The Best Winter Hikes in Taos Ski Valley

One of the allures of skiing is being outside in the mountains, surrounded by forests and amazing views in every direction.  We love the thrilling feeling of sliding down the mountain on snow, but it isn't always for everyone.  There are some wonderful ways to experience the outdoors here, if you wish to find solitude, peace and quiet surrounded by the beauty of a snowy scene or enjoy a hike with your family and best friends, opportunities abound from casual day hikes to alpine trekking and peak-bagging. The Village of Taos Ski Valley is a perfect base camp for your adventures - surrounded by wilderness areas and hundreds of thousands of acres of public land.  Check the weather forecast and grab your sturdy boots, snowshoes and hiking poles, and of course bring a camera because the views from our local trails are incredible! If you don't have snowshoes, rentals are available at Cottam's Ski Shop, and Taos Snowshoe Adventures provides guided tours for any ability level.

The Carson National Forest is home to dozens of awesome trails, some of the best for winter hiking are accessible right from our village.  One of our favorites is good for a casual hike or if your goal is a winter climb to the top of Wheeler Peak - the Bull of the Woods trail which begins by Twining Road in the main parking lot.  Being so close to the village this trail becomes tracked down quickly after a snowstorm providing a solid base for your snowshoes.  It climbs through the forest for two miles towards a beautiful open meadow, from here you can continue towards Bull of the Woods Mountain and the Wheeler Peak trail which crosses La Cal Basin and Mount Walter on the way to the highest summit in New Mexico.  Continuing to Wheeler is an expert level hike, it's 8 miles from the trailhead to the peak so an alpine start (before or close to sunrise) is recommended, bring plenty of snacks and water for this one.  When you venture above treeline you may not be the only one on this trail, bighorn sheep are often seen where the trail crosses the ridgeline from Frazer Mountain to Wheeler, these majestic creatures live in the high terrain all winter where alpine grasses provide their staple food supply.  The views of the ski slopes from the trail are incredible, maybe the rams enjoy it as much as we do!

Another expert level hike from Bull of the Woods trail is Gold Hill.  When you reach the junction with the Wheeler Peak Trail look for the sign pointing left for Goose Lake.  This is the one to take if you want to bag a peak that's a bit easier than Wheeler but still spend a bit of time finding solitude in the wilderness, the trail isn't as heavily used as others and your snowshoes will be helpful.  This is a popular area for backcountry skiing and the trail is often ski packed as it gradually climbs through the forest and makes a switchback, then continues along a level ridge for a couple miles before opening up above treeline. Gold Hill is the bare peak ahead, the views are amazing as you climb to the gentle 12,700' summit. To the right look for Goose Lake tucked away in a glacial basin below the ridge, glance back and you'll see Wheeler and Kachina Peak to the south.  If you happen to be up here for a sunrise you may be treated to an amazing and unique sight as golden alpenglow lights up the mountains! Whether you trek to one of the high peaks from Bull of the Woods or just up the trail a ways you'll probably be ready to warm up and refuel at one of the awesome restaurants in the village.  Follow the trail back down to a delicious slice at the Pizza Shack, or a bowl of hot green chile stew at the Stray Dog Cantina.

A great hike not to miss is the Williams Lake trail, by far the most used trail in Taos Ski Valley.  Look for the trailhead on Kachina Road as you drive up towards The Bavarian - one of the best things about this hike is enjoying some awesome food and beverages upon your return, especially when the New Mexico sunshine warms up the deck and lively tunes fill the air!  If you've been here before we know there's a good chance you're familiar with this trail, if not you're in for a wilderness treat. The two miles from the Bavarian to the lake bring you through beautiful pine forests to open meadows with sweeping views of the high peaks above.  Along this trail snowshoes will help you float atop the snow on powder days and if you want to venture off to the sides, bring your sense for adventure!  This is also a good trail for cross country skiing and you'll likely encounter a few backcountry skiers and snowboarders who love shredding down the steep chutes above.  Once you reach the lake you'll know why this is one of the most inspiring hikes in our village.

As these are some of the most popular winter hikes there are many more trails to enjoy during Winter if you're not a skier or snowboarder, or if you just want to experience the mountains a different way.  When you're here come by our Visitor Center on Thunderbird Road if you'd like for more information and recommendations.  See you on the trail!