Wheeler Peak via Williams Lake Trail

HARD 205 reviews
#1 of 33 trails in

Wheeler Peak via Williams Lake Trail is a 7.9 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico that features a lake and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from June until October. Dogs and horses are also able to use this trail.

DISTANCE
7.9 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
2979 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

dog friendly

camping

fishing

hiking

horseback riding

skiing

snowshoeing

trail running

walking

forest

lake

river

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

blowdown

muddy

rocky

snow

The New Mexico highpoint.

hiking
40 minutes ago

Hiked Wheeler peak, 6-15, then did Mt. Walter (it's just right there, might as well do 2, 13ers in one trip!) and then to Williams lake on return trip. Pretty big hike, left at 6:30am, and returned at 5pm. A little wind top half, temps in the high 40's but certainly not terrible, actually had the best weather you could expect at that elevation. Fantastic hike, highly recommended! Beautiful views, high mountain flowers, big Horn sheep, pickas, chipmunks, and lots of marmots! They'll go right up and steal your food if you don't watch out. 0 snow on trail, but still a little in the crags on various peaks still left over.

5 days ago

This trail is more spectacular and also much harder than I anticipated. We are from sea level, clocked 10.5 miles and took over 8 hours of purely walking time. Lots of topography change, wildlife and wildflowers. Had some hail along the way .. used all the layers we brought with us. Fantastic!

backpacking
9 days ago

I’ve hiked this trail at least twice and it’s a favorite!

hiking
10 days ago

Went up to the peak today! The trail is nicely marked with blue paint on some of the trees. It gets pretty steep towards the top, but it was still a great trail. It took us about 5 hours total to get up and down.

We didn't have a 4 wheel drive vehicle and we were just fine today...there wasn't any snow or anything.

12 days ago

Nice hike! The view from the lake was breathtaking. As an older person it took a little more time but no problems. Trail is used extensively. The only issue I had was the dog bombs that were not disposed of properly.

hiking
13 days ago

Excellent trail! I highly recommend an early start to enjoy the morning view at Williams lake.

hiking
20 days ago

I've hiked Wheeler before and absolutely love it. I'm going again at the end of the month and am wondering if I need to have 4 wheel drive to get up to Phoenix Grill to begin the hike?
Thanks for your input!

21 days ago

Beautiful hike today. About 3 hours up and 2 down.

21 days ago

6 hrs up and down showing 8.8 miles. Just beautiful trail the whole way, extremely windy on top 1/3 but views were incredible. Saw lots of marmots and even 5 big horn sheep on the back bowl. Definitely one of the prettiest and well structured trails I have ever been on. In cool/cold temps 3L of water was more than enough. Only tip is the sign for the peak trail just before the lake is easy to miss, just a post w letters carved in it.

hiking
28 days ago

As of today, the trail is entirely clear - no snow. Please be sure to stay on established and current trails.

The last 1.5 miles gains altitude quite rapidly. It’s a steep climb, and trekking or ski poles are definitely recommended.

No water above Williams lake.

This was my most challenging NM hike completed due to the steepness. Well worth the view though!

1 month ago

Hiked this trail yesterday. Was very windy and cold at the top. Snow on some parts of the trail past the treeline. Great views and well worth it!

1 month ago

Trail snow covered except for the last and first quarter mile or so. Hard to follow after you clear the wood line. Had trouble on the ice until I put my microspikes on. Still tough in places. Dress warm toward the top. Gusty winds. Great view. Might be best to wait until ice melts if time permits. Take plenty of water and some high energy snacks and take a meal and enjoy the view.

trail running
1 month ago

Some packed snow till Williams Lake. Not bad. A little more snow from Williams to the end treeline. Slightly steep in some parts, but trail is in overall great shape. It is doable without poles. Super windy at the last few switchbacks and at the peak, but it is completely doable. Pretty runnable if you're a trail runner as well. Take some layers with you if you're going to hang out at the top, because the wind makes it cold. Views from the top definitely make it worth it.

