Bull of the Woods Trail

MODERATE 39 reviews
#6 of 33 trails in

Bull of the Woods Trail is a 14.5 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico that features a lake. The trail is rated as moderate offers a number of activity options. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

DISTANCE
14.5 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
4550 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

dog friendly

camping

hiking

skiing

snowshoeing

trail running

forest

lake

views

wild flowers

rocky

snow

hiking
21 days ago

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.

hiking
25 days ago

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!

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.

hiking
4 months ago

I went up at the beginning of February. Apparently there was less snow than usual for a February. This made the last stretch to the summit easier but there was still plenty of snow down below tree line and it would have been impossible without snow shoes. Bull of the Woods May be safer in winter but is is very difficult. You will need lots of time and energy.

5 months ago

Nice hike but be aware that currently long stretches are covered in solid ice.

5 months ago

Dis silly damn trail gon’ take you into the bulls kaboodle. 10 bulls at the top, eyes glarin red, head real low, kicking they feet. Don’t panic tho not a damn good thing will happen they sense fear. Listentomenow, what you gon’ do is run straight at ‘em, fast as you can and when fire come out they nose and horns tryin to split your privates you JUMP. And for chrissakes you plant your foot right between a bulls eye and launch yourself over the other side that beast. Like punchin a shark in the nose. But on land, dummy. Turn a god damn war machine into a scared puppy, feel me? Thing’ll drop like sacka potatoes. Think a beta bull gon’ mess with ya after takin’ down the big boy? Not a chance. Have a good hike.

hiking
6 months ago

Mini spikes or something similar highly recommended for this trail, encountered snow and ice.

backpacking
7 months ago

We left at sunrise (715am) on Bull of the woods headed to Wheeler Peak. We were packing quite a bit of gear thinking we might have to camp. Really wanted to get some drone footage of the peak so add that weight too... Summit around 2 pm. Got our footage and then took Wheeler peak via Williams lake trail down. Made it back to town about 630. Hiked another 2 miles back up to The Alpine Village hotel (had to use the roads since the trail was closed). Have to say this was a great experience. If I could do it all over again I would have definitely decided to camp off trail on the way up and then finished the next day. Awesome views at the top. There was some hard snow the last mile up to the peak but the rest of the trail was clear (no snow). Bull of the woods trail is in good shape and easy to walk. On the way down Wheeler peak via Williams lake the trail is made up of loose rocks, makes it a task to come down with a big pack but only for a little while. Once you hit the tree line it's easy sailing.

9 months ago

I climbed Wheeler Peak via Bull of the Woods yesterday, the Friday before Labor Day weekend. Only encountered one other person on the trail. It is a scenic and moderate ascent. I left the trailhead at 7 and summited around 2pm. Could have done it faster but I had a head cold and was taking it easy with a few rest stops.

After hiking up to the Bull of the Woods meadow (about 3 miles), the trail breaks through the trees and crosses a knob, before descending back into the trees. Then it climbs to the first false summit, then a ridge walk up to the top of Wheeler. It's a fairly straightforward climb, no loose scree.

I saw a group of foxes, some bighorn sheep and a couple of rock badgers along the trail.

Some clouds were moving in when I was on the Summit so I made the call to descend via Williams Lake trail. That's 1000 feet down through messy scree, but it got me to the tree line before the lightening came in, so definitely worthwhile. This climb down is much faster and very scenic. At the bottom there is a nice Bavarian inn with cold beer, German sausage and great music! The only downside is the mile hike back down to where I had parked at Taos ski valley. My legs were pretty tight at that time of the day.

