Hike to Williams Lake and Wheeler Peak

Williams Lake Trail

Bag New Mexico’s highest peak at 13,161 feet.It’s either a 4-mile hike to the alpine lake, or a 7-mile round trip hike to the peak.The lake’s beautiful and is a perfect spot to fuel up before tackling the peak.

This hike is conveniently located at Taos Ski Valley and offers two primary options: a fun 4-mile round trip hike to beautiful Williams Lake, or a 7-mile round trip hike all the way to the Wheeler Peak. You can’t go wrong with either option, but if you’re up for it, bagging Wheeler Peak is definitely worth the extra effort.

The trail to Williams Lake parallels the Lake Fork of the Rio Hondo and gradually ascends 2-miles through forests towards the lake. Once you arrive at Williams Lake, take some time to enjoy the beauty of the surrounding Sangre de Cristo mountain range and this stunning high alpine lake. This is a perfect opportunity to dip you feet in the water and enjoy a little picnic.

Still have a little bit of gas left in your tank? Continue up the Williams Lake Trail above the lake and you’ll begin to a pretty steep climb up 2,000 vertical feet. This trail has been recently upgraded and now features a nice switch back route to the peak. And the views from the peak are well worth the extra work.

Be sure to check the weather and pack/dress appropriately. The area can be prone to thunderstorms and late season snowfall.

After you’ve bagged New Mexico’s highest peak, celebrate with a beer on the back deck the Bavarian Lodge, conveniently located at the trailhead entrance.

Pack List

  • Suncreen
  • Layers
  • Camera
  • Light picnic supplies
  • Hiking shoes
  • Day pack
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Activities Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Spring, Summer, Autumn
Features
Easy Parking
Food Nearby
Groups
Lake
Picnic Area
Scenic
Wildlife

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Great hike!

Easy hike with a great payoff. Still snow the majority of the way up to the lake. Microspikes would have greatly helped us navigate a few slippery spots. High ankle boots are highly recommended as we came across a lady that had broken her ankle due to low ankle boots. She was assisted back to the trailhead by forest service.

A Very Memorable Hike with Wildlife

This hike is fairly easy for its elevation. We only saw 6 other people when we hiked on a week day in June. We did run into a little bit of weather and got some late season snow flurries and heavy winds. We also got a rare glimpse at some Bighorn Sheep which was the highlight of the trip. I highly recommend this to anyone planning a trip to New Mexico. Very beautiful hike.

Early Summer Hike Up

A couple friends and I hiked Mt. Wheeler back in June. We all had light day gear and were going up the slopes as a day hike that started at 9am. Once we started hiking up the trail that led to the peak, snow was found in the tree line. It was a neat factor in the hike as it blocked some sections of trail and created a decent amount of mud. At some spots, the snow made us take some careful steps around a few switchbacks as a slip would've resulted in a good fall and slide. A few of use brought some Outdoor Research gaiters since we anticipated snow and we're happy to have done so. They helped keep out boots and feet dry. After the tree line was cleared, there was a decent breeze that helped us stay cool. Upon clearing the tree line, the trail started to produce really wide switchbacks. In order to save time, we fanned out in order to minimize impact on grass and plants and schwacked up steep sides of the mountain that were mostly grass. I do not encourage doing this if you are not a strong hiker as the steep climb can wear you out, especially if you aren't acclimated to the altitude. After a few more schwacks, we finally followed one last chunk of trail up to the saddle of the peak. As we hit the saddle, a lot of us were happy to have brought jackets as the wind at the top added a pretty decent chill on a summer day. As we reached the peak, we took a photo op and found a mountain sheep to hangout with. Wheeler Peak is defiantly a great picture and nap spot. On the way down, we decided to live dangerously. Several large snowbanks were still above the tree line and made for great slides down the mountain in order for a quick descent. Again, the gaiters helped us keep our feet dry. The hike down was certainly quicker and it was neat to hike back through an almost different terrain. As it got later in the day, more snow had melted and more watery trails were produced as a result. At the end of the trek, each of us had consumed several snacks, two liters of water each, and thankfully used no first aid gear. Wheeler Peak is a great day hike and I would certainly encourage it and do it again!


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