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Geologic Tour of the Southern Rocky Mountains

Tour site types: State Parks  Federal Parks  Other Features
(Click map to hide/show the physiographic province overlay.)

Brief Description

The Southern Rocky Mountain province is a mountainous terrain that includes some of the highest peaks in New Mexico (e.g., Wheeler Peak at 13,161 ft.). The mountain ranges that are considered to be part of the Southern Rocky Mountains include the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the Tusas Mountains, and the Sierra Nacimiento. The Proterozoic rocks exposed in the cores of these uplifts preserve a remarkable record of the assembly of the North American continent 1.6 to 1.7 billion years ago. All three of these ranges were highlands during three younger mountain-building events that have affected New Mexico: Pennsylvanian Ancestral Rockies deformation, Late Cretaceous-early Tertiary Laramide compressional deformation, and Miocene to Pliocene Rio Grande extensional rift flank uplift. The northerly-trending Rio Grande rift bisects the Southern Rocky Mountains of northern New Mexico. The exhumed remnants of a Late Oligocene to Early Miocene caldera associated with the Latir volcanic field are exposed in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains northeast of Taos. This volcanic activity resulted in molybdenum and other mineralization near Questa. The enchanting mountains of northern New Mexico hold a wealth of geologic stories!

Taos Range
Figure 2 — The Taos Range viewed from just west o Arroyo Hondo, NM. Wheeler Peak, the highest point in NM at 13,160', is the snowy peak just above the road.
Adam Read


  1. Bauer, P. W., Lucas, S. G., Mawer, C. K., McIntosh, W. C., eds., 1990, Tectonic Development of the Southern Sangre de Cristo Mountains, New Mexico New Mexico Geological Society, 41st Fall Field Conference Guidebook, 450 pages.
  2. Bauer, P. W., Kues, B. S., Dunbar, N. W., Karlstrom, K. E., Harrison, B., eds., 1995, Geology of the Santa Fe Region: New Mexico Geological Society, 46th Fall Field Conference Guidebook, 338 pages.
  3. Brister, B., Bauer, P. W., Read, A. S., Lueth, V. W., eds., 2004, Geology of the Taos Region: New Mexico Geological Society, 55th Fall Field Conference Guidebook, 440 pages.