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


December 2019

Recent storms have brought several feet of fresh snow to our mountains. More is in the forecast this week, with several inches possible going into the weekend. Please Contact us for more info about our area's trails.

For information about avalanche conditions in the Wheeler Peak and Columbine-Hondo Wilderness areas, the Taos Avalanche center is back up an running. They're posting regular conditions updates - find their forecast at www.taosavalanchecenter.org.

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 a couple feet of packed snow, conditions are great for snowshoeing and cross country skiing! If you're hiking make sure your boots are sturdy with good tread, be prepared to posthole 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 actual trail follow the blue blazes on the trees, and/or use a gps app such as Hiking Project to stay on track.

Wheeler Peak
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 covered with snow, 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.

Columbine-Hondo Wilderness
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 surround 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
December is usually one of the snowiest months and provides excellent opportunities to enjoy winter scenes and powder snow - but with nice, sunny northern New Mexico weather mixed in between snow storms you can enjoy beautiful bluebird days also. 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
Distance
one way
Hiking Trail Horse Trail Cross Country Ski Trail Snowshoeing
Wilderness Area
Degree of Difficulty
Gavilan Trail 60
Map
3.3miles X
X
 
X
X Intermediate/Expert
Gold HIll 64
Map
3.7miles X
X
 
X
X Moderate/Difficult
Italianos Canyon Trail 59
Map
3.6 miles  X X   X X Intermediate
Lobo Peak 57
Map
10.7 miles X     X X Difficult
Long Canyon 63 
Map
3.6 miles X X X X X Expert
Manzanita Canyon Trail 58
Map
4.2 miles X X   X x Expert
Wheeler Peak Summit 67
Map
2.2 miles X       X Expert
Bull Of The Woods/Wheeler Peak Trail 90
Map
8 miles X X X X X Expert
Williams Lake Trail 62
Map
2 miles X X X X X Novice/Intermediate
Yerba Canyon Trail
Map
4 miles X     x X Expert

Hiking

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