Bear Scat and Rocky Top Trails in the Manzanita Mountains

Bear Scat Trail, Manzanita Mountains, Cibola National Forest, New Mexico
Wiyo heading out on the Bear Scat Trail


This is an easy hike, about an hour and a half each way at a gentle pace. It’s a good fall through spring hike; if you try it in the summer, get an early start. The terrain is forgiving and the route alternates between woods (piñons, junipers, and a few ponderosas) and meadows. You can find a trail map for the area here.


Motorized bikes are allowed on most of the local trails. If you hike on a weekday, you’re more likely to enjoy peace and quiet.


Access is via Juan Tomás Road, which turns into dirt and can be rutted. High clearance vehicles should have no problems when the road dry, but avoid it during or just after wet weather (besides, the trail will be muddy). To reach the trailhead, head south on NM 337 from Tijeras. As you get to 35 deg. 1.976 min. N, 106 deg. 21.342 min. W, use the deceleration lane to turn off the highway onto Juan Tomás Road. This meanders eastward past homes, and eventually the pavement ends. At 35 deg. 2.078 min N, 106 deg. 19.235 min. W, pull off to the right and park (at 7480 feet).


To begin the hike, cross the road, pass through the break in the pipe fence, and head mostly northward on the Bear Scat Trail (05027). At 35 deg. 2.620 min. N, 106 deg. 18.866 min. W, the path forks; take the left fork and continue northward. The Bear Scat Trail now climbs toward a saddle in the local ridge. 


At 35 deg. 3.069 min. N, 106 deg. 19.032 min. W, just before reaching the saddle, turn right onto a less obvious path, the Rocky Top Trail (05610). This is steep and rocky but only 350 meters long. Partway up the slope you’ll pass a sign stating that you’re entering private land, but that information is obsolete; in fact you’re entering Sedillo Ridge Open Space. You’ll top out at 35 deg. 3.092 min. N, 106 deg. 18.811 min. W, on a wide flat-topped ridge known as Rocky Top. The high point on the ridge is at 7753 feet. The Rocky Top Trail, Rocky Top, and the Sedillo Ridge Open Space in general are closed to motorbikes.


Rocky Top Trail, Manzanita Mountains, Cibola National Forest, New Mexico
On Rocky Top, with the Manzano Mountains in the distance. Photo by Wiyo.


The open space has been thinned, but even so there’s no spot with a 360 degree view. Instead, wander about the ridge top and find a shady lunch spot with a view of the Sandia Mountains, the Manzano Mountains, or the High Plains to the east. Afterwards, retrace your steps to complete the hike. Once off Rocky Top, consider turning right at the junction of the Bear Scat and Rocky Top Trails and walking the final 65 meters to the saddle.


If you’re looking for a loop hike, you can take the Poker Chip Trail (05612) from the saddle back to Juan Tomás Road. That trail dumps you off at the road a third of a mile from where you parked, so be prepared for a bit of road walking to complete the loop.