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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.

Length 10.6 mi Elevation gain 2,221 ft Route type Loop

Dogs on leash

Backpacking

Camping

Fishing

Hiking

Nature trips

Walking

Bird watching

Forest

Lake

Views

Wild flowers

Wildlife

Blowdown

Description
Waypoints (0)
Getting There

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.

Head north out of Pecos on 63, through Tererro, to Cowles. Park at the Cowles parking area on the Pecos River.

Weather
UV Index
Daylight
Reviews (100)
Photos (254)
Recordings (70)
Completed (196)
susan edmunson
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 1, 2020
HikingBlowdown

Everything seems to be named Winsor so the reviews were a bit confusing. However, this is what we did: 254 to the 261. 261 is a beautiful trail but have to straddle a few downed trees. It was a little over 4 miles up to Stewart Lake. Good camping mid week and we saw fish in the lake. We went out 254. It is as gorgeous as everyone raves with aspens, ferns, views and yes, mountain lion scat. Going out the 254 was 7 miles, so quite a bit longer but we had eaten our food so we were lighter. We had parked at the small lot after Cowles. It's called Winsor Creek Trailhead.

Michael Morfey
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 21, 2020
HikingClosed

Backpacked this with my daughter and niece last week. Camped at Stewart Lake, which is beautiful and well worth the hike. Awesome campsite on the eastern side of the lake. Explored the area and there are great campsites all around. Good trout fishing. Caught several on a dry fly in the afternoon and again the next morning. Also had a great swim when we reached the lake. One thing to note. The trail shown on the southern part of the loop is closed. You can still do a loop but it requires a different trial that is about 3 miles longer. The northern leg of the loop is more scenic and the last third closing in on the lake had a ton of wild flowers. If I was to do it again, I would do an out and back to the lake using just the northern trail on this loop.

Matthew Ketchie
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 2, 2020
BackpackingBlowdownGreat!

Took my wife and 3 teenage kids backpacking (my 2 daughters and wife's 1st time). Started at Winsor Creek TH via the one-lane paved road from Cowles past many summer homes. At the TH, there are about 8-10 parking spots and we were fortunate to snag one otherwise you'd have to park back in Cowles. Didn't pay any use fees (no ticket waiting for me when we returned either) but took advantage of the trail register. We started the trail about 3 pm and followed Winsor Creek on #254 and passed the #261 junction and were tempted to try the trail but decided against it. After passing the junction, you begin hugging the north side of a large ridge. Note: this is the last place for many miles to get water. About halfway up, we passed a large recent fire scar. Earlier in the parking lot, we encountered the wildland fire crew that had finished mopping up the fire. Apparently for about a week, the whole general area had been closed for the fire (https://www.krqe.com/news/wildfires/winsor-ridge-fire-burning-2-acres-0-contained). Continuing up the ridge, we finally reached the easternmost point on #254 and had a great view looking south. This summit area is a nice Ponderosa pine camping area and the first flat area suitable for camping. Someone has built a wood shelter not far away. We continued west on #254 and minutes later, you exposed on a steep south facing slope and little tree cover. It doesn't last long before you go thru aspen groves and other evergreen forests. Eventually, we came up to the Holy Ghost trail junction and a beautiful large meadow (another candidate for great camping). About 30 minutes from the Holy Ghost junction, we came to the other end of aforementioned #261 (didn't look too bad from that vantage point). About 15 minutes, we crossed Winsor Creek and turned right (north) on #251 (Skyline Trail) - first place to replenish water since early on the trail. Great camping sites here as well. About 15 minutes down #251, we came to Stewart Lake and opted to camp below the lake near the outlet stream. Very quiet location even with moderate traffic from the 4th of July holiday weekend. All in all, we used it as a base camp for 3 nights. Tried fishing at the lake and had no luck. Lots of great camping areas. If I went again, there's a great area on the far southwestern corner of Stewart Lake. Rained on us most afternoons. One afternoon, it poured off and on and we were grateful for a 7 x 10 tarp to keep us all dry. Made a day hike up to Lake Katherine (~6 hrs) on the 4th of July and found that trail very steep. The trip up to Stewart Lake with many breaks and having rookie backpackers, took 5 hrs up and about 3 hrs down. We opted to return the way we came and saved Winsor Ridge Trail for another adventure. Saw a few grouse and cow elk several different times. All in all, a great backpacking trip. Plenty of fast flowing water in the large creeks. Lots of memories. First time in the Pecos Wilderness area and it likely won't be the last.

Eric Steinau
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarJune 26, 2020
HikingBlowdownBugs

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!

Zander Ryder
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarJune 20, 2020
Hiking

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!

View Zander's Recording
Jeffrey Pitman
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarJune 20, 2020
Hiking

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.

Laura Burnham
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJune 13, 2020
Hiking

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.

View Laura's Recording
Ethan Williams
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJune 10, 2020
HikingBugs

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.

Landry Milnes
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMay 22, 2020
Hiking

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.

Christina A.
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMay 16, 2020
Hiking

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.

Griffin Rutherford
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMay 6, 2020
RunningSnow

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!

Olivia Stimmel
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarMay 5, 2020
HikingOff trailSnow

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.

William Jones
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarApril 20, 2020
HikingIcyMuddySnow

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!

Milton Gonzalez
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarApril 12, 2020
HikingSnow
View Milton's Recording
Bing Shen
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarSeptember 2, 2019
Backpacking
Kelly Decker
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 2, 2019
Hiking

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.

Dennis Helmich
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 12, 2019
Backpacking

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.

Tyler Jewell
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarAugust 8, 2019
Hiking

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 :)

Travis Rudd
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 27, 2019
Hiking

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.

Darla Wright
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 16, 2019
Backpacking

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.

Jessica G.
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarJuly 10, 2019
Backpacking

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.

Christyn Small
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 1, 2019
Hiking

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.

Laura Burnham
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJune 25, 2019
Hiking

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.

Rickard Davis
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJune 15, 2019
Backpacking

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

View Rickard's Recording
Alan Barenberg
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarJune 10, 2019
Camping

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.

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