Stewart Lake Loop

MODERATE 74 reviews
#2 of 41 trails in

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 may be closed, but Winsor Trail (#254) is open. Taking this alternate route adds a few miles to your distance.

backpacking
4 months ago

hiking
4 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
5 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
5 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
5 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
6 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
6 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
6 months ago

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
6 months ago

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
7 months ago

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

camping
7 months ago

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
7 months ago

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
7 months ago

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
7 months ago

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.

8 months ago

snow at 3.6 miles (10k ft) forced us back. it was about 2ft-2.5ft in places.

hiking
closed
off trail
snow
8 months ago

This hike would have been great if it wasn’t for the snow. You will definitely need snowshoes if you anticipate on completing the entire loop. I struggled due to postholing the majority of the hike. The southern portion of the loop is closed, but #254 is open; it’s just a few extra miles. Expect having to duck, climb, and hike around lots of fallen trees blocking the path. Oh - speaking of the path- expect having to find your own. The footprints tend to disappear. I had to use my AllTrails app and a compass to rediscover the trail. One more thing, you’re going to need to cross several creeks. The creeks are high and flowing heavily. Good luck.

hiking
Sun Nov 04 2018

November 3, 2018: I loved the hike! It is moderate but nonetheless demanding. Especially once you start hitting the snow the higher you go. Super rewarding hike, it’s a beautiful view!

hiking
Sun Jul 22 2018

We took trail #261 for a 8.5 mile there and back from the second trail head. Actually you start on #254 then turn right on #261. That trail is not officially maintained and not on trail maps. It is beautiful and not overly challenging. You do have to clamor over downed trees but it doesn’t slow you down too much. After following #261 for several miles you rejoin with #254. After half a mile you juncture with Skyline trail. Go right and reach the lake after about half a mile. Lake is beautiful and worth the effort. We did this first day at altitude and didn’t find it to be too much. It was a beautiful warm day with no clouds and the wild flowers were lovely. Highly recommend.

Thu Jun 21 2018

Great trail with the lake as a reward at the end.

backpacking
Fri Jun 01 2018

Park at cowles camp and walk down the main road to the right a bit to find the trailhead. Elevation was a bit challenging for a Texan coming from sea level with a 40lb bag. Not too bad if you can take your time though. Some great valley views along the way. Camping on lake Stewart was secluded and amazing. Had an accessible water creek right next to camp. Day hike to lake katherine the next day was amazing, but even steeper (6 mile round trip). Beautiful ridge! We did it as a loop and took Windsor trail back down the mountain on 3rd day. Beware if you do there are 2 trails, Windsor creek (shorter, but sign said closed) and Windsor to the right (a few miles longer, epic aspens, but you’ll get to a different parking lot and have +1 mile back to cowels). Great trip.

backpacking
Mon May 07 2018

The lake area was totally free of snow this past weekend. The hike length in was just right for my seven-year-old daughter. (She was beginning to complain in the last mile before we got there, but she still had the energy to explore the lake.) We spent the night and headed back the next morning. Note that signs along the trail do not direct you to Stewart lake. Instead they tell you the trail name and/or the trail number. If you know the trail numbers to get to Stewart Lake from the Cowles parking lot (Trail #271 and #251), you should be able to find your way. Also, you come to a small pond on trail #251 right before you reach Stewart lake. You need to go another, say, 0.25 miles to reach Stewart Lake.

hiking
Mon Apr 23 2018

backpacking
Mon Apr 09 2018

trail condition is good in early April.

backpacking
Tue Aug 15 2017

One of the few trails that open early in the Pecos Wilderness due to the southern exposure on Winsor Ridge. Beautiful aspen stands and some Gambel's oak for fall colors, and I've seen coyotes, deer, elk, and grouse, so it's a great trail for wildlife viewing. I've also heard turkey's in the trees. Stewart lake is beautiful, but not many places to camp because of the F.S. regulation of not being able to camp in the lake basin.

backpacking
Tue Jun 20 2017

Yooooooo why did none of you reviewers warn me about how there's not actual signage for Stewart's? You have to follow the sign for Johnson, apparently. I'm not sure, because we never made it to Stewart's. Us passing the sign and heading several miles in the wrong direction turned this into more of a failed suicide attempt than a one-nighter, and since Stewart's is apparantley a bit beyond Johnson we just collapsed at the first lake we got to. That being said, my review should reflect the actual trail. Which is lovely. Very gradual incline the entire way, several beautiful aspen stands, and multiple water sources along the way. The information calls this "heavily trafficked," and I would agree if you're going on a weekend. We hiked in on a Sunday and passed many groups on their way , but had the whole lake to ourselves that night. Don't trust the distance estimates of people hiking out - they've been hiking downhill the whole time!!

hiking
Fri Jun 09 2017

Anyone know if the trail is passable at the moment. Snow and trees down?

backpacking
Thu Jun 08 2017

This was my first ever back packing trip, and this was an excellent trail for it. The signs aren't marked along the trail for Stewart, but the map at the trail head tells you which trail to take. The trail is very well maintained at least, and when I got to Stewart Lake itself, I basically had the whole thing all to myself. It was a gorgeous hike, and I appreciated the return trip being almost entirely downhill. That 2000 foot elevation climb is pretty rough.

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