Explore the most popular camping trails in Carson National Forest with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

Absolutely a great hike. The sights are amazing. It was a misty rainy day which made it seem like a Magic Forrest. It is a steady climb up to just over 11,000 ft so you will be breathing for sure. The treasure at the end is well worth it.

I’ve hiked this trail at least twice and it’s a favorite!

hiking
5 days ago

Nice fun trail...until you can’t find it anymore

Went up to the peak today! The trail is nicely marked with blue paint on some of the trees. It gets pretty steep towards the top, but it was still a great trail. It took us about 5 hours total to get up and down.

We didn't have a 4 wheel drive vehicle and we were just fine today...there wasn't any snow or anything.

this hike is strenuous, but very rewarding when you get to the lakes. the views are phenomenal.

Nice hike! The view from the lake was breathtaking. As an older person it took a little more time but no problems. Trail is used extensively. The only issue I had was the dog bombs that were not disposed of properly.

hiking
8 days ago

Very nice hike. The altitude will have you breathing hard if you aren't used to the altitude. The trail is easy to follow, just watch for the blue paint circles on the trees.
It is beautiful from start to finish, and well worth the time.
It took me 2 hours of hiking, and I took many breaks.

Excellent trail! I highly recommend an early start to enjoy the morning view at Williams lake.

hiking
10 days ago

Great trail. Awesome payoff at the end.

Fun hike but for those not used to the elevation...whew it wipes you out. The trail is a rocky road but there are lots of of shoots that take you more in a trail/path.

I've hiked Wheeler before and absolutely love it. I'm going again at the end of the month and am wondering if I need to have 4 wheel drive to get up to Phoenix Grill to begin the hike?
Thanks for your input!

Beautiful hike today. About 3 hours up and 2 down.

6 hrs up and down showing 8.8 miles. Just beautiful trail the whole way, extremely windy on top 1/3 but views were incredible. Saw lots of marmots and even 5 big horn sheep on the back bowl. Definitely one of the prettiest and well structured trails I have ever been on. In cool/cold temps 3L of water was more than enough. Only tip is the sign for the peak trail just before the lake is easy to miss, just a post w letters carved in it.

I hiked the Bull Of The Woods trail to Wheeler Peak with my husband on Memorial Day this year. We live in East Texas in a town that is all of 370 feet above sea level. Neither of us had any issues with elevation sickness, but we set out with plenty of water in our packs and made sure to drink frequently. We run trail and obstacle course races and have run a few mountain ultramarathons; we weren't hiking hard, but we did try to keep our pace up. That said, while I wouldn't call this trail strenuous, there were places we had to stop for a minute or two for a breather. I'm a planner and we had to drive 13 hours to get to Taos Ski Valley, so I didn't choose this time of year out of the blue: from a variety of sources (mostly www.summitpost.org and previous comments on this site) I found that the snow is usually mostly gone by June and that the monsoon season doesn't normally start until July. I'm still a novice at hiking mountains (especially of this caliber), so I'd rather avoid the cold, snow, and rain if possible. If you google "weather forecast wheeler peak nm" one of the sites in the list will be www.mountainforecast.com. I've used this site for our mountain ultramarathons and have found the predictions accurate. It lists the highs/lows for several different elevations at different times of day and night and gives wind speed/direction predictions as well. The BOTW trail is marked on Google maps in both the terrain and satellite view if you zoom in far enough, so I made my own map to carry with me. The trail itself is well-maintained and most of the trail intersections are marked with directional signs, so it was easy to navigate especially since we knew the names of the intersecting trails we should be approaching. There was only one place where we were stumped about which way to go: we had passed the second intersection of Malachite Trail with Bull of the Woods trail at Bull of the Woods Mountain and headed south down into a forested area and the trail came to a kind of "T" intersection with a switchback. Using a compass we were able to figure out that we needed to go left up the hill. I've since found out (thanks again, Google maps!) that going right would have taken us down to Fraser Mountain road.....so we might have been able to find our way back to the trail even if we had turned the wrong way (there's a cut through from the road to the trail, but I don't know if there are any signs). We had no problems from there on out, although there was some snow covering a particularly steep and narrow part of the trail leading up to Mt Walter. The wind had picked up so we were careful making our way across to Wheeler Peak and didn't hang out at the summit long. We descended via the Wheeler Peak trail down to Williams Lake trail. I have to say I'm glad we didn't ascend that route: it's steep, mostly scree fields for about a third of the way from the ridge to the lake, and not as scenic. The total distance was around 12.75 miles. We started at 8:20 am, reached the summit about 4.5 hours later, and reached the Williams Lake trail head at the Phoenix Grill (it and everything in that area is currently being rennovated) right at 3:20 pm. The temperatures ranged from mid-40s to mid-60s and the mountain forecast website had predicted windspeeds between 20 and 30 mph that day. I tend to be cold natured but overheat quickly when hiking uphill; due to the windchill, I was comfortable all day wearing a thermal/tech longsleeve running shirt over a short sleeve tech shirt and hiking tights. If you're going to wear short sleeves, sunscreen would be a good idea. We took water and snacks in our packs, but there were several streams/rivers along the way (we had filters just in case). We took waterproof jackets in case of a storm but didn't end up needing them. There were far fewer people on BOTW trail than on the Wheeler Peak and Williams Lake trails; if you prefer to see fewer people and are more interested in the scenic route, BOTW is the way to go. We are looking forward to returning to hike this trail again and are planning to camp overnight and spend a couple of days exploring the lakes and other trails in the area.

