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Wheeler Peak (NM)
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Wheeler Peak (NM)

  Featured on the Front Page
Wheeler Peak (NM)

Page Type: Mountain/Rock

Location: New Mexico, United States, North America

Lat/Lon: 36.55670°N / 105.4164°W

Object Title: Wheeler Peak (NM)

Elevation: 13161 ft / 4011 m

 

Page By: Alpinist

Created/Edited: Jul 11, 2001 / Feb 9, 2014

Object ID: 150429

Hits: 255327 

Page Score: 98.35%  - 81 Votes 

Vote: Log in to vote

 

Overview


Summit Plaque


68x50

At 13,161 feet above sea level, Wheeler Peak is the highest mountain in New Mexico, which ranks as the 8th state in order of elevation. Located in the Sangre De Cristo (Blood of Christ) range, it stands guard over the southern end of the Rocky Mountains, inviting all to enjoy its status.

It is not known who made the first ascent of Wheeler, probably the Indians of the Taos Pueblo. But, it is named for U.S. Army Major George M. Wheeler who surveyed much of New Mexico in the late 1870s. For years, the Truchas Peaks, located south of Wheeler Peak, were considered the New Mexico highpoint. In 1948, a survey was conducted by Harold D. Walker which confirmed Wheeler Peak is the highest point in the state. A sub-peak, north of Wheeler Peak, is named for Walker and is often mistaken for Wheeler.

Whether backpacking or dayhiking, Wheeler Peak offers a spectacular outdoor experience. Big horn sheep are abundant but are wary of visitors. There are two main routes to the summit, the Bull-of-the-Woods Trail, and the Williams Lake Trail. The Bull-of-the-Woods trail (also called the Wheeler Peak Trail) is 16 miles round trip and is a well-marked class 1 trail, The Williams Lake trail to the summit is approximately seven miles round trip and is a steep class 2 trail, with the final 1000 ft being a rocky scree slope.

The Sangre de Cristo mountain range is a spectacular collection of peaks which stretches 250 miles from Santa Fe, New Mexico to Salida, Colorado. Please note the left side bar which features all the mountains in the Sangre de Cristos, both in Colorado and New Mexico.

Getting There

From 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. 
La Cal Basin
LaCal Basin. Photo by Jeff Moore


For the Bull-of-the-Woods trailhead: Continue left 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.

For the Williams Lake trailhead: The key is to get to the Phoenix Grill (Bavarian) restaurant about a 1000 ft higher than the entrance to the ski area. Follow signs to "The Bavarian" restaurant and "Williams Lake Trail." Before reaching The Bavarian (or the Phoenix grill) follow signs to a large hiker's parking lot on the right. From the parking lot, follow the road (pedestrian only) next to the kiosk south past The Bavarian and then past the Phoenix Grill (ski season only) and onward up the road, which is now well marked with signage. (Updated 7-23-06. Courtesy of dgreaser)

Red Tape

Wheeler Peak is located in the Wheeler Peak Wilderness area in the Questa Ranger District of the Carson National Forest. No fees or permits are required to hike, climb, or camp. There is a 14 day camping limit in the Carson National Forest. The wilderness area begins on the Bull-of-the-Woods Trail between Bull-of-the-Woods mountain and Frazer mountain. On the Williams Lake Trail, the wilderness area begins about two miles into your hike after climbing through the ski area. The first two miles of the Williams Lake Trail, and the first three miles of the Bull-of-the-Woods Trail, is on private property so please respect this. No camping is allowed at Williams Lake. All wilderness rules apply including no mountain bikes, ATVs, or other vehicles.

When To Climb

Late May through November is considered the best time to climb. Winter storms can occur as late as May and June is considered a dry month. July and August are the typical monsoon season, with afternoon thunderstorms being a daily occurrence. September through early November are also dry months with several continuous days of cool, dry, and clear skies. However, storms, rain, hail, and snow can occur in any month. The Bull-of-the-Woods trail is considered the safest winter ascent route, with the west face of Wheeler being an avalanche hazard. Highly recommend getting a very early start in climbing Wheeler Peak. Thunderstorms are an extreme danger in the afternoonn.

Mountain Conditions

Wheeler Peak is in an alpine environment with like conditions. The west face of Wheeler Peak is a loose scree slope which can be unpleasant to climb. Check here for current weather. Fire conditions change on a daily basis. Check with the ranger station or the New Mexico Fire Information Site for current fire conditions. Treeline is at approximately 11,000 to 11,600 ft. In winter, Williams Lake basin, the valley leading up to Williams Lake, and the west face of Wheeler Peak is subject to avalanche. Here is a live webcam of Taos Ski Valley (Base of route) to get an idea of current conditions: Taos Web Cam

Camping

Backcountry camping is allowed without a permit in the wilderness area except within 100 yards of Williams Lake. La Cal Basin is a good place to camp if hiking the Bull-of-the-Woods Trail as an overnighter.  
La Cal Basin to the SE as...
LaCal Basin. Photo by Alan Ellis


There are several Forest Service Campgrounds available on NM 150 before getting to the Taos Ski Valley. These include Lower Hondo, Cuchillo De Medio, Cuchillo, Italianos, and Twining. Most can accommodate trailers and tents, and have water and toilets. Twining campground is located at the Bull-of-the-Woods trailhead.

