The Best Winter Hikes in Taos Ski Valley

New Storm Brings Fresh Coat of Powder for Winter Sports Lovers!

One of the allures of skiing or boarding Taos Ski Valley is being surrounded by forests and amazing views in every direction. But it isn't for everyone. There are other wonderful ways to experience the outdoors here. If you wish to find solitude, peace, and quiet in the beauty of a snowy scene, or simply to enjoy a hike with your family and friends, opportunities from casual day hikes to more rigorous alpine trekking and peak-bagging abound.

The village of Taos Ski Valley is a perfect base camp for your adventures, as it is filled with charming dining, shopping, and lodging options as well as ensconced in hundreds of thousands of acres of public land in the Carson National Forest

Check the weather forecast and grab your sturdy boots, snowshoes, hiking poles, and camera because the views from our local trails are a photographer’s dream! If you don't have snowshoes, rentals are available at Cottam's Ski Shop or you can book a tour for any ability level through Taos Snowshoe Adventures.

The Carson National Forest is home to dozens of trails, from easy to challenging, and some of its best winter hikes originate in our village. A local favorite—and a must for anyone seeking to bag the highest peak in every state—is the winter climb to the top of Wheeler Peak. At 13,161’, Wheeler is New Mexico’s highest peak. To get there, you start off on the Bull of the Woods Trail, the trailhead of which is off of Twining Road just above the main parking lot. Being close to the village translates into lots of foot traffic on the lower part of the trail, thus a packed and solid base for your snowshoes. It climbs through the forest for two miles towards a beautiful open meadow from which 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.

From this point on, especially during the winter, it becomes an expert-level hike. Because of the length and potential difficulty of the hike, local hikers often make an alpine start (before or close to sunrise) and bring plenty of snacks and water to give them energy on the 16-mile round-trip adventure. When you venture above the tree line, 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, nibbling on alpine grasses (their staple food) to survive. The views of the Taos Ski Valley ski slopes from this vantage point are incredible–maybe the rams enjoy them as much as we do!

Another challenging hike is from the Bull of the Woods Trail to Gold Hill. When you reach the junction with the Wheeler Peak Trail, look for the sign pointing left to Goose Lake. This is the path 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. Because the trail isn't as heavily used as others, you will likely need snowshoes. This is a popular area for backcountry skiing and the trail can be but isn’t always 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 the tree line.

Gold Hill is a bald but beautiful peak, providing 360-degree views into southern Colorado on a clear day from its gentle 12,700' summit. Look for Goose Lake downhill and to the east, tucked away in a glacial basin below the ridge. Glance back from whence you came and you'll see Wheeler and Kachina Peaks to the south. Sunrises from this spot are incomparable, as an otherworldly, golden alpenglow lights up the mountains.
 
Another wonderful but shorter and more moderate hike is the popular Williams Lake Trail. By far the most-frequented trail in Taos Ski Valley, it takes you to a pristine high-alpine lake encircled by snow-topped peaks. Look for the trailhead on Kachina Road as you drive up towards The Bavarian, a great place to stop by for a German beer, well-curated wine selection, and hearty meal after your alpine adventure, especially when the New Mexico sunshine warms up the deck and lively tunes fill the air. 

If you've visited Taos Ski Valley before, there's a good chance you're familiar with the Williams Lake 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. Snowshoes will help you float atop the snow on powder days. This is also a good trail for cross- country skiing and you'll likely encounter a few backcountry skiers and snowboarders who love shredding the steep chutes above. Once you reach the lake, you'll know why this is one of the most inspiring hikes from our village.

Whether you opt for a more challenging hike, or just a leisurely stroll, the Bavarian is just one of many places to warm up and refuel in our charming, European-style village with New Mexican flair. Pick up a delicious slice at the Pizza Shack, a bowl of hot green chile stew at the Stray Dog Cantina, or the Stauffen Burger at The Blonde Bear Tavern.

These are just a few of the most popular winter hikes and post-hike options in our corner of the Land of Enchantment. Come by the Taos Ski Valley Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center on Thunderbird Road if you'd like more information and recommendations. 

See you on the trail… and off!

Location

United States
36° 39' 48.3192" N, 105° 30' 35.8164" W
US