Using the day I gained in my schedule by departing Albuquerque, New Mexico early, I decided to stop by Gallup, New Mexico, a small city on Historic Route 66 on the western side of the state near the Arizona border. Gallup is adjacent to Church Rock, a census-designated area in McKinley County that has boundaries that include Red Rock Park, a park with a convention center, a museum, campgrounds, and rodeo grounds.
My hike of choice in Gallup was the Pyramid Rock Trail, with the trailhead starting deep beyond the horse stalls and extending to the summit of Pyramid Rock, the highest point of the park.
This was a fairly well-trafficked trail, so it was a very pleasant hike. The path was clearly marked a majority of the time, and in areas where there might be some confusion, there were rock towers built by other hikers to show people the way. (I contributed a rock to one of the towers.)
I’m great at falling for false summits, and it happened again on this trail. It seems like I took a wrong turn at one of the intersections, because I ended up in a dead end with a moderately nice view.
This clearly wasn’t Pyramid Rock, though, because I could see the actual summit off in the distance. It seems like I wasn’t the only one fooled, because there was another woman there with me. I took in the view for a bit, snapped some photos, then retraced my steps back to the intersection to take the other path.
As I got closer and closer to the summit, I realized that I was clearly getting closer distance-wise, but not necessarily height-wise. This hinted me towards the fact that there is probably a tough, steep, strenuous climb right before the summit (and I ended up being correct).
I didn’t bring any snacks and only had a single bottle of Powerade Zero, so I was mildly concerned about running out of energy, especially at this elevation of about 7,000 feet above sea level, and also considering that I was already getting tired.
As you might have guessed, I did indeed make it. Reaching the summit was very rewarding. There were a few people coming down from the summit who cheered me on and told me I was almost there. Once I got to the top, the sweeping 360° views were amazing. The woman I saw earlier at the other summit also joined me about 10 minutes later at the true summit of Pyramid Rock.
So far, I think this is one of my favorite hikes that I’ve ever done. If you’re a beginner who’s looking for a challenge to step up your hiking, I think this is a fantastic intermediate trail to try out.
This hike feels like a real hike and not just a walking trail. There are sufficient obstacles, but the more difficult ones are assisted (i.e., the steepest rocks you have to scale have cut-outs for your feet). The path isn’t just a mindless straight line; you’re not going to constantly get lost, but you do have to use your eyes to look around and think about where you’re going to go next, which I think adds an important element of mental stimulation to the hike.
I also think the summit is very important—it’s pretty disappointing when you reach the end of the trail and there isn’t really much there. The view from the summit here couldn’t get any better—not only is there a view from all different directions, but I’d go far as to say that each quadrant of the view had unique elements that made it look like you were at multiple summits at once.
The hike down was obviously much easier, and I managed to survive only having a single bottle of Powerade… though I did eat two protein bars that I had in one of my storage boxes once I got back to my truck. If you’re going on this hike and aren’t used to high elevations with lower oxygen saturation, it definitely wouldn’t hurt to bring some snacks along with you.