East of Silver City and west of Hillsboro, the Black Range Crest Trail (#79) is a 36 mile hiking route with elevations ranging from 7,500 feet to 10,000 with spectacular views of rugged canyons, the Rio Grande River valley to the east, and the Gila Wilderness and Mogollon Mountains to the west. Following the length of the Back Range is an exceptionally rewarding experience. This trail is broken into two segments, each beginning at Emery Pass on NM 152. Trail 79 going north toward Hillsboro Peak is almost all wilderness and suitable only for hiking and horseback. It traverses the hightest peaks in the range as it follows along the crest through ponderosa pine, mixed conifer, and aspen forests. Its about 27.7 miles from the trail head to Reeds Peak where it connects with Continental Divide Trial 74. The segment of #79 that goes south from Emery Pass towards Sawyers Peak is 8.3 miles and terminates at Forest Road 886. This out-and-back segment passes through dense forests with few view points, and is the only section open to mountain bikes.
To reach the trailhead from the town of Hillsboro go 17.8 miles east on NM 152. At the crest of the Black Range turn right (east) at Emery Pass Vista and go one-tenth mile to the vista parking area. The trail head for #79 going north toward Hillsboro Peak is just before you enter the parking area. Parking for #79 going south toward Sawyers Peak is on the west side of NM 152 across from the turnoff to Emery Pass Vista. From Silver City go east on U.S. 180 about six miles then turn left on NM 152. Follow NM 152 about 32.5 miles to Emery Pass Vista.
The five-mile segment of Trail 79 from Emery Pass to the fire lookout on Hillsboro Peak is a popular day hike with exceptional mountain vistas. Bear, cougar, bobcat, deer, and elk inhabit the mountain but are seldom seen in the rugged terrain and dense forest. There are wild turkey and an abundance of forest songbirds such as Acorn Woodpecker, Hermit Thrush, Mountain Chickadee, Nuthatch, Titmouse, and a variety of warblers. There is prime habitat for the Mexican Spotted Owl and Peregrine Falcon.
The Black Range is aptly named. In past times it was also know as Sierra Diablo, the Devil Range. Its deep canyons and steep, densely forested slopes give the range a darkly ominous and impenetrable appearance on the horizon. The Range is about 70 miles long and runs north and south. It parallels the Rio Grande River to the east and the Mimbres River to the west. Caution: Altitude sickness is a potential problem for those coming to this altitude from lower elevations.