OverviewThe Bull of the Woods trail is a 7.5 mile class 1 hike to the summit of Wheeler Peak. As a bonus for making the long hike, you will pass over Mt Walter (13,141'), the second highest peak in New Mexico. The trail is well marked and scenic, though the upper ridge is more exposed to high winds than the Williams Lake trail. This is the safest route in winter.
If you wish to see both routes, then you should consider going up the Bull of the Woods trail and down the Williams Lake trail for a 11.5 mile round trip adventure.
Be sure to get an early start in summer as afternoon storms are common and the risk of lightening is very high on the exposed upper ridge. The monsoon season normally runs from July to mid Sept.
StatsTrailhead elevation: 9,475
Summit elevation: 13,161
Net elevation gain: 3,686
Distance: 7.5 miles (one way)
Getting ThereThe trail begins at the parking area for RV's in the Taos Ski Valley, as described on the main Wheeler Peak page. A large brown Carson National Forest sign that reads "Wheeler Peak Wilderness" marks the trailhead.
Route DescriptionThe Bull of the Woods trail climbs steadily from the trailhead towards the northeast. A horse trail criss-crosses the main trail several times. Stick to the main trail. You'll cross a shallow stream at about half a mile, which should not normally present any problems. The path soon turns into a dirt road as it continues to gain altitude.
At 1.8 miles, you'll reach the Bull of the Woods Pasture. There are several signed trail intersections. Be mindful that the trail crosses private property; stay on the main trail and follow the signs for Wheeler Peak.
After the pasture, the road turns almost due south where it will pass the western shoulder of Bull of the Woods Mountain. The trail emerges from the forest where you may encounter wind exposure for the first time. From here, you'll be presented with stunning views of Grant Peak and Lake Fork Peak acrosss the valley.
The trail continues south, this time passing on the eastern side of Frazer Mountain before dropping 200-300ft down into La Cal Basin where it turns east through some trees. The forest cover may provide some welcome relief if the winds are strong.
After La Cal Basin, the trail leaves the forest and ascends a series of gentle switchbacks before gaining the upper ridgeline just north Mt Walter. The trail is rocky on the ridge but easy to follow. Continue south over Mt Walter, down slightly to the saddle, and then up the final ascent to the highest point in New Mexico!
Essential GearIn summer, only standard hiking gear is needed. Technical gear is not required. Be prepared for windy/rainy/snowy weather, even in summer.
In winter, snowshoes, ice ax, and crampons may be required depending on conditions.