I have a couple of questions for people that have hiked this trail. Is there a place to park a car, for about a week? Do you think an in shape 10 year old boy could make the hike to Lake Katherine? Thanks

My brother and I took this loop and modified it into a 38 mile loop over 4.5 days - this is the most mileage we’ve ever set out to complete in one backpacking trip. We did 35 miles in Yosemite last summer. I consider us to be moderately experienced but very enthusiastic. We both used ultralight packs from Gossamer Gear and Zpacks. Dates: 5/23 - 5/27 Clockwise Route: Cowels Parking Lot —> Winsor Trailhead —> Spirit Lake —> Lake Nambe —> Lake Katherine —> Stewart Lake —> Lake Johnson —> Exit at Cowels. That was the plan, but of course, things didn’t go completely as planned and we are both totally happy about the unexpected adventure. Our first day went great, tough uphill the whole way to camp. We camped at the intersection of the trail to Stewart and Katherine. Only saw two other tents and it was Memorial Day weekend. Perfect weather. Beautiful stream 40ft. away. I had to hang a bear bag and it was challenging to find a spot but manageable. Second day we hiked to Spirit Lake. Got cell service halfway there. Trail got rocky and more granite-like. Spirit Lake was beautiful and plenty of camping spots but we kept moving. Headed up to Nambe Lake - hardest climb of the whole trip. Plenty of snow to hike over but never sunk into it. Nambe was rugged and epic. We planned to camp there and found possibly the only spot around the lake to pitch a tent. The air was freezing cold and we were up there and set up by 4pm. Laying there in the cold, we decided to move back down the mountain to get to warmer air for the night. Found a great green meadow to pitch. That night a bear came near our tent and scared the crap out of us. It was a good thing we moved down from the lake because that night it hailed and the next morning it snowed. I can’t imagine how cold it was up there at Nambe. The plan on the third day was to hike up Baldy and then to Lake Katherine from the upper trail. We got up to the sub summit of Baldy and the weather turned quickly into snow and hail. The storm overtook Baldy so we decided to go straight to Katherine. That soon turned sour too - the trail was blocked by a huge snow glacier cliff - totally impassable without some serious snow climbing gear. We looped back around to Spirit Lake and planned to go to Katherine from the lower trail. Our map mislead us and we hooked a left after the creek crossing too early. Ended up hiking up some side of Baldy on a treacherous trail with hail pounding us. Turned back to avoid hypothermia and to get under our tent out of the hail. We sped down the trail and passed the sign to Lake Katherine with much disappointment. Camped at the same place we camped at night 1 and got about 4 inches of snow that night. Definitely didn’t expect that and only had shorts with leggings and our Nano Puffs. Luckily our bags were 15 degree. Day 4 the skies were blue and sunny and we were praising God! We let our stuff dry out while we hiked up to Katherine. NOTE: Katherine is further up than the little pond you hit. There’s a ton of snow but you can get there. Hiked back down, grabbed our dried out gear, hiked to Stewart, then up to Johnson and back down. You need to go to Lake Johnson. Finally, the plan was to camp somewhere along the final stretch back to Cowels but we never found a flat area along the 4.7 mile stretch. That day turned into a 15 mile day all the way back to the car only to find that there was no camping allowed near the trailhead. Ended up sleeping in the car and heading back to Texas in the morning. Overall, an epically unforgettable trip to celebrate graduating college. I wish we had done more weather forecasting. You need to look at the forecast in the mountains, not in nearby towns and cities. We probably should’ve studied our route more closely beforehand because the map was too vague and led us down a couple wrong paths throughout the trip. 10/10 would do it again.

hiking
blowdown
icy
7 days ago

We hiked up from Stewart Lake. Last bit is lots of snow. I postholed through and smashed my knee on a boulder. Luckily a nurse was nearby and gave me some help! I did the hike in shorts just fine and did bring a down jacket to wear. The effort was totally worth it and would do it again in a heartbeat. The lake is still partially (mostly) frozen over. At the last ascension stay in the tree line for a clear path --- avoid climbing up through the snow.

hiking
icy
muddy
snow
9 days ago

The trail is still covered with snow once you get over the saddle and try to take the switch backs down to the lake. There is snow covering the entire first half of the switch backs. It’s passable but a bit of a suffer fest (total suffer fest lol). To avoid that, there’s a bit of a sketchy steep scramble down the cornice to the left when looking down at the switch backs. We didn’t see it one the way down but took that on the way back up. If you can get past that, there’s still snow that you fall through occasionally (shorts not recommended) but it’s possible to get to the lake. It’s frozen over rn and super beautiful.

