With an elevation of nearly 2500 meters, Cabezon Peak is the largest of over 50 volcanic formations that dot the otherwise barren and otherworldly desert shrubland of the Rio Puerco Valley, in New Mexico. It is a steep-sided and symmetrical basalt volcanic plug that formed during the eruptions of the Mount Taylor volcanic field millions of years ago. The basalt monolith is one of the most prominent landmarks in northwestern New Mexico, dominating the landscape.
This area badlands, canyons, and a diverse flora and fauna, and It is also here that one of the largest dinosaur skeletons ever discovered was found.
The name is derived from the Spanish noun “cabeza,” meaning “head” and Cabezon translates as “big head.” The peak is believed to have religious significance for the Pueblo and Navajo Indians, and remnants of their visits still exist.
Of course, numerous myths abound around this area, and a particularly popular Navajo legend explains that the peak and local lava flows came from a giant who was slain upon Mount Taylor, located to the west, by the Twin War Gods.
The giant’s severed head landed to the east, becoming Cabezon Peak. As the legend goes, the giant’s blood congealed to form the Malpais, or “bad land” volcanic flow to the south.
Spanish cultural sites are also found in this area, including the historic town of Cabezon with a century-old church that is still in use today, but also numerous remnants of abandoned homesteads along the banks of the Rio Puerco.
The views from the summit of Cabezon Peak are impressive, looking out over much of northern and central New Mexico. Accordingly, the hike to the top is a favorite among the EXPERT climbers.