Cibola NF--Fourth of July Canyon

About this Location

Fourth of July Campground is a popular camping area 50 miles southwest of Albuquerque, with access to several trails that lead into the Manzano Mountains. The campground is only accessible to tents and pop-up campers as the area cannot accommodate larger RVs. The site is open from April to November but is most popular in the fall when the colors are popping. Surround yourself with brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows from the large stand of maple and oak trees!

About Cibola National Forest

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Cibola National Forest covers more than 1.6 million acres and includes mountains, grasslands, wilderness, and forests. The name Cibola comes from the Zuni word for their tribal lands, which the Spanish later translated as "buffalo". The forest is home black bears, cougars, elk, and pronghorn. Cibola National Forest offers many recreational opportunities including hiking, camping, fishing, hunting, and skiing. It also has cultural and historical significance, as it contains ancient Native American sites and historic trails.

The National Forest has four ranger districts: Sandia, Mountainair, Magdalena, and Mount Taylor. In addition, the Cibola has four wilderness areas: Sandia Mountain, Manzano Mountain, Withington, and Apache Kid.

About Manzano Mountain Wilderness

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The 36,875-acre Manzano Mountain Wilderness Area is located in the Mountainair Ranger District. It was designated as a wilderness area in 1978. The word “Manzano” is Spanish for apple trees, which is what explorers discovered on the eastern edge of the mountains back in the early 1700s. Apple trees are not native to this part of the country, so the mountains were named because of the discovery of these old apple trees.

Spread out across the western slope of the Manzano Mountain Range, this wilderness varies in elevation from about 6,000 feet to 10,098 feet. The terrain is steep and rugged cut with canyons and marked with outcroppings of rock. Thousands of raptors migrate along the Manzanos in spring and fall as they work their way between Canada and Mexico.

Vegetation consists of piñon and juniper at lower heights, gradually taken over by ponderosa pine and then spruce, fir, and aspen higher up. More than 64 miles of a well-developed trail system provide access to the wilderness.

Running for some 40 miles through central New Mexico, east of the Llano de Manzano and west of Estancia Valley, the Manzano Mountains are one of four seemingly connected north-south oriented ranges; from north to south these ranges are the Sandia, the Manzanita, the Manzano, and the Los Pinos Mountains. The southern end of the Manzano Mountains is generally agreed to be Abo Canyon (also known as Abo Arroyo), through which travels US-60. USGS maps show Hell Canyon (Hells Canyon on other maps), on the western slope, as dividing the northern end of the Manzanos from the southern end of the Manzanitas. Hell Canyon is Pueblo of Isleta tribal land, at the northeast corner of Valencia County. Tribal Road 12 extends east into the canyon. 

Manzano Peak, at 10,098 FASL the highest point in the range, is part of the 36,875 acre Manzano Wilderness, situated on the range’s western slope. Most of the Manzano Mountains are located within Cibola National Forest, though tribal, state and private land may be found within the range. A relatively small parcel adjoining the wilderness has been designated as a Wilderness Study Area and is administered by the Bureau of Land Management. 

Torrance County encompasses almost all of the Manzanos, though some western portions of the range lie within Valencia County (and possibly by some interpretations, a northeast corner of Socorro County), whereas the northernmost portion is in Bernalillo County. As of summer 2023, there are no Manzano Mountains hotspots in Bernalillo or Socorro counties.

Notable Trails

The AllTrails website has a description and map of a hike in the Fourth of July Canyon.

Content from Official Website, Cibola National Forest Official Website, Cibola National Forest Wilderness Areas, and John Montgomery