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!
May 19, 2019
Spring has set in across the mountains with a deep above-average snowpack in the high elevations, 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 deep snow in the higher elevations routes can vary from the established trails and change with every snowfall through the spring - different tracks branch off to the sides where skiers are touring - 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 during Spring! 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 when the snow melts, the current route follows the old trail where many trees have been cleared so it may look a bit different as you approach the Wheeler Peak Wilderness boundary. The winter was a good one with over 300 inches of snow building the deepest base we've seen for several years, currently the trail is still snowpacked but beginning to melt out. If you're an experienced backcountry skier you'll find excellent skiing in the Wheeler Peak Wilderness and conditions are still good for snowshoeing. If you're hiking, it's good to know that while most of the trail is firmly packed, along the edges there may be pockets of unconsolidated snow where you could posthole, it's best to stay close to the middle of the track. Wear sturdy boots with good tread and dress with warm layers to accommodate cold 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 after the nighttime freeze. Please be aware that the trail crosses several avalanche paths along the way to the lake - the spring snowpack has stabilized and many of the chutes have melted out so it's unlikely that an avalanche could occur but it is possible, pay attention to changing conditions that could cause snow slides especially if a storm brings significant snowfall this week.
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. Snowshoes or skis with climbing skins are recommended until the snow melts out, deep drifts in the higher elevations may not be passable without them. 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. When the trail is covered with snow it is usually 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 the trail is snowed-in and unconsolidated, it's necessary to have alpine climbing skills including route-finding experience to attempt this one, as well as proper gear such as skis, skins and 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, then makes some switchbacks up the steep western slope towards the ridge between Mount Walter and Wheeler. Take some breaks to catch your breath as needed, once you're on the ridge the summit is just a short ways to the south! On a clear day there's 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.
The trails within the Columbine-Hondo Wilderness offer excellent potential for day hikes, and overnight or multi-day backpacking adventures! The Yerba, Manzanita, Italianos and Gavilan trails have mostly melted out, while the highest elevations are still holding some patches of snow. A mix of dry sections and muddy areas are typical, be cautious where the trails traverse steep banks above the streams. Get an early start if you plan to hike above treeline or summit any of the high alpine peaks, and be able to recognize avalanche terrain as you travel into the higher elevations. The scenery is amazing along these trails, bring a camera and some binoculars - watch for wildlife like bighorn sheep, deer, and pine martens!
Weather Coming In
Elevation changes affect the weather significantly this time of year. An unsettled weather pattern has set in with high elevation snow showers expected throughout the week and scattered rain showers below about 9,000 feet, lightning and thunderstorms are possible especially during the afternoons. 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 throughout the spring and 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.
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.
Carson National Forest - Taos Ski Valley Hiking Trails
|Name of Trail||Print Map||
Degree of Difficulty
|Italianos Canyon Trail 59||
|Manzanita Canyon Trail 58||
|Wheeler Peak Summit 67||
|Wheeler Peak Trail 90||
|Williams Lake Trail 62||
|Yerba Canyon Trail||