views and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking and is best used from March until November.

DISTANCE
15.7 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
4412 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

hiking

views

hiking
14 days ago

A friend & I decided to try this again. Last year we were stopped by a ferocious afternoon rain storm.

The first part is fairly straight forward and the trail easy to follow. After the first couple of miles and first major bend, the trail becomes difficult to see and remains that way off and on throughout. The higher one goes, the more frequency the trail is obscured by shrubs, aspens, etc. It is painfully obvious that there has been no trail work done in years, perhaps even more than a decade. The constant thickets one encounters sometimes pushes you off the trail, which can be quite precarious as there is very little level land and talus slopes or narrow bands of mud are the only way through. Compounding this in our trip was the rain. Throughout our 11 hour hike, at least 7 hours were spent in varying degrees of rain intensity. The talus slopes especially were treacherous, both up and down. To be frank, I am amazed neither of us sprained our ankles. Adding to the difficulty were the trees in the middle of the visible or non-visible trail. We had to go over or under at least 75 of them, both on the way up and down. At times we were having to cross several at the same time. Other times we were given only a few steps of respite before another fallen giant was in our way. This became exhausting and time consuming, not to mention slippery, due to the rain. An added insult were the various sized branches sticking from these trees, constantly poking and prodding and drawing blood.
We did finally manage to reach the top, only to see........fog....really thick fog...trail-obscuring fog. While not able to enjoy the view, we did have a tremendous sense of accomplishment. However, the temperature was dropping rapidly ( 52 degrees the last time we checked ), the wind was increasing and we were soaked. At this point we had to rely on a compass to get back down, eventually intersecting with the trail again.
On the way up and down, there were some spectacular views ( wish we could see them from the summit ). Another bonus ( or detriment, depending on one's situation ) was the isolation. We saw no one. Even on the road to the trailhead there was no one. With that said, until this trail has some major and time-consuming repairs done to it, I would only recommend this loop for very experienced and fit hikers. We had luck, some skill and stubbornness on our side, but truth be told there were times when we were both worried and completely exhausted. During those times, luck can run out. Thankfully it did not for us.

2 months ago

I hiked this trail in March. The trail was pretty overgrown with thorn bushes. I made it 5 miles before my dog and I could not cross the amount of dead and fallen trees. It was a fun hike but I was wearing shorts and by the time I got back to the trailhead my legs were scratched pretty badly and every step hurt. The trail needs some serious maintenance and the final mile or two towards Capitan Peak were not passable without doing some 'balance beam' moves over the downed trees.