Cerro Pedernal – Cañones, New Mexico - Atlas Obscura

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Cerro Pedernal

Cañones, New Mexico

A flat-topped butte that makes a constant backdrop for Western art. 


In northern New Mexico, a flat-topped butte rises high above the desert, its distinctive shape offering a landmark that anchors the geography and communities around it. This is Cerro Pedernal, a mesa that rises 9,862 feet above sea level and dominates the local skyline.

Pedernal means flint in Spanish, and was so named for the rock that is strewn about its lower slopes. The native Gallina Puebloans made much use of the plentiful resource, turning it into arrowheads, knives, and other tools. Old Spanish mine shafts have also been found in the vicinity.

The distinctive peak has become a symbol of the region and is often featured in local art. It became a major motif in the paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe, both as a background and a subject. She once claimed, “It’s my private mountain. It belongs to me. God told me if I painted it enough, I could have it.” The mountain was so important to her that when she died in 1986, her ashes were scattered across its summit.

Know Before You Go

Cerro Pedernal can be viewed from many places across the Abiquiu region. To climb it, one most commonly starts from the trailhead in Temolime Canyon, south of Youngsville. Following GPS directions to “36.142100, -106.515620” will do just fine. There is mostly an established trail leading close to the top. To get to the summit, a bit of Class 3 climbing is required. At the summit, one can easily see Lake Abiquiu, the Jemez Mountains, and on clear days, even some peaks in Colorado.

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February 11, 2022

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