Help keep our trails and parks open during COVID-19 by committing to social distancing. Some trails or park services may be closed this weekend so check with local authorities before heading out.
Learn more

Stewart Lake Loop is a 10.6 mile heavily trafficked loop trail located near Santa Fe, New Mexico that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from June until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Distance: 10.6 miles Elevation Gain: 2,221 feet Route Type: Loop

dogs on leash

backpacking

camping

fishing

hiking

nature trips

walking

bird watching

forest

lake

views

wild flowers

wildlife

blowdown

The southern portion of the loop (Trail 261) is currently closed, but Winsor Trail (#254) is open. Taking this alternate route adds a few miles to your distance.

hiking
blowdown
bugs
6 days ago

This was my first ever solo backpacking trip, so I was not sure what to expect. The Winsor trail begins at the end of Winsor drive. The hike in to Stewart Lake from here is quite challenging and this part of the trail is not maintained by Forest Service regularly. It’s a beautiful but challenging hike up. I camped for 2 nights around Stewart Lake and explored other trails during the days I was there. There is plenty of flowing water in the creeks but there is a lot of deadfall all around and on arts of the trails. All in all a beautiful place to get away from it all. I can’t wait to come back!

hiking
12 days ago

It says 10 miles. LIES haha I enjoyed this hike but it was TOUGH and ended up being 15 miles and the beginning of the trail we decided to drive to which was a mistake because our cars were at the “beginning” of the trail which is just the beginning of the road. It was an 8 hour hike and should’ve said expert level. I’m so proud to say we did it but WOW. Some of our group were NOT happy we did it. I enjoyed it though. We got to even skinny dip at the lake so got to cross off a bucket list item too! I would definitely do it again!

hiking
12 days ago

Beware - the loop is about 14 miles, not 10, if you start at the Winsor trailhead. If you start at the trailhead, because the former trail is closed, you take a detour loop. It’s pretty but adds several miles. The trail does not end at the Winsor trailhead! It ends at the road about 1 mike away. That was a bad surprise. It’s a nice hike but you need to know it’s longer than is identified here. The loop should start and end at the Windsor trailhead parking but it does not.

hiking
19 days ago

Always a beautiful hike. Well-marked trails are lined with wild Rose and Iris, and don't be suprised if you set your pack down only to discover it crawling with caterpillars. The lake is lovely but voices carry, so hopefully you catch it at a good time without too many people. I did the hike as a day trip, but it seems to be a popular trail for multi-day hikers as well. Watch or for those afternoon thunderstorms.

hiking
bugs
22 days ago

I didn’t realize New Mexico had any place so green! It’s stunning. One weird thing about the trail...there are thousands of tent caterpillars all over the place. You could hear them dropping to the ground like raindrops. At first I tried my best not to step on them, but then I noticed that the density of caterpillars directly correlated to the number of dead aspens :( After that I started to not care, and I stepped on many. I went in early June and I doubt it’s like that often.

hiking
1 month 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.

hiking
1 month 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.

running
snow
1 month 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
1 month 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.

hiking
icy
muddy
snow
2 months 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!

hiking
snow
2 months ago

backpacking
9 months ago

hiking
9 months ago

Gorgeous hike. We took it backpacking with three kids leaving out of Cowles. Take Windsor Ridge trail 5.5 mi to small ponds and turn hard left onto skyline. Do not take Windsor Creek trail. Pack more than enough water as it does not cross a creek. Don’t forget your fishing pole/rod.

backpacking
10 months ago

Great trail conditons and scenery. We hiked up Windsor and camped by a small lake reached just before Stewart Lake. Nice quiet campsite. Trail 261 on the way down had plenty of blowdown trunks to negotiate but it wasn't too bad. It looks like Windsor could be a good alternate. I'll certainly hike this one again.