backpacking
20 days ago

I also went on Memorial Day weekend! There was quite a bit of folks but it wasn't that packed or outrageously crowded. Plenty of room to camp at the lakes and everyone was courteous. Great trail for a first time backpacker! There were alot of dogs on the trail and on the campsites. No snow on the trail by this time of year but you see some snow off the trail in a few scattered areas and a bit on the peaks. The trail was well maintained...a few trees here and there to climb over and some creeks and streams you had to get through. The elevation change wasn't as bad as I thought it would be and it was less steep than I thought. There are a few switchbacks during the last couple of miles before you get to the lakes but they weren't too bad. Free parking. Just wish they had trashcans at the trailhead parking lot.

The views and the scenery were just gorgeous. Well worth the arduous backpacking experience. The area is so green and something you would expect in New Mexico. If you plan to camp overnight, definitely layer up b/c it gets chilly at night.

Getting there: I recommend taking the 207 instead of the 639, even though it's a longer route, since it's better maintained and more grated.
Toilets: There is one pit toilet before you get to the trailhead parking lot...maybe a couple of miles before on the 207 and then another pit toilet at the trailhead parking lot. Of course no toilets once you get on the trail or anywhere near the lakes ;)

backpacking
21 days ago

Memorial Day weekend 2018 was packed! I was surprised but there was ample camping space on top. The trail itself was a little beaten up with trees blocking the path (likely due to the winter frost), but nothing too difficult to get around. There was some snow still left near the lakes but quickly melting. It never got below freezing but it was chilly and windy at times. Fly fishing is definitely possible, lots of trout in both lakes.

A couple of things to note about this trail. First, this is not the Jeep trail. The Jeep trail is closer to town. Second, I was unable to find the lake. Around mile 5 I ran into a ton of down trees and lost the trail. There are down trees everywhere, making it very difficult. It is a Beautiful trail trail though. We saw a beautiful black bear by the primitive campsite around mile 3. It’s around 100 flights at mile 5 where I lost the trail.
I am rating this a 3 Star due to losing the trail. If the trees are cleared and a clear path is made to the lake this is definitely a 5 Star.

This is my second hike to an alpine lake but the first hike to pack in and camp overnight. The trail is well defined and is maintained by the US Forestry Service. Trampus is two beautiful alpine lakes separated by a raised area that is one option for pitching a tent. The backdrop is a rocky cliff reaching up to several peaks.

I totally recommend this approach to Wheeler Peak! I took up Bull-of-the-Woods trail and down Williams Lake trail. Although the Bull is longer there are no steep inclines and there is less traffic (I met one hiker going down and I saw two hikers ahead of me in a distance on Memorial Day Sunday…, Williams Lake trail was packed!) The trail is not very well marked once you get to the saddle (crossroad with Gold Mountain trail). I got bit confused as there are multiple trails but they will all eventually finish at Bull-of-the-Woods Mountain from where the trail is straightforward. Unfortunately, once you enter Wheeler Peak Wilderness the trail starts to descent to Middle Fork Red River (creek) and you lose quite a bit of an elevation. Once you are out of the tree line on the ascent towards Mount Walter you are quite in an open and the wind can get strong and cold (I was glad I had packed my gloves). So if you wish to avoid the crowds Bull-of-the-Woods Trail is your choice! Enjoy!

