Aldo Leopold Wilderness, along with Gila Wilderness and Blue Range Wilderness, is part of New Mexico's Gila National Forest. It became part of the National Wilderness Preservation System in 1980 by an act of the United States Congress and has a total of 202,016 acres (81,753 ha). The wilderness area lies along the crest of the Black Range. The Continental Divide of the Americas traverses parts of the wilderness. The area with the Aldo Leopold Wilderness was formerly part of the Gila Wilderness, the World's first Wilderness Area, established in 1924. Later, the Gila was reduced in size and this area became the Black Range Primitive Area. In 1980, the Aldo Leopold Wilderness was created, named after Aldo Leopold, a pioneering environmentalist.
The Aldo Leopold Wilderness area stretches north-south along the crest of the Black Range for about 30 miles (50km) and has a maximum width of about 15 miles (25km). The elevation of the crest ranges from 8,600 feet (2,622 mts) to 10,165 feet (3,099 mts) at McKnight Mountain, the highest point in the Wilderness area. The crest of the range overlooks a series of east-west trending steep and narrow stream valleys, one thousand or more feet deep. The lowest elevation in the Wilderness area is about 6,000 feet (1,829mts).