Williams Lake to Wheeler Peak: Find Easy Hikes in Taos or Challenge Yourself on New Mexico's Highest Peak
Taos Hiking Trail Maps and Trail Condition UpdatesMay 2020 Update
Given the current situation all facilities in our village are closed including restrooms and Mogul Medical. If you're going for a hike please practice social distancing and keep it mellow - minimize uneccessary risks as assistance may not be available. While the trails are open and dispersed camping in the wilderness is allowed, all campgrounds and developed recreation sites on National Forests in the Southwest Region are currently closed until June 30th or when the order is rescinded - including the Twining and Lower Hondo campgrounds. Fire restrictions are also in effect, campfires are not allowed anywhere on the Carson National Forest.
At the highest elevations some sections of the trails are still snowbound, most of trails below 10,000 feet are clear and dry. If you're planning to hike to Williams Lake be prepared to encounter variable and unexpected conditions including patches of deep snow. Spring has been relatively dry and the snowpack is about 60% average depth so it's melting fast.
Williams Lake Trail
Discover Williams Lake in all its glory! This popular intermediate-level, four-mile round trip hike from The Bavarian follows a beautiful valley forested with aspen, Engelmann and blue spruce, western white fir, and rarely seen red fir and bristlecone pines can be found in the higher elevations.
Much of trail is still covered with snow - wear sturdy boots with good tread, and use hiking poles to keep your balance. Follow the blue paint blazes on trees and use a gps app such as Hiking Project to stay on track.
Conquer New Mexico's highest peak ~ this 13,161-foot summit can be accessed by either the Bull of the Woods (Wheeler Peak Trail #90) or Williams Lake trails. Get an early start for this expert level tour. Climbing crampons may be useful along the Wheeler Peak Summit Trail #67 until the rest of the snow melts, and may also along some sections of the Bull of the Woods route. Dispersed camping is allowed, please stay at least 300 feet away from streams and lakes. Keep your eyes peeled for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, mule deer and elk, and smaller forest critters like pine marten and ermin.
From the Bull of the Woods trailhead by the Twining Campground (at the top of the main parking lot in the village) it's an 8 mile hike through a steep canyon, across an old mining road on Bull of the Woods Mountain's north slopes, then as the route climbs above treeline past the 12,163-foot Frazer Mountain summit. This route is popular among seasoned alpinists and peak-baggers, it's a challenge to take on with determination and experience. You'll encounter deep snow along some sections of the ridge where It can get quite windy, dress warm and bring your sense of adventure! Avoid walking onto cornices overhanging off the ridges.
The Wheeler Peak Summit Trail #67 begins along the Williams Lake Trail at the saddle just above the lake. The route climbs through old growth conifer forests, crosses several steep avalanche chutes then ascends above treeline onto a wide open glacial moraine at 12,000'. The trail makes some switchbacks up the steep western slope towards the ridge between Mount Walter and Wheeler, through snow and scattered rock fields across open slopes. On a clear day you'll be treated to incredible 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains, the Rio Grande Rift Valley and distant mountain ranges such as the San Juans in Colorado. As much of the actual trail is currently snowbound, route finding experience may be necessary, as well as recognizing and avoiding potential avalanche terrain.
The trails within the Columbine-Hondo Wilderness offer excellent potential for day hikes, backcountry skiing and overnight or multi-day backpacking adventures for extreme winter enthusiasts! These trails include the Yerba, Manzanita, Italianos and Gavilan Canyon trails accessed from Highway 150, and the Long Canyon and Gold Hill/Goose Lake trails accessed from Bull of the Woods. You'll find everything from low-angle narrow singletrack trail, steep-walled traverses, open meadows full of wildflowers, and high ridges with amazing views of the surrounding mountains and Rio Grande valley. An early start is recommended if you plan to travel above treeline or summit any of the high alpine peaks such as Lobo, Gavilan or Gold Hill. Bring plenty of food and drinking water - any water from the streams or melted snow should be boiled and/or filtered before drinking. In the higher elevations you may still encounter deep snow and avalanche paths - pay attention to warming conditions that can cause wet snow slides. Know before you go and stay within your ability levels if you're ski touring. If you're hiking, the Yerba and Manzanita trails are lower down and provide easier access, and they have less snow than the others.
Weather Coming In
High pressure and sunny days have been prevalent during the first couple weeks of May. May 16th through the 19th there's a chance for isolated to scattered showers especially during the afternoons. Even when the weather is nice be prepared for storms to develop and descend to lower elevations if you see or hear lightning. When you're planning a trip or hike check the National Weather Service forecast for Taos Ski Valley for an idea of what to expect.
Precautions:Waterproof boots and hiking poles are recommended for these high elevation hikes, with some trails still covered with several feet of snow. Bring extra layers to accommodate fluxuating daytime temps and wind. Be prepared for changing weather, and always carry extra water. Beware of lightning during storms and stay off the ridges if you hear thunder. Depart for hikes early in the morning to return before dark. During the Spring and early Summer avalanche conditions may exist on certain aspects, be aware of the terrain you're hiking in and assess conditions continuously as you travel.
HikingProject.com - GPS Coordinates, descriptions, photos and other info for all Taos Ski Valley Hiking Trails
Carson National Forest - Taos Ski Valley Hiking Trails (Questa Ranger District)
|Name of Trail||Print Map||
Degree of Difficulty
|Gavilan Trail 60||
|Gold HIll 64||
|Italianos Canyon Trail 59||
|Lobo Peak 57||
|Long Canyon 63||
|Manzanita Canyon Trail 58||
|Wheeler Peak Summit 67||
|Bull Of The Woods/Wheeler Peak Trail 90||
|Williams Lake Trail 62||
|Yerba Canyon Trail||
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