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Aldo Leopold Wilderness

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A large forested hill, mottled with stripes of evergreen trees and large groves of deciduous trees in bright yellow autumn color.
Library image #609: McKnight Mountain


The United States Congress designated the Aldo Leopold Wilderness (map) in 1980 and it now has a total of 203,524 acres. All of this wilderness is located in New Mexico and is managed by the Forest Service.


This Wilderness, which straddles the crest of the Black Range and contains the most rugged and wild portion of these mountains, pays tribute to one of the greatest pioneers of Wilderness preservation. Only Forest Service Road 150 separates it from the even larger Gila Wilderness, recognized on June 3, 1924, as the world's first designated Wilderness area, a direct result of Leopold's efforts.

The Black Range shoots out in a network of deep canyons and precipitous timbered ridges, rincons, and forested benches-a land of superlative beauty and unbroken serenity. Juniper, pinion pine, and oak dominate up to about 7,000 feet, at which point other pines, fir, spruce, and aspen take over the woodland.

Vista points here sometimes drop off as much as 1,000 feet to rivers and streams verdantly outlined by cottonwoods, willows, and elders. And while some springs flow throughout the year, other springs and streams dry up at times.

One thing that never dwindles is the wealth of critters, from bats to bears, coyotes, foxes, skunks, raccoons, ringtail cats, bobcats, mountain lions, squirrels, rats, mice, and voles, along with a multitude of songbirds, plus frogs, lizards, and snakes.

The Continental Divide cuts across the center ridgeline of the Wilderness, and a 33-mile-plus section (with many miles of trails) of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDT) forms a portion of the southern boundary. Consider devoting a large chunk of time to exploring this area. When you discover the bounty that awaits you, you won't regret it.

Planning to Visit the Aldo Leopold Wilderness?

Leave No Trace

How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the Aldo Leopold Wilderness.
  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors
For more information on Leave No Trace, Visit the Leave No Trace, Inc. website.

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