1 month ago

Hiked this April 30 after camping at Twining campsite a couple miles below (free). First part of the trail is mostly wooded with hard-packed snow and ice but not treacherous. After the wooded part there is a steep avalanche chute that serves as a shortcut or you can take switchbacks which are easier to traverse. After the wooded area the packed snow was spotty and still not treacherous - we didn’t have spikes or poles and were fine. Beautiful views rest of the way. Unfortunately it was brutally windy near the peak so we couldn’t safely complete Wheeler Peak but we were able to make it to Walters Peak which is just to the left and also a 13er. A hiker before us said he didn’t feel comfortable finishing Wheeler either. Due to the wind we didn’t hang around long and the descent was quick and easy so we finished in about 4.5 hours. Distance from the parking lot is farther than advertised, maybe closer to 9-10 miles? Definitely recommend checking out Williams Lake on the way.

hiking
2 months ago

Went up yesterday — Sunday April 22 — and it was classic spring hiking conditions in the mountains. Slick, icy packed snow on the trail in the morning that was mush by the afternoon. Mud, ice, and slush.

Definitely felt better with poles and microspikes. There is an avalanche chute that some had used as a shortcut. Would require ice ax / crampons but the conditions yesterday were ideal. No heavy snow loads and excellent packed snow for an alpine style ascent. I had the gear, but I opted to stick to the switchback trail.

Nothing too crazy. A nice way to spend a morning. Took me three hours up and three hours down. Worth it to stop at the lake on the way up or down. It's barely any extra hiking.

Was windy enough at the summit that I added a few layers. Didn't bother shedding any on the way down and was almost 60 when I got back to the trailhead. It was a relief to change into a t-shirt.

Packed my microspikes but didn’t ever have to pull them out of my pack. Awesome hike. Insanely windy at the summit. Make sure you dress warm!

5 months ago

Bring ur yak traxs! Lots of packed snow and ice to Williams lake. Then patches of snow/ice to the top of Wheeler. Happy New Year!

hiking
6 months ago

Fantastic experience! The hike from the trailhead to the lake is a pleasant stroll through the forest that includes streams and waterfalls. The trail is well marked and impeccably maintained. From the lake to the summit, one encounters seemingly endless switchbacks. The terrain varies from rock to dirt to snow and the intensity ranges from moderate to challenging. Once the saddle at the top of the climb is achieved, one is treated to an entirely new landscape of spectacular mountains on the other side. Several peaks are connected by saddles, so one can venture on after reaching Wheeler's summit.

hiking
6 months ago

Great place, easy hike with no technical aspects. Could not locate the geo marker on this Peak.

Camp at the lake/waterfall and enjoy. Campfire wood scarce.

Hiked and camped in August 2017.

7 months ago

Went up 11/12/17. Snow on the ground from the beginning, (Phoenix Lodge), all-the-way up to the summit, but no traction needed. (MicroSpikes stayed in my pack).

For those unfamiliar, this is a switch-backed trail that anyone can hike, with no exposure and no scrambling. The altitude might slow you down a bit, but this is an easy route to a 13,000+ summit, with a magnificent view of the Sangre de Cristos, clear up to Colorado.

I highly recommend doing this as a loop hike, taking Bull-of-the-Woods down to the Taos Ski area main parking lot. This means 7mi down instead of 4mi, but you traverse an incredible ridge and alpine meadow, with 4-5 miles above treeline. The only issue here is that the two trailheads are about 2miles and 800ft of elevation apart. (I usually park down below, and hitch a ride up to the Phoenix in the morning.)

8 months ago

Beautiful hike! We went on a windy day, which made us decend quickly after we got there. Be prepared to walk through several rock fields on the way to the top.

hiking
8 months ago

My wife and I did this trail in September as our last hike during our 3 month stay in New Mexico. It was by far the hardest hike I have ever done as I developed some altitude sickness symptoms during the hike, despite having done several other hikes (up to 11,000 feet elevation) during our time there! Although it was difficult, I was so proud to make it to the top and it was a once in a lifetime experience for me. We saw elk and a big horned sheep! When we neared the top it began to thunder and started snowing! Although the visibility wasn't great at the top in the weather conditions, the view was awesome on the way up. It was an afternoon I will never forget.

