Hillsboro to Emory Pass 

hillsboro to emory pass map

Road Videos

Watch our road videos of this section of NM-152 at the:

  The Roads of
The Black Range

video portfolio.  Or if you wish, you can follow the links below to access individual videos directly:

South Wicks Canyon just prior to its confluence with Percha Creek.

Among the walks which start at the North Wicks Canyon gate (left) are:

  • Walk to Black Peak; &
  • Walk to Wick’s Mine.

Coyotes are regularly found
 in this area. 

Western Diamondback
Rattlesnakes are also regularly found in this area. 

Among the walks which start at the south gate to Ready Pay Gulch (left) are:

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 Box

Looking west from the curve
at MP 49.9.

At MP 49.7 a roadcut with
distinct bedding can be seen.

The Mill Site on Percha Creek
 just below its confluence
with Warm Springs Wash,
as it appeared in 1900 (above)
and in 2015 (below).

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.  This section of NM-152 is part of the Geronimo Trail Scenic Byway.

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.  

Just prior to the formal start of this auto tour, there is a dirt road which exits NM-152 to the north, signed “Copper Flat Project” this is the road to the old mining town of Andrews, a route covered in the Road to Andrews road video.


The Beginning of the foothills.  Our Auto Tour starts here: East of Hillsboro to Hillsboro.


12 miles from the Junction of Highway 152 and Interstate 25.  A gate (above) on the south side of road provides access to South Wick’s Canyon.  The walk to Percha Creek from here 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 (below) 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 what is left of the support foundations for 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, growing on limestone.  There are many walks which originate at this site, see our Black Range Walks page.


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 below) 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 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).  It is possible to follow this road to the Bigelow Mine; see the Trip Up The Warm Springs Canyon Road road video.


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 left 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.  

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 left).  See video of this area in  Trip Up The Warm Springs Canyon Road.


Entrance to Hillsboro.  See the Hillsboro page.  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 (photo right). 

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 the Hillsboro to Nutt video and page.


The US Post Office 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 Tuesday 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.  The Hillsboro to Kingston on NM-152 video begins at this point.

MP - 46.1 

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 (photo above).  Locally it is known as the “high bridge”.  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 below).  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 - 44.9

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 (photo below).

MP - 44.4

Road cuts are through Pennsylvanian Limestone (photo below).

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 north, right as you travel west (photo below).  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.  It is seen below, as seen from Hillsboro, lit in the early morning light.

MP - 43.1

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

MP - 42.9

Ranch Headquarters is on the south (left) side of the road.

MP - 42.1

Roadcuts are through Pennsylvanian Limestone (photo above).

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 157, to the right (north) provides access to many hiking areas including; Carbonate Creek, North Percha Creek, and Cave Creek.  

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 (photo below) was built 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.

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

220px-Albert B. Fall

Teapot Dome conspirators Edward Laurence Doheny (photo right top) and Albert Bacon Fall  (photo right middle) knew each other from their days in Kingston.  Doheny 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.  Some of the tales are more imaginative than others, after all, McKenna did work in the lead mines on Cooke’s Peak.

Rhodes Tully & Hughes 1922 2

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 (photo right bottom) 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.

The Kingston to Emory Pass Road Video starts at this point.

MP 39.2

Kingston Cemetery.  Medal of Honor Recipient, James McNally, Burial Site.  McNally, who was a member of the 8th U.S. Cavalry, was born in Ireland and was awarded his Medal of Honor on September 6, 1869 for action in 1868 and 1869, in the Arizona Territory.  

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 to the right is at the beginning of the trail.  It and the photo below, which is taken near the beginning of the trail were taken on March 16, 2013.  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.  In 2018 one section of the trail had much down timber, but was otherwise passable.

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 Blogs to Book 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 below) 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 photograph above was taken on July 13, 2013.)

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 (mostly burned by the Silver Fire).  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 there 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.

© Robert Barnes 2018-2021