Wheeler is a nice climb. This route is significant vertical gain and makes for a long day but it's not technical and counts as a real accomplishment!

hiking
10 months ago

Hiked on August 9th, 2017
If your goal is to summit Wheeler peak, I highly recommend starting at bull of the woods which takes you to the top of both mount Walter, and Wheeler. Then take Wheeler peak trail down (which is steep but short) to Williams lake trail (make a left). Taking this route is more enjoyable and much prettier then Wheeler peak trail via Williams lake. The hour prior to arriving at wheeler peak you are exposed to weather while on the ridge line. Be prepared with layers and sunblock. Only disadvantage is if you don't have two vehicles you have to walk back to where you parked at the trailhead of bull of the woods. It's about a mile on the dirt road after finishing Williams Lake Trail. My wife and I got picked up by a nice couple and taking back to our car.

hiking
Monday, June 12, 2017

Amazing hike with spectacular scenery; a classic trail.

hiking
Wednesday, June 07, 2017

I tried this hike a couple of weeks ago but didn't make it. I sort of got mixed up after a couple told me that "wheeler was this way" and I proceeded to go in the direction they went after a quick break. When I ran into them and they told me this, I was at the Red River Canyon and it seemed like the bull of the woods trail went in a different direction than what the couple had told me. I still went in the direction they said to go but the trail got too sketchy and I realized I was going the wrong direction least after about an hour or more. Ended up having a friend that lost his dog after going freestyle down Frazier Mtn. with no trail to get back to a point where I was familiar. Not an ideal start to the hike but now I have better maps and with no dogs haha. Trying it again Friday!

hiking
Friday, September 02, 2016

Terrific day hike. Strenuous but not difficult. Nice views once you're above the tree line, especially at Wheeler Peak.

Camped at the trailhead. Hit the trail at sunrise (6:30), reached Wheeler Peak at 11:00 and was back at the trailhead by 2:30. Glad I got an early start. Clouded up at noon and a light rain began around 1:00. But there was also lightning in the area and above the tree line there's no place to shelter. I'm a low-lander (Dallas), but in reasonably good shape (56; bike 40 miles a week). The altitude caught up with me; had to greatly slow my pace and take deeper breaths for the last 2-or-so miles up. Did not see another soul on the trail. Scads of marmots near the peak, including one perched on the top of the rock pile marking Wheeler Peak! (Photo.) No snow or ice on the trail (8/31/16).

hiking
Sunday, March 20, 2016

STRENUOUS HIKE if you're flat landers like us (Kansans), but the views are amazing. We hiked 7.5 miles to Wheelers Peak, then took the rocky 4 mile trail down by Williams Lake. Had a scary moment when we surprised a group of female mountain goats with kids, so stay alert & keep a distance. (One chased us off the trail a bit. She was not intimidated by us at all.) Loved this trail, hope to do it again someday.

hiking
Thursday, February 04, 2016

Great hike a must if you want a great overnight to summit Wheeler

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Loved this trail! We hiked it just as the leaves were starting to change and it was gorgeous. It is closer to 7.5 than 1.5, just a heads up. There's also lots of shade, so it's a great hike with dogs!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

If you are not used to the altitude then this trail will be a challenge. It is steep at times but the views are worth it and make sure you are wearing a good pair of shoes and plenty of water.

hiking
Thursday, May 28, 2015

Took the Bull of the Woods all the way to Wheeler Peak. I meant to start at the Williams Lake TH, but ended up enjoyed this longer, scenic version that was just as challenging yet different. Camped right at the TH!

Friday, November 28, 2014

This trail starts at the Taos Ski Valley parking at roughly 9400 feet. It's 2 mi. up to Bull of the Woods meadow at 10,800. The first mile is a bit steep, but overall an easy hike if you're used to the altitude. The trail contiues on bypassing Bull of the Wood Mountain, and reaching Fraser Mt. in a bit over 4 Mi. from there it is another 3 + mi. to Wheeler Peak.

hiking
Sunday, March 10, 2013

Great for snowshoeing in the winter. Strenuous at times but short.

hiking
Thursday, May 24, 2012

Took this trail up to Bull of the Woods pasture and then went on to Bull of the Woods mountain and Fraser Mountain. Attempted to go to Wheeler Peak via this route but there was too much snow past Fraser Mountain.

The trail was in good condition. There were patches of snow here and there but nothing serious. The trail is wide (old road) and rocky the entire way up.

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