Trail Update: Hiking Report from Taos Ski Valley 

We have recent snow in the high country, and on the way to Williams Lake and Wheeler Peak. Be prepared with gators, poles, and layers. Yerba is lower in elevation and requires stream crossings but has less snow. Have fun!


June 15th, 2019

Spring has set in across the mountains with a deep above-average snowpack still covering some of the high peaks, and clear trails in the valleys and along the Rio Grande Gorge. Wherever your adventures take you you'll find awesome opportunities for recreation, fitness, and quiet solitude along with amazing views to enjoy! Backcountry skiing in the mountains will be possible well into June while the hiking and mountain bike trails are shaping up for a great season. Whitewater rafting season is in full swing, rock climbing conditions are as good as it gets, and many more opportunities await your adventurous spirit. While you explore the mountainous areas of the Carson National Forest in and around our village, keep in mind that with snow still present on the Williams Lake Trail, routes can vary from the established trail and change as the snow melts - if you're not familiar with this area a map and gps device or tracking app such as Hiking Project can be helpful to keep you on the right path to your destination.  Please Contact us for more info about our area's trails!


Williams Lake Trail

Discover Williams Lake in all its glory! This popular intermediate-level, four-mile round trip hike from The Bavarian follows a 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. A new route for the first section of the trail has been built and should open sometime this Summer, the current route follows the old trail where many trees have been cleared and some homesites are being developed so it may look a bit different as you approach the Wheeler Peak Wilderness boundary. The ski season and spring were great for our valley with over 325 inches of snow building a deep above-average snowpack, it's been several years since we've had this much snow during June! While the first 1/4 mile of the trail has mostly melted out, above the wilderness boundary sign much of the trail is still snowpacked all the way to the lake. There are a lot of foot tracks where people have been hiking that don't follow the actual trail, while most lead to the same spot using a gps app and map can be helpful to keep you on the right track. As the snow continues to melt expect to posthole especially during the afternoon as the snow softens, most of the snow is firmly packed but it's not always distinguishable from the softer spots. Wear sturdy boots with good tread and gators to keep your feet dry, and dress with warm layers to accommodate cool temperatures during the morning and make adjustments as it warms up quickly when the sun comes out. We recommend using trekking poles and watch for slick, icy patches that could develop at night. The trail crosses a few avalanche paths that slid during March, as you approach and cross the wilderness boundary there's a lot of downed trees and debris left along the trail, it's all passable with some twists and turns in the route that aren't usually there.


Wheeler Peak

Conquer New Mexico's highest peak ~ this 13,161-foot summit can be accessed by either the Bull of the Woods or Williams Lake trails. Get an early start for this expert level hike. Backcountry camping is allowed without a permit, at least 300 feet away from streams and lakes. Keep your eyes peeled for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, mule deer and elk.  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. There are some deep drifts as you approach the Bull of the Woods-Frazer Ridge. Follow the trail along the ridge before it dips down onto the east facing slopes across La Cal Basin, then up to and along the ridge towards the Mount Walter then Wheeler's summit. Wherethe trail is covered with snow it's possible to stay on the ridge along the final section. This route is popular among Winter alpinists and peak-baggers, it's a challenge to take on with determination and experience.  It can get windy on the ridge especially the few days before a storm approaches, dress warm and bring your sense of adventure!

The Wheeler Peak Summit Trail #67 begins along the Williams Lake Trail at the saddle just above the lake. Currently much of the trail is still covered with snow, it's recommended to have alpine climbing experience and route-finding skills to attempt this one, and gear such as skis with climbing skins or sturdy alpine boots with crampons. 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'. From here cross an open snowfield, then head southeast towards Wheeler's towering northwest face. The trail makes some switchbacks up the steep western slope towards the ridge between Mount Walter and Wheeler, through rock fields and open slopes that are still covered with snow. Take some breaks to catch your breath as needed, once you're on the ridge the summit is just a short ways away!  On a clear day you'll be treated to incredible 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains, Rio Grande Rift and distant mountain ranges where the San Juans begin. The 14,345-foot Blanca massif above the Great Sand Dunes National Park can be seen to the north, and the Truchas Peaks above Santa Fe to the south. An early starst for this route is recommended, as well as knowledge of snowpack and avalanche hazard assessment.


Columbine-Hondo Wilderness

The trails within the Columbine-Hondo Wilderness offer excellent potential for day hikes, and overnight or multi-day backpacking adventures! Yerba, Manzanita, Italianos and Gavilan Canyon trails are clear of snow and in great shape for a day hike or backpacking trip, there's a few patches of snow in the meadows near the top but not much, and the aspens have gotten their leaves. Wildflowers are starting to come out along these trails and will be in full bloom soon! There are several stream crossings on these trails, be cautious on side-slope traverses above the streams. The Yerba Canyon has fewer stream crossings than the others. An early start is recommended if you plan to hike above treeline or summit any of the high alpine peaks such as Lobo Peak, bring plenty of food and water - any water from the streams should be boiled or treated and filtered before drinking. As summer approaches the scenery is amazing along these trails, with beautiful lush forests and open vistas once you reach the ridge - bring a camera and some binoculars - and watch for wildlife like bighorn sheep, deer, and pine martens!


Weather Coming In

Through the weekend and early next week comfortable temperatures during the days will be accompanied by a chance for scattered rain showers during the afternoons to watch for, especially Sunday and Monday. When planning your trip or hike check the National Weather Service forecast for Taos Ski Valley for an idea of what to expect. The long range forecast shows a good chance for above average precipitation to continue through summer thanks to an ongoing moderate El Nino event - a welcome change from last year's historic drought! If you're venturing into the wilderness be prepared with a water-resistent jacket and insulating layers, extra food and water, sunglasses or goggles, and it's always a good idea to pack a headlamp or flashlight if you're hiking during the evening and might be on the trail after sunset. If you're camping prepare for nighttime temps to dip into the 30's, especially in the highest elevations.

Precautions:

Waterproof boots and hiking poles are recommended for these high elevation hikes, with many trails still holding snow up at higher elevation into early summer. Temperatures can vary greatly, bring layers to accomodate changing temperatures and wind.  Be prepared for cool weather and rain, and always carry extra water. Beware of lightning and stay off the ridges if thunderclouds are overhead. Depart for hikes early in the morning to avoid afternoon lightning and showers.

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

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