Withington Wilderness

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Withington Wilderness
IUCN category Ib (wilderness area)
SanMateos SE of Withington.jpg
The view of the San Mateo Mountains, southeast of the Withington Wilderness Area.
Map showing the location of Withington Wilderness
Map showing the location of Withington Wilderness
Location New Mexico, United States
Nearest city Magdalena, NM
Coordinates 33°53′46″N 107°27′32″W / 33.896°N 107.459°W / 33.896; -107.459[1]Coordinates: 33°53′46″N 107°27′32″W / 33.896°N 107.459°W / 33.896; -107.459[1]
Governing body U.S. Forest Service, Cibola National Forest
A map of the San Mateo Mountains showing the Apache Kid and Withington Wilderness Areas. The map also indicates the locations of Inventoried Roadless Areas.

The Withington Wilderness is a 19,000-acre Wilderness area within the Magdalena Ranger District of the Cibola National Forest.[2] The Withington sits within the northern section and on the eastern slope of the San Mateo Mountains in Socorro County, New Mexico, United States. The Withington Wilderness was designated by Congress in 1980. The Withington Wilderness ranges from 6,800 feet to 10,100 feet atop Mount Withington. While the origin of the name for Mount Withington is unclear, it has been suggested that Major George M. Wheeler, leader of the Wheeler Survey, one of the major surveys of the western United States in the late nineteenth century, may have named the peak for William Herbert Withington (1835-1903), a Union Officer in the Civil War.[3] The 8,039-acre White Cap Inventoried Roadless Area is directly adjacent to the Withington Wilderness. The Apache Kid Wilderness, also in the San Mateo Mountains, lies due south of the Withington Wilderness. To the north of the Withington Wilderness and San Mateo Mountains is the world-renowned Very Large Array radio telescope observatory.

Plants & Wildlife

The topography in the northern San Mateo Mountains is gentler than in the south, but still contains deep canyons, high ridgelines and generally dry conditions. Winters are cold enough to bring snow, and during July and August, the desert "monsoon" season, rainwater may flood narrow canyons.[4] The vegetation ranges from pine, spruce, and fir at high elevations to pinion and juniper farther down. Near the eastern boundary, at the lowest elevation in the Wilderness, ocotillo stands are found.[5] Habitats in the Withington Wilderness support populations of mountain lion, black bear, elk, mule deer, coyote, turkey and quail. A portion of the Wilderness is critical habitat for the threatened Mexican spotted owl. The greater San Mateo Mountains were identified as a key conservation area by The Nature Conservancy due to their ecological diversity and species richness.[6]

Wildlife in the Withington Wilderness Area
The Withington Wilderness contains critical habitat for the threatened Mexican spotted owl. 
The Withington Wilderness is home to healthy populations of elk. 
A black bear in Cibola National Forest
A mule deer fawn in the snow. 


Quiet recreation opportunities including hiking, backbacking, stargazing, hunting, and horseback-riding are ample in the Withington Wilderness. The wild scenery is spectacular, with dramatic views from the top of ridgelines and open canyons available for exploration. Two developed campgrounds – Bear Trap and Hughes Mills – located just outside the Wilderness provide hiking access to Mount Withington.

See also


  1. ^ "Withington Wilderness". Lat-long.com. 
  2. ^ "Withington Wilderness". Wilderness.net. 
  3. ^ Julyan, Robert (1996). The Place Names of New Mexico. University of New Mexico Press. 
  4. ^ "Cibola's Four Wilderness Areas". Cibola National Forest. 
  5. ^ "Withington Wilderness". Wilderness.net. 
  6. ^ The Nature Conservancy (2004). Chapter 10: Ecological & Biological Diversity of the Cibola National Forest, Mountain Districts in Ecological and Biological Diversity of National Forests in Region 3. 

External Links & Further Reading

  • Cibola National Forest official website
  • Socorro County InfoNet
  • New Mexico Game and Fish
  • Bear Trap Campground
  • Hughes Mills Campground
  • Ungnade, H. E. 1972. Guide to the New Mexico Mountains. University of New Mexico Press.
  • Juylan, R. 1999. New Mexico's Wilderness Areas: The Complete Guide. Westcliff Pub Inc.
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