The Magdalena Mountains are a regionally high, mountain range in Socorro County, in west-central New Mexico in the southwestern United States. The highest point in the range is South Baldy, at 10,783 ft, the range runs roughly north-south and is about 18 miles long. The range lies just south of the village of Magdalena, the Magdalena Mountains are an east-tilted fault-block range, superimposed on Cenozoic calderas. The complex geologic history of the range has resulted in spectacular scenery, with unusual and they form part of the western edge of the Rio Grande Rift Valley, fronting the La Jencia Basin. The mountains remain isolated and natural due to the absence of any significant human development within or near the range, the range takes its name from a volcanic peak on the west side, named Magdalena Peak, after Mary Magdalene. A talus formation and shrub growth on the east slope of Magdalena Peak is said to resemble a womans face. ”Most of the Magdalena Mountains are within the Magdalena Ranger District of the Cibola National Forest, and parts are also administered by the Bureau of Land Management. While there are no designated Wilderness areas in the range, the Ryan Hill Inventoried Roadless Area is sizeable, in 1980, Public Law 96-550 established Langmuir Research Site in the Magdalena Mountains. Congress found the mountains uniquely suited for atmospheric and astronomical research which has conducted at Langmuir Laboratory near South Baldy since the mid-1960s. The Act designated a 31,000 acre portion of the mountain as essentially roadless, there is overlap between the Ryan Hill IRA and the congressionally designated Langmuir Research Site management area. Directly adjacent to the boundary of the Ryan Hill IRA lies the Devil’s Reach Wilderness Study Area. The Devils Reach WSA and its neighboring Devil’s Backbone WSA are both managed by the BLM, the Ryan Hill IRA, Devils Reach WSA, and Devils Backbone WSA combine to form a 44, 050-acre contiguous roadless area on the southern end of the range. A well-established network of trails exists in the Magdalena Mountains, providing adundant hiking, backpacking, hunting, horseback-riding, the Forest Service notes that there are over 60 miles of trails in the Magdalenas. Over half of the trails are in the Ryan Hill Inventoried Roadless Area, the Water Canyon Campground is a developed campsite located at 6,800 ft elevation in the Magdalenas. Visiting scientists at Langmuir also study bats, hummingbirds, butterflies, the same area hosts the Magdalena Ridge Observatory Interferometer, also operated by New Mexico Tech, along with other institutions. The history of the Magdalena Mountains is intimately linked with the history of the surrounding area. Bands of Apache effectively controlled the Magdalena-Datil region from the century until they were defeated in the Apache Wars in the late nineteenth century. A mining rush followed the Apache wars – gold, silver, in fact, the last regularly used cattle trail in the United States stretched 125 miles westward from Magdalena. The route was known as the Magdalena Livestock Driveway, but more popularly known to cowboys
The view looking southwest at Sawmill Canyon, near the Langmuir Research Site in the Magdalena Mountains.
Looking southwest at the Rio Grande Valley from a high ridgeline along the Timber Peak Trail within the Magdalena Mountains.