Maps

Online Maps:

Bull-of-the-Woods Trail (or Wheeler Peak Trail)
Williams Lake Trail

Here are maps in TIF format: Wheeler Peak and Eagle's Nest


Paper Maps:

Carson National Forest (Forest Service)
Latir Peak/Wheeler Peak Wilderness (Forest Service)
USGS 1/24 quad Wheeler Peak
USGS 1/24 quad Eagle Nest

Click here to order Forest Service maps.

In closing.....

PHOTO BY JEFF MOORE
Wheeler Peak (left) and the Williams Lake Basin with Lake Fork Peak above.
Photo by Jeff Moore


Acknowledgments:
Many thanks to Alan Ellis for creating and maintaining the Wheeler Peak page for so many years. Nice work Alan!

External Links

Additions and Corrections

[ Post an Addition or Correction ]
Viewing: 1-14 of 14    
jniehofCarson NF maps have moved

Hasn't voted

New map URL:

http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/carson/recreation/trails/images/Trail_62_map.gif

http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/carson/recreation/trails/images/trail_90_map.gif

It looks like the south section of Bull-of-the-Woods has been renamed the "Wheeler Peak Trail"
Posted Sep 24, 2010 11:02 am
Alan EllisRe: Carson NF maps have moved

Alan Ellis

Hasn't voted

Thanks for the heads up. I made the change on the page.



AE
Posted Sep 25, 2010 9:55 am
Alan EllisRe: Carson NF maps have moved

Alan Ellis

Hasn't voted

Thanks. I'm out of town and will fix it next week.



AE
Posted Jun 27, 2013 10:16 am
AlpinistBroken links

Alpinist

Voted 10/10

Alan - there are several broken links in this page and Truchas' pano image has also been deleted.
Posted Aug 1, 2011 3:28 pm
Alan EllisRe: Broken links

Alan Ellis

Hasn't voted

Ok...I'll fix them. Thanks..



AE
Posted Aug 1, 2011 5:41 pm
SwithichStandard Route

Hasn't voted

The description is a little unclear, but a trail has actually been built up from Williams Lake to the Summit. I believe it is no longer a scramble (on talus you can just walk the trail).



Williams Lake is also the standard route now as I was the only person of 20 or so that used the Bull-of-the-Woods route.
Posted Sep 6, 2011 2:20 pm
AlpinistRe: Standard Route

Alpinist

Voted 10/10

You're right. I just hiked down that way on Sept 10th. There is a very nice trail now that switches back through the talus from Williams Lake. I will update the page shortly. Thanks...
Posted Sep 12, 2011 10:24 am
flatlanderRe: Standard Route

flatlander

Hasn't voted

I'm planning a trip in September 2013. Is the Williams Lake trail to Wheeler Peak still being maintained? Thanks for info! Just joined this site.
Posted Jun 27, 2013 10:13 am
AlpinistRe: Standard Route

Alpinist

Voted 10/10

The last section of trail that climbs to the summit is fairly new. I doubt that it has been maintained since they cut the trail. However, the Williams Lake Trail is the shortest route to the summit and it is considered the standard route. It's a very good, clear trail.
Posted Jul 3, 2013 10:30 am
baskoNew Place Stay

Hasn't voted

The last time I hiked Wheeler Peak, I had a really hard time finding a good place to stay. Taos is not that close to the trailhead, so we chose to backpack into the lake.



Now there are some condos that were built right by the Williams Lake trailhead. You can start the hike straight from the condos and on the way back you can have a big beer at the Bavarian and not have to worry about driving afterwards.



I totally recommend considering these places to minimize driving and maximize fun and comfort!



Check out this link: http://www.vrbo.com/408479
Posted Jun 2, 2013 2:48 pm
AlpinistRe: New Place Stay

Alpinist

Voted 10/10

I'm not sure if you are the owner of this condo but thanks for the link. Here's a link to other rental properties in the area for others to consider.



http://www.vrbo.com/vacation-rentals/usa/new-mexico/taos-ski-valley
Posted Jun 4, 2013 1:32 pm
ckichura56March Weather

ckichura56

Hasn't voted

Hey guys, new to the site and am very excited to what I can discover out here. Does anyone happen to know what the weather is like there around March?
Posted Nov 8, 2013 12:13 am
AlpinistRe: March Weather

Alpinist

Voted 10/10

Hi - welcome to SummitPost!



March is typically the heaviest snow month but you never know on any given year. You should check conditions in the regional message forum for NM before your trip. One of the locals is more likely to see and respond to your inquiry there.



http://www.summitpost.org/phpBB3/southwest-az-nm-nv-ut-tx.html
Posted Nov 10, 2013 1:09 pm
jpaulvh44Routes

jpaulvh44

Hasn't voted

I hiked Wheeler Peak in 2013 and went by way of horseshoe lake, up from Fire road 58A, following east fork trail 56. Seemed to be a less traveled route with some beautiful scenery.
Posted Sep 23, 2014 5:12 pm

Viewing: 1-14 of 14    

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