hiking
muddy
rocky
snow
9 days ago

Hiked this bad boy on Memorial Day and it was nothing short of amazing. Great trail, beautiful & well maintained for the most part. As everyone has been commenting on here recently, getting through the snow in the downward switchback section and to the lake is the challenging part. Certain sections definitely feel like they're still 4 to 5ft deep in snow. I would recommend a change of socks, trekking poles and spikes.I would agree with Eliana Griego's review in getting around the switchback section. The lake is mostly still frozen but absolutely stunning to behold in person. It even snowed/ flurried while we were out there! If you want to check out the current conditions of the hike, check out my vid on YT for a good idea of what's like... https://youtu.be/j5MsqSZTOqs

backpacking
10 days ago

Awesome! We had to start from Cowles, but it was worth it! Great trail, caves were cool, and lifetime memories. If you take the horse trail in there will be two river crossings. If you enter from the trailhead, there will be only one. The second crossing has fallen trees over it, that we were able to cross easily without getting wet. Several great camping spots along the trail.

hiking
12 days ago

Great trip. Took the 271 trail. A lot of people out on the Memorial Day weekend. I completed this as my first backpacking trip by myself. Had a great time and would do it again. Take a fishing pole next time.

Great trail. We stayed at Stewart for 3 nights and did day trips to Johnson, Katherine, and Spirit. Snow becomes prevalent at around 11k, especially on the way to Katherine. We had gaiters and poles and were postholing waist deep at times. Trail between Katherine and Santa Fe Baldy was impassable due to snow.

We tried to hike to Lake Kathrine but snow was not passable , still a great hike to the summit of Santa Fe Baldy and nice camp below at Puerto Nambe . Great time of year .

This was my first ever hike in New Mexico. I went here in falls. Saw lot of colors. Need a stick as it ll be little icy in the end.

Hiked to Ravens ridge on May 9, 2020- trail was clear in the beginning but we hit snow early on. Post holed most of the way.. 1-3 feet deep. Still a beautiful hike!

hiking
muddy
snow
16 days ago

Great trail! Overestimated what we could do in a day so we didn’t make it to the lake, but still a beautiful hike. Spotty snowy/slushy spots that weren’t too bad. Hikeable in running shoes. Definitely want to come back and backpack in to break up the hike next time.

May 16-18th, weather is beautiful and picturesque. Patches of snow for the first 4 miles up to Puerto Nambe meadows. Once you get on the Skyline trail to baldy, the snow increases but it is manageable. The switchbacks down to lake Katherine on the backside of the baldy saddle are all snowed in approximately 5ft. of snow for about 100 yards down. You can see the trail pick up after that point. You can still make it down that way if you have an iron will - head up the mountain and cross over where the snow is least steep. You can make your way down through the trees and snow and get to the switchbacks!

on Stewart Lake Loop

hiking
18 days ago

Saturday, May 16 was a perfect day to hike the Windsor Ridge Trail (271) to Stewart Lake with my husband and our dog. We took trail 271 out and back after hearing that 261 may be impassible this time of year. Our roundtrip distance was 11.5 miles from the parking area at Cowles. We started around 8:30 AM. It took us 2:30 to reach the lake and 2:20 to return. Parking was packed with people accessing the river (get there early to get a spot), but we saw only 18 people on the trail all day, including two Forest Service volunteers out maintaining the trail. The trail is in excellent condition and easy to follow. Just watch for the sign at the hard-left turn to the lake. There was one small patch of snow on the trail close to the lake and a few patches around it - totally manageable. I would definitely do this trail again early in the season when higher-elevation hikes in the area are still snow covered.

PERFECT TIME TO GO is IN August!! No snow and not to hot

hiking
24 days ago

Awesome trail had some amazing views, walking up at the beginning had such a mystical feeling. I highly recommend this trail, wish I could’ve finished it but got a late start on it. I shall be finishing on a later date.

running
snow
28 days ago

Winsor Ridge Trail was in great condition with gorgeous views. There were some blowdown trees, but they were hardly an issue. The snow only appeared when approaching the lake, and it was thigh-deep, so I decided to return back to the trailhead on Winsor Ridge. It was well worth the drive from Santa Fe!

hiking
off trail
snow
29 days ago

Although this trail was beautiful we certainly got in over our heads. Ended up having to do a nearly 17mile loop because the main half of this loop, trail 261 is closed and unmaintained. Nearly got lost and turned around a few times because of the snow. Be prepared that it may take longer than expected and be snowy in some spots.

too much snow. couldn’t finish before losing daylight.

hiking
1 month ago

Front gate to campground was closed, so that added a little over 3 miles round trip to our hike. Still worth it. The river was rushing so it was tricky to cross and the caves were too full of water to go explore. We will come back in June or perhaps to see fall colors and explore caves then when water is lower.

hiking
icy
muddy
snow
1 month ago

This trail is stunning, though at about 5.2 miles where one might turn off to skyline ridge, it is incredibly snowy- like waist deep. The snow begins at about 4ish miles and continues in patches that grow in depth and length. A bit treacherous if you don’t have appropriate gear. Super stunning and a good challenge none the less- especially with sopping wet socks and boots!

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