8 months ago

We did it today. Lots of new snow, I mean above 5' at least. We used tracking devices on the shoes, poles etc. wind gusts above 70mph. Most of the hikers were turning back before reaching the ridge. Couldn't talk nor take a breath close to the top. My phone froze and stopped working. It was insane. Cold, windchill low below freezing. I ended with one leg in an unexpected ditch up to my groin in the snow. Get yourself well prepared if you go this year/season. I expected this to be tough but due to the crazy winter conditions, it was the most difficult hike in my life. Views were magnificent though. I wish we had more sun! Amazing hike. I am happy to be alive though. LOL

backpacking
8 months ago

We started out at Taos Ski Village at 4:30pm, at dinner at the summit and watched the sunset. Un.be.lieve.able. Craziest hike up, you hike 20 ft then have to stop you are so worn out. Don't give up, it'll all make sense in the end.

backpacking
8 months ago

This was a beautiful hike I stayed overnight at Williams Lake and couldn’t have been happier. Though this trail shows a straight shot up the mountain, it is a very difficult trail to find let alone hike. There is another trail that has switchbacks to the top that is a much more preferred route to take.

hiking
9 months ago

Great hike but definitely longer then 6.2 miles. We summited in 4hrs 40min and 19 sec. and recorded 8 miles on All trails.
Other devices said more. I’m not really worried.
Beautiful view the entire trail.
Fun fun fun is all I can say.

hiking
9 months ago

hiking
9 months ago

September 15th me and my hiking buddy submitted Wheeler peak we started at 6.30am and made it back to the car by 1.30pm. We stopped on the way up to check out Williams lake which was beautiful especially early in the morning near sunrise when no one else is around! It's an easy trail to follow just try not to take any short cuts because you will loose sight of the trail epically once you are out of the forest. When you approach the saddle at the top there are no signs but the peak is on your right. It does get a little chilly especially once your out of the forest so make sure you have a windproof jacket that's warm. The wind that day was CRAZY, it was almost blowing us over so we had to be extra careful when we approached the summit and the clouds where pretty low so we did have poor visibility at times but luckily it did begin to clear at the top and on the way back down. Even though I didn't bring walking poles with me I do suggest taking them if you have them as going down on the rocks can be a little challenging at times. If your not used to the altitude definitely make sure you take enough short breaks to catch your breath, drink and have snack so you don't burn out on your way back down!I All in all it is definitely one of my favorite hikes and I definitely recommend it, one day I will go back and do this trail again.

hiking
9 months ago

On September 10th, 2017 I climbed to Wheeler Peak via Williams Lake. There was rain the night before. I started from the parking area north of the Bavarian Restaurant. It had four clean outhouses, a bear proof trash and recycle bin (not overflowing), and a hand wash with soap. Pretty nice.
I normally try to maintain at least a 2 mile per hour pace but my hiking companion wasn’t up to it so I won’t talk about time. The trail starts along a service road that narrows to a footpath. At the Williams lake or Wheeler Peak split we continued on to Williams Lake just to see it. I was glad that I did because it is a nice mountain lake and it gave me prospective. As you get to higher elevations you will get a number of views of Williams Lake in the valley below from an increasingly greater distance.
We saw marmots, chipmunks, and a pair of large birds (I took a nice picture of one that I will post) along with several smaller ones. No deer, elk, or big horn sheep unfortunately.
The switchbacks have rockslide areas which are a bit more technical than La Luz. The rocks are not packed with dirt so they can move and roll under your feet. Also they became a bit slippery in the rain/hail that we encountered on the way back down. At one point on the switchbacks just before the ridge to the peak the trail was the steepest trail (not steps or rock climbing) that I have even been on. Coming down that part of the trail with a 30lbs pack, fatigued legs and a bit of hail was exhilarating.
I signed the logbook and enjoyed the view from the peak but it was midday and a bit hazy. It was my first time and I have talked about doing it for a while. I’m glad that I finally did.

hiking
9 months ago

Once you make it past the tree line, it is a rocky trail so make sure to have a hiking stick when you come down. Lots of marmots and pikas around. Saw some big horn sheep too. We started around 7:30am and we were back to the car by 2:30pm. It is very steep toward the top but worth the hike for sure. Take breaks if you need them and you will make it. Very pretty hike and made it to the top and avoided the monsoons. I would recommend going to Taos Ski Valley the night before to help with the elevation and then you can grab a beer and relax at a hotel with a hot tub.

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