hiking
10 months ago

Beautiful lake , a fishermans dream. parked at holy ghost. camped at lake over night. do not recommend parking at holy ghost. trail is overgrown and washed out I reached the lake in 3 hours. got back to my car in 2.5 hrs the next day. it was 14 miles total and totally doable in 1 day. saw a MOUNTAIN LION EAT A BABY DEER ABOUT 50 YARDS FROM LAKE AFTER SOME WOMAN BROUGHT 4 DOGS THAT ATTACKED IT! bring bear spray please. KEEP DOGS ON LEASHES PEOPLE THERE DEER EVERYWHERE. IT WAS SO SAD. honestly one of the most mediocre hikes to the lake that I have experienced backpacking in NM. Almost no views. Sorry other reviews, but much better hikes than this in these mountains. Go for the fishing. or hit up another lake :)

hiking
11 months ago

Beautiful hike. Rivals anything we did in Colorado when we lived there. Did this as a day hike but I'd recommend backpacking in and doing it over 2 days. Very popular as I saw about 8 other groups on the trail; but it was a Saturday in July. The loop is definitely longer than 10.6 miles. Strava tracked me at over 15 miles before my phone died while finishing up.

backpacking
11 months ago

Gorgeous trail. We backpacked up Winsor Ridge to Stewart Lake this weekend. Parked at the Cowles Pond parking lot and set out. The trail is a for climb for the first three or four miles, making its way through groves of fir and aspen. At times the ferns beneath the aspen make the terrain look more like the Pacific Northwest than New Mexico. We camped at the four mile mark, then headed on up to Stewart Lake the next morning. The trail has a few streams flowing across it, but otherwise it’s in amazing condition; any fallen trees have been recently cleared. It’s hard to describe how beautiful this hike is; the views are fantastic both looking out over the river valley and looking up towards the peaks. Towards the top of the climb we passed through an aspen grove with trees that are staggeringly tall, and right after that was a meadow absolutely FULL of wildflowers. The trail levels off after that and was well-marked at the junction with the Skyline Trail. The pond before Stewart Lake is beautiful, and the lake is almost anti-climactic after the hike to get there. We found Stewart to be peaceful and pretty, though. We saw no trash, just a few fly fisher-men and -women. On the way down monsoons moved in, and we were soaked through. Even in the rain, though, with water flowing down the trail, the views of clouds down in the valley were totally worth it. We did come across a fresh deer kill and mountain lion scat on the way down, only about a mile from the Trailhead, so be aware of that and keep your group together.

backpacking
11 months ago

Camped at Stewart Lake, but had to leave after one night. The people who ride horses up there do nothing to mitigate their impact on the area. The small was awful and the flies where unbearable. In addition, people left used toilet paper and trash. Leave No Trace should not be just a slogan.

hiking
Mon Jul 01 2019

parked at holy ghost Campground and reached Stewart Lake via the Winsor and skyline trail. it was an absolutely beautiful 16 mile round trip full of challenging inclines, traverses through meadows of wild flowers and quite a bit of river hopping. would definitely do again.

hiking
Tue Jun 25 2019

I parked near the fishing ponds and followed the loop in a counterclockwise direction. The grade was challenging, but not too steep. The trail was very easy to follow. There were quite a few fallen trees along the trail on my way down, but they were easy to go over or around. Spectacular wildflowers, views, and peaceful water features.

backpacking
Sat Jun 15 2019

Trail is in good condition. All up hill but it is supposed to be.

camping
Mon Jun 10 2019

Did an out and back on the Winsor Ridge trail in early May and camped near Stewart Lake. Ran into a fair amount of snow above 10k feet which made the trail difficult to find in places, but nevertheless a great hike. On the way down ran into a volunteer who was clearing the last of the trees that had come down on the trail over the winter.

hiking
blowdown
muddy
Sun Jun 02 2019

Lots of blowdown on the return trail be ready to hop a ton or either go back the way you came or take Windsor trail back.

hiking
blowdown
Sat Jun 01 2019

Since SFNF bought the Winsor property in 1972, they have been busy revising the trails, which makes for some confusion, and possibly a 6 mile addition to your hike plan. Some maps show all the trails, some only show the ones that SFNF wants you to see. This Alltrails map does show the old Winsor Trail, now marked "Closed--Not maintained by SFNF." There is no reason to fear this sign, you are allowed to walk where you will in the entire forest other than the SF Watershed, which is due to historical stupidity. If you choose to use this TR261 you will save 3 miles each way, but pay for it by climbing over sporadic deadfall. It's no-contest for most of those headed up to the lakes and peaks. Plus you get to walk by a rushing stream most of the way.

hiking
closed
Sun May 26 2019

Just finished this trail. It is not maintained by the forest service so many trees were down over it and you have to go over them. Beautiful scenery and plenty of access to water.

Showing results 1 - 25 of 94