As of today, the trail is entirely clear - no snow. Please be sure to stay on established and current trails.

The last 1.5 miles gains altitude quite rapidly. It’s a steep climb, and trekking or ski poles are definitely recommended.

No water above Williams lake.

This was my most challenging NM hike completed due to the steepness. Well worth the view though!

Beautiful trail and the lakes are well worth the trip. I did it in one day, there and back. Doable and it gets a little steeper after mile 3.

backpacking
28 days ago

This is an absolutely beautiful trail. While the trail can be completed easily within single day, I would recommend backpacking and staying at the top for a night. The view is gorgeous and the trail is very lightly traversed. You will pretty much have both lakes to yourself. There was some snow on the route but the trail is perfectly passable. At the lakes it gets really cold and windy at night so make sure you are dressed accordingly and carry winter backpacking gear.

Hiked this trail yesterday. Was very windy and cold at the top. Snow on some parts of the trail past the treeline. Great views and well worth it!

Trail snow covered except for the last and first quarter mile or so. Hard to follow after you clear the wood line. Had trouble on the ice until I put my microspikes on. Still tough in places. Dress warm toward the top. Gusty winds. Great view. Might be best to wait until ice melts if time permits. Take plenty of water and some high energy snacks and take a meal and enjoy the view.

hiking
29 days ago

Easily one of the most beautiful hikes in NM! Hiked yesterday with my partner, dogs, and two children (10 and 11). The trail was heavily used, even for a Saturday. It is a steep, steady climb, but should be manageable for most. We aren't accustomed to the elevation and thus took a few more breaks than usual. This just gave us extra time to appreciate the stunning old growth forest. Reminds me of hikes in the PNW (without the rain!)

The lake itself is beautiful and surrounded by interesting alpine life. Take the time to cross over to the waterfall on the far side, it is lovely (and full of the best quality water earth provides).

We plan to return with camping gear soon :).

Hike is beautiful all the way, and what a destination!! Starts at the Taos Ski area. If we had more time, we'd probably have gone up to Wheeler Peak, but we did it the morning we were heading out of town

So beautiful and totally worth it. If climbing in the spring time, plan for lots of snow at the top!

Beautiful hike. Awesome views, still some snow in May. Lake still icy.

Some packed snow till Williams Lake. Not bad. A little more snow from Williams to the end treeline. Slightly steep in some parts, but trail is in overall great shape. It is doable without poles. Super windy at the last few switchbacks and at the peak, but it is completely doable. Pretty runnable if you're a trail runner as well. Take some layers with you if you're going to hang out at the top, because the wind makes it cold. Views from the top definitely make it worth it.

hiking
1 month ago

This was an excellent loop. Up Bull of the Woods Trail to Wheeler Peak, down to Horseshoe Lake for one night camp. Back up to Wheeler and down via Williams Lake Trail back to Taos Ski Valley. Views are amazing just about every step of the way. Encountered some snow and had to posthole about three miles in on BOTW. Wheeler Peak provides 360 breathtaking views. Horseshoe Lake is very secluded and makes for a nice campsite. The climb out is a bit of workout, but the trail is well marked and traverses up the east side of Mount Walter and Wheeler Peak. The weather was mild starting out, but winds became increasingly stronger as the afternoon and evening approached. We had a front move in and had sustained 40 mph with gusts over 50 mph, which made sleeping quite difficult. The following morning, the winds continued to increase and as we approached the ridgeline of Wheeler, it sounded like a jet engine with the winds. Once on the ridge, winds were 80 mph + and it was quite dangerous trying to get down from the ridge. We ended up dropping down about 40 feet below the ridgeline and traversed the west side Wheeler until we reached Williams Lake Trail. Definitely not for the faint of heart if the winds are going to be over 50 mph. We had kept a close eye on weather before departing and all reports were indicating 40 mph winds. That was not the case when we woke the next morning and reached the ridgeline. There was still a fair amount of snow in La Cal basin and around Horseshoe, but the trails were mostly clear. Saw a ton of marmots and bighorn sheep along the way. All in all, this was a great trip and I would definitely recommend this route if you haven't done it! Departed Taos Ski Valley on BOTW at 1115 on 05/10/2018, summited at 1530 (7.5 miles), Horseshoe at 1700 (2 miles). Up at 0530, started back at 0715 to Wheeler, down Williams Lake Trail and back to Taos Ski Valley at 1100. 16.5 miles roundtrip.

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