Meet Mount WalterMount Walter is a beautiful mountain with an absolutely captivating scent of evergreen. Unfortunately, but honestly, the main reason that most people venture to Mount Walter's summit is because it is along the Bull of the Woods Trail, which is the route to the summit of Wheeler Peak, NM's highest peak. Mount Walter is NM's second highest. The route is very well marked and fairly easy to traverse, but can get a bit windy at times. No technical gear is needed for the ascent, but trekking poles are nice on the knees for the descent!
Mount Walter, named after H.D. Walter, is found in the Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ) mountain range. This range is about 135 million years old. It was formed during a tremendous geologic uplift.
Mount Walter is in the Wheeler Peak Wilderness of the Carson National Forest. The United States Congress designated the Wheeler Peak Wilderness in 1964 and it now has a total of 19,661 acres. All of the wilderness is in New Mexico. (According to www.wilderness.net) Contact information is below in the Red Tape section.
Getting ThereFrom Taos, New Mexico: Drive four miles north on New Mexico (NM) state road #522. At about four miles, and at the first traffic light out of town, turn right (east) on NM 150 and drive for 15 miles until reaching the Taos Ski Valley ski area. As you arrive at the ski resort a huge "Taos Ski Valley" sign will greet you. Here the road forks. Stay left. For the Bull-of-the-Woods trailhead: Continue after the fork and head into the upper parking lot for about 50 yards until reaching a gravel parking lot marked "RVs Only" (which does not apply in summer). There are big trailhead signs in view from here. Thanks to fellow Oklahoman and SP member Alan Ellis for these detailed directions.
Red TapeThere are no permit, fee, or parking pass requirements for the summer season. There are portions of the trail that are private property. The owners have been gracious enough to allow passage, and have clearly marked where visitors are and are not allowed. Please honor their request. As for wildlife, hikers are cautioned to observe the rams from a distance.
I haven't been back to Walter in the past 2-3 years, but plan to go again this fall. Then I will update this section, if necessary.
Carson National Forest
208 Cruz Alta Rd.
TAOS, NM 87571
When To ClimbLate spring through early fall, the mountain is easily accessible. I would recommend climbing in June, July, or August, but the area is brilliantly beautiful in the autumn months...as for winter climbing, feel free, if you're up for it, but you'll have to battle the skiers who hit the slopes in the valley! In the winter months, I would suggest an approach from highway 58, near Red River, which has an access point to the trail that will allow you to bypass the Taos skiers.
The Carson National Forest website warns hikers to beware of lightning on the ridges. If you are trying to get to Wheeler Peak in one day (which is easily done), leave early in the morning in order to avoid the possibility of early afternoon thunder showers.
CampingCamping is allowed in the trailhead area and throughout the national forest area, except where posted as prohibited. To quote the CNF website, "National Forests mean room to roam." It is not necessary to camp in designated campsites, though those are available. Campers are encouraged to follow Leave No Trace principles. There is a length of stay limit of 14 days in the forest area.
Car camping is allowed at the trailhead and there is a pit toilet available as well.
This section may be updated after my upcoming autumn trip, as well.