Pets allowed
Allowed
Elevation Gain
1,025.00 ft (312.42 m)
Trail type
There-and-back
Distance
5.20 mi (8.37 km)
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Mention hiking in New Mexico to someone and they would likely picture dry desert landscapes, sandstone rock formations, Pueblo ruins or white sand dunes. But in the north central part of the state, the southern section of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains extend a finger of a typical Colorado mountain range into this otherwise dry desert state. One of the best hikes to start exploring this beautiful mountain area is the Williams Lake Trail that starts in Taos Ski Valley, near the base of Wheeler Peak, the highest point in New Mexico.

The road from Taos up to the ski area is a very scenic drive that starts at about 7,000 feet and ends up over 10,000 feet. In that interval the landscape  changes from dry pinyon and juniper hills to sub-alpine forest. The parking area is reached through some gravel roads in residential neighborhoods, and the first quarter mile of the hike is on roads, but that quickly changes as the trail climbs through dense forest along the shoulder of Wheeler Peak. There are some impressive rock falls and avalanche slides to see along the way, and distant peaks start coming into view soon. It is a continual climb, but the grade is decent and the view of the lake and surrounding peaks at the end is well worth it. There is a small waterfall at the inlet stream on the west side of the lake, and it is about a mile round trip over a rough trail to reach it. The distance and elevation statistics for this adventure include the hike out to the falls.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Summer
Fall

Congestion

High

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Great views. Waterfall. Good trail.

Cons

First part of the trail leads through a ski area.

Trailhead Elevation

10,136.00 ft (3,089.45 m)

Highest point

11,100.00 ft (3,383.28 m)

Features

Vault toilet
Potable water
Big vistas
Waterfalls
Old-growth forest

Typically multi-day

No

Permit required

No

Location

Field Guide

Nearby Adventures

Southern Sangre de Cristo Mountains, New Mexico
Southern Sangre de Cristo Mountains, New Mexico
Southern Sangre de Cristo Mountains, New Mexico

Nearby Lodging + Camping

Rio Grande del Norte National Monument
Rio Grande del Norte National Monument

Comments

For an extended hike, and an advanced one, keep following this trail to the Wheeler Peak summit to bag a thirteener.
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