Located within the Sangre de Christo Range, Gold Hill is one of several 12,000+ foot peaks in the vicinity of Wheeler Peak, New Mexico's highest mountain, and the famous town of Taos. The shortest and most popular route is the Bull of the Woods Trail, which is not technical and involves no more than a 10-mile roundtrip hike through beautiful pine groves and meadows above tree line. From the summit of Gold Hill, one is afforded excellent views of the high desert landscape of northern New Mexico and Wheeler Peak. It can easily be hiked in a day, but there are excellent campsites along the route.
The first part of the trail to Gold Hill is also a trail that leads to the summit of Wheeler Peak so, if you are overnighting, don't miss out on the opportunity to bag both summits. A good itinerary is to get an early start and hike to the Bull of the Woods Pasture and cache most of your heavy gear in the woods. Head up to Gold Hill, enjoy the view for a while, and head back to camp before afternoon thunderstorms roll in. Pitch camp at the Bull of the Woods pasture and enjoy a night of camping. Get an early start the next morning and head up toward Wheeler Peak, making sure to get below tree line before afternoon. Pick up your gear on the way out and enjoy some awesome New Mexican food that evening in Taos.
The trailhead for the Bull-of-the-Woods Trail, which is the starting point for the hike up Gold Hill, is located at the parking lot of Taos Ski Valley. From Taos, New Mexico: Drive four miles north on New Mexico (NM) state road #522. At four miles, and a blinking yellow caution light, turn right (east) on NM 150 and drive for 15 miles until reaching the Taos Ski Valley ski area. The signed trailhead is at the uppermost northeast end of the gravel parking lot marked “RVs only” (which does not apply in summer). (directions courtesy of Alan Ellis ).
Gold Hill is located in the Wheeler Peak Wilderness Area of the Carson National Forest. In the Wilderness Area, certain restrictions apply, such as no parties of larger than 15 persons. Check the board at the trail head for more info on these restrictions.
In summer there will likely be fire restrictions; click here for more information.
Gold Hill can be climbed year round, but the best time is between May and October, although you may encounter snow early or late in the season. Late June, July, and August is usually known as the monsoon season in Northern New Mexico. Afternoon thunderstorms are a constant danger for folks climbing during these months. The trick is to summit early and get well below tree line before one or two in the afternoon when things can get ugly.
Gold Hill can also be climbed in the winter. During this time, you will obviously need appropriate clothing and skis or snowshoes. Avalanches are known to occur in this area, so basic avalanche awareness is necessary.
There are numerous campsites along the hike, if you choose to take your time. My favorite is the one located at the Bull of the Woods pasture, where the trail leading toward Wheeler Peak (trail 90) makes a ninety-degree turn, near the point where the trail for Gold Hill (trail 64) leaves the Wheeler Peak Trail.
A forecast for Northern New Mexico, including Taos, is available from the National Weather Service.
robtvahle adds the following: "I am told by the workers of the Carson Natl. Forest, that Gold Hill is an excellent place to spot bighorn sheep. " Alan Ellis follows up: "Gold hill is a good place, as is Wheeler Peak. These bighorn were spotted just a couple of weeks on the Bull-of-the-Woods Trail on the way to the summit of Wheeler. Two days later, I spotted a herd on the same trail near Frazer Mountain. "
Thanks for the info and pictures, guys.