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 Updates
March 26th Update
Given the current situation all TSV facilities are closed including restrooms and Mogul Medical. If you are going for a hike it's recommended to practice social distancing and keep it mellow - minimize uneccessary risks as assistance may not be available. While all the trails on the Carson National Forest are open, be prepared to encounter variable and unexpected conditions including the possibility for avalanches to occur along the William's Lake trail and others.
April and May are often some of the snowiest months of the year in the mountains. Recent storms have brought several inches of fresh snow to our mountains, with season totals so far about 17 feet, and an average snow depth around 70 inches. Most of the higher elevation trails are packed down from snowshoers and backcountry skiers, expect to encounter a seasonally deep snowpack in the mountains while the lower trails along the Rio Grande gorge are more suitable for a casual hike with amazing scenery.
Williams Lake Trail
Discover Williams Lake in all its snowy 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.
The trail is covered with packed snow - snowshoes are recommended and if you're hiking make sure your boots are sturdy with good tread, use hiking poles and stay towards the middle of the trail to avoid sinking into unconsolidated snow near the edges. Several side trails used by backcountry skiers may be encountered, to stay on the proper trail follow the blue blazes on the trees, and/or use a gps app such as Hiking Project to stay on track.
If you're a winter peak-bagger, 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. Snowshoes and climbing skis with skins may be necessary along the Wheeler Peak Summit Trail #67 and may be usefull along some sections of the Bull of the Woods route. Winter backcountry 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 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 much of the first four miles and 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 - check www.taosavalanchecenter.org for updates on current snowpack conditions.
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. You'll find everything from low-angle packed snowshoe and ski tracks to untracked powder snow, snow bridges across streams, steep-walled traverses, open meadows and high ridges with amazing views of the surrounding mountains. An early start is recommended if you plan to travel above treeline or summit any of the high alpine peaks such as Lobo or Gavilan Peaks bring plenty of food and water - any water from the streams or melted snow should be boiled and/or filtered before drinking. Many of these trails cross avalanche paths especially in the higher elevations - some are obvious and some are hidden in the forests. 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 usually have less snow than the others.
Weather Coming In
Unsettled weather has been the norm during March, with intermittent snow showers in the higher elevations and rain showers in the valleys, and we've had a couple lightning storms during the past couple weeks. Temps have been mild, freezing during the nights and warming up into the 30s an 40s during the days. We expect this pattern to continue for the near future. 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 most trails covered with several inches to feet of snow on the ground conditions are great for snowshoes and touring skis. While cold winter temps can be expected temperatures can vary greatly during the day, bring layers to accommodate changing temps and wind. Be prepared for changing weather, and always carry extra water. Beware of lightning during snowstorms and stay off the ridges if you hear thunder. Depart for hikes early in the morning to return before dark. During the winter avalanche conditions may exist, be aware of the terrain you're hiking in and assess conditions continuously as you travel.
HikingProject.com - GPS Coordinates for Taos Ski Valley Hiking Trails
Carson National Forest - Taos Ski Valley Hiking Trails
|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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