Trail Update: Hiking Report from Taos Ski Valley

​Hike to Williams Lake, Summit the Tallest Mountain, Wheeler Peak or enjoy intermediate hiking trails in New Mexico

View Wheeler Peak Webcam

March 8, 2018 Hiking Report

Williams Lake Trail #62 ~ From the trailhead to the lake, the trail is entirely snowpacked consisting of packed powder and isolated suncrusts, due to heavy use most sections are slick ~ ice cleats and/or good tread may be preferred. Snow depths range from 15 to 34 inches, with a few isolated areas in the meadows near the top where the trail is in the sun and the snow is thinner with exposed ground on the uphill side.  In the forest the trail is surrounded by either soft, recycled powder or denser windslabs that do not support a hiker’s weight, snowshoes or skis are recommended to travel off-trail.

Near the top where the trWilliams Lake Hiking Report 2018 Taos Ski Valleyail traverses the northwest facing slope on the last uphill towards the saddle above the lake, wind has moved snow and filled in the slope so the trail is at an angle for about 300 feet that requires stable footing, and hiking poles can help maintain stability.  From the saddle to the lake the snow is thin a
nd the terrain rocky, this south-facing section is in the sun during the afternoon so the snow softens and there are some postholes left from previous hikers to watch out for.

The slopes right above the lake have about a foot of Spring-like snow with exposed grasses and willows showing.  There is about a foot of windblown snow on the lake, it's deeper on the east side where winds deposit snow in drifts, and thinner on the west side of the lake.  Hiking around the west side of the lake we were post-holing up to our shins, would recommend skis or snowshoes to travel beyond the Williams Lake sign.

Avalanche hazard ~ where the trail crosses the avalanche chutes below the west side of Wheeler’s north ridge (Peace Chute and Fingers) ~ avalanche danger is moderate, the snowpack in the starting zones consists of layered windslabs and faceted temperature gradient snow.  It is unlikely to trigger an avalanche from the trail but possible that a slide could be triggered from above and run the entire length of the path.

The Wheeler Peak Trail #67 ~ from the saddle above Williams Lake to treeline this trail consists of unconsolidated, layered snow that does not support a hiker’s weight, average depth 25” and up to 42”.  Across some sections there are postholes left from a stray hiker probably during the past week.  Snowshoes or skis are necessary to travel along this route without postholing.  Above treeline westerly winds have scoured much of the terrain to the ground, leaving several inches of angled, solid snow packed onto the trail amidst bare ground and rocks.  Ice cleats or crampons are preferred to maintain stable footing on this type of surface.

Wheeler Peak Taos Ski Valley Hiking Report March 2018

Avalanche hazard
~ Where the trail crosses the avalanche gully on Wheeler’s Northwest side avalanche danger is low, the starting zone is holding very little snow and what is present is solid windslab above a layer of faceted temperature gradient snow, which is not continuous into the gully. It is unlikely an avalanche will occur here.  Where the trail crosses into the steeper chutes on Wheeler’s west face the danger increases to moderate with pockets of considerable, finding an alternate route is recommended.  Hard windslabs are sitting precariously above a couple feet of buried temperature gradient snow, it is possible to trigger a slab that that will run the entire lengths of these chutes.

Williams Lake

Discover Williams Lake in all its glory in the summertime, an intermediate-level, four-mile round trip hike from The Bavarian. The valley is forested with aspen, Englemann and blue spruce, western white fir, and rarely seen red fir and bristlecone pine. Lush meadows are colored with countless varieties of wildflowers and plants.

Wheeler Peak

Conquer New Mexico's highest peak. This 13,161-foot summit can be accessed by either Bull of the Woods Trail or Williams Lake Trail. Get a very early start for this expert level hike. Backcountry camping is allowed without a permit. Keep your eyes peeled for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, elk and mule deer.  Webcam view from Highline Ridge with a view of Wheeler Peak.


Waterproof boots and hiking poles are recommended for these high elevation hikes, with many trails still holding snow into early summer. Temperatures can vary greatly. Be prepared for cool weather and rain, and always carry extra water. Beware of lightning and stay off the ridges if thunderclouds are overhead. Depart for hikes early in the morning to avoid afternoon lightning and showers.

Carson National Forest - Taos Ski Valley Hiking Trails

Name of Trail Print Map
one way
Hiking Trail Horse Trail Cross Country Ski Trail Snowshoeing
Wilderness Area
Degree of Difficulty
Gavilan Trail
3.3miles X
X Intermediate/Expert
Italianos Canyon Trail 59
3.6 miles  X X   X X Intermediate
Long Canyon/Bull-Of-The-Woods
3.6 miles X X X X X Expert
Manzanita Canyon Trail 58
4.2 miles X X   X x Expert
Wheeler Peak Trail 90
8 miles X X X X X Expert
Williams Lake Trail 62
2 miles X X X X X Novice/Intermediate
Yerba Canyon Trail 61
3.9 miles X       X Expert


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