The Short Way to Wheeler Peak
Hike to Wheeler Peak from Taos Ski Valley
In the past you had two options for climbing to Wheeler. 16 miles thru Bull of Wood and La Cal Basin or 8 miles thru Williams Lake and straight up to the peak.
Now that the US Forest Service has improved that trail the best and shortest way to climb Wheeler is through Williams Lake. To find the trailhead follow the road past the Taos Ski Valley base area up to the Kachina lift and Bavarian restaurant area. Follow the signs to the parking lot.
Follow a well-signed trail as you wander through the ski area. After you pass the bottom of the lift and the restaurants look to your right for a huge waterfall that looks even more awesome in the winter when frozen. At first this trail is a ski area maintenance road and then becomes a wide well worn trail to Williams Lake. Along the trail to your left you will cross a couple of avalanche chutes, proof that it does snow a lot in New Mexico.
Hike for 2 miles and look for a post with the Wheeler trail fork marking just before you drop into the Williams Lake area. Take a left and start climbing via switchbacks toward your destination. Williams Lake is a small detour and deserves a look-see. A beautiful lake surrounded by mountain peaks and if your timing is right you will be rewarded with beautiful wildflowers and a gorgeous waterfall above the lake.
As you climb you break out above tree line and the views below to the lake and across to the ski area open up. If you get an early start you will probably jump the local herd of mountain sheep on your way. At times you will cross scree and boulder fields as you climb. With Wheeler looming above you, follow the switchbacks back and forth across the slope and slowly climb to the ridge.
As you reach the ridge, Mt Walter is on your left and Wheeler is on the right. After a short climb up you’re on top of New Mexico.
If you can arrange a shuttle, it’s possible to hike up from Taos Ski Valley and down to Red River or vise versa. To read about the hike from the Red River side click here. Plus the cold beer at the Bavarian Restaurant is well earned.