OverviewAlthough not very scenic, this route is a quick way to get to the summit of Mount Walter. This is typically a summer route. It can easily be completed before noon if you get a sunrise start. Expect crowds on the trail in summer. In winter, beware of extreme avalanche danger both on the trail to Williams Lake and on the slope to the Mount Walter/Wheeler Peak ridge.
ApproachThe key is to get to the Phoenix Grill restaurant about a 1000 ft higher than the entrance to the ski area. Again, stay left and drive past the RV Parking lot and the Twining Campground on the right. The paved road (NM 150) will end at this point and a dirt road begins. This is Twining Road. Drive up this dirt road as it switchbacks for about 1.5 miles until reaching the Phoenix restaurant where you can park. Head for the Kachina #4 ski lift directly in front (south) and uphill of the Phoenix. At the ski lift, bear left and hike uphill about a 100 yds until you see the sign for Williams Lake. If in doubt about finding the road up to The Phoenix or the Williams Lake trailhead, ask around. The folks at Taos Ski Valley and the Phoenix are very friendly.
Route DescriptionFrom the Phoenix, head directly up the dirt road toward the Kachina #4 ski lift. Hike under the chair lifts and reach the wilderness boundry sign where the trail begins. Remember that you are on private property until reaching the wilderness sign.
Hike through the spruce forest about two miles until reaching Williams Lake. Don't go all the way to Williams Lake. If you reach the shore of Williams Lake, you've gone too far. Instead, look to the left (east) and note the ridge above you. Just before reaching the lake, the trail will bear left (east) and turn into a faint climber's trail. This trail heads up the steep slope to the small saddle between Mount Walter to the north and the Wheeler Peak summit to the south. It's almost a 2000 ft climb from Williams Lake to the ridge. Once on the ridge, go left (north) for a short hike to the summit of Mount Walter. Descend the same route or do a loop via the Bull-of-the-Woods trail to the south.