Old Mike Peak
Old Mike Peak is located in the middle of the enchanted circle and is a neighbor of Wheeler Peak, the tallest mountain in New Mexico. Old Mike dominates the views from the moreno valley from in between Eagle Nest and Angel fire and is often considered to be Wheeler by many people looking at it from the valley. On most lists of New Mexico's tallest peaks Old Mike Peak is not considered a significant peak because it is does not rise at least 300 feet above the saddle connecting Old Mike and Wheeler. However Old Mike looks even more impressive than Wheeler from most sides and it is over a mile away from Wheeler which is its nearest neighbor.The hike to the summit is an easy class 1 walk up and the only dangers are the altitude and the inclement weather.
Old Mike unlike its neighbor, Wheeler Peak, is a mountain that does not get overly crowded on top because alot of people that hike around the enchanted circle are there to climb Wheeler Peak. On my first succesful climb of Wheeler I was a greeted on top by a Boy Scout Troop from Texas with 57 members. That was a very crowded summit.
For almost every summer of my life my family went to Estes Park, Colorado which is right by Rocky Mountain National Park. After hiking there and now hiking in the Enchanted Circle of New Mexico I have realized that the bonus of hiking in the Enchanted Circle is the lack of crowds on equally beautiful trails.
Old Mike Peak is an awesome mountain and you will find seclusion and views in every direction.
There is a trailhead at the Taos Ski Valley which is fairly simple to find. You go to the city of Taos and then drive north on US Highway 64. Turn on State Highway 150 to the Taos Ski Valley upper parking lot. This is the twining Campground parking lot. Park here. There is another way to climb this mountain from Red River. From Red River, drive south on State Highway 38 and continue on State Road 578 for 6.4 miles, where the pavement ends. Turn left, cross the Red River via the bridge on Forest Road #58A, and then turn right. Drive 1.25 miles to the parking area.
It is in the Wheeler Wilderness so follow wilderness rules. No camping within 300 feet of the water. You do not have to pay a thing to climb to climb this mountain. Another wonderful thing about hiking in the Enchanted Circle.
Camping is available everywhere you go. At the Horshoe lake trailhead there is a meadow across the river which is a good camping spot. There are also camping sites by the bottom of the Taos Ski Valley trail near the upper parking lot.
The Horshoe Lake Trail
The Horshoe lake trail starts outside the town of red river. In 3/4 mile you will come across the site of the historic Elizabeth town ditch cabin. This was where they monitored the ditch that ran from near Wheeler Peak 40 miles down into the moreno valley. It cost 200,000 dollars to make in the early 1900's. After 1 1/4 mile you will cross through the Elizabeth town ditch. In six miles you will make it to Horshoe lake and timberline. Horshoe lake is an awesome high alpine lake in a impressive cirque underneath Mount Walter(13,141 ft.)and Wheeler Peak( 13,161 ft.).There is awesome views of the moreno valley and into the Colorado mountains. The next part of the hike is totally exposed above the timberline so make sure the weather is good before you go for it. As you make your way to the saddle between Wheeler and Old Mike you be on the side of a high valley above tree line with awesome views of Red Dome. Once you get to the saddle you have two choices either go right and climb Wheeler Peak and then go back for Old Mike or you can climb Old Mike first and then head over and climb the other 13'ers in the area(Mount Walter and Wheeler Peak). Enjoy the awesome views from the top of any of these three mountains and make sure to look north for Blanca Peak, which is the tallest mountain in the Sangre de Cristo mountains and the 4th tallest in Colorado.
12 miles round trip to Horshoe lake
16 miles round trip to Old Mike Peak
The Trail from Taos Ski Valley
This is the trail that most people use to summit Wheeler Peak but I think the best trail to climb Old Mike Peak is the Horshoe Lake route. At one mile you pass the Long canyon trail which is one way to climb Gold Hill( another great hike) at this juncture continue on the Wheeler Peak trail for another mile until you reach the Bull of the woods meadow. On the left is Gold Hill trail #64. Turn right on a trail that goes to the top of Bull of the Woods mountain. From here you continue for about five miles above timberline until the traildips down down into the trees again. From here the trail skirts to the east of Frazer mountain and the continues up switchbacks to the top of Mount Walter and along the ridge to Wheeler Peak. From Wheeler Peak drop down the south side of Wheeler Peak and follow the trail along the prominent ridge to Old Mike Peak. The summit is in view for the rest of the way once you get to the top of Mount Walter.
This route is a very strenuos day hike and it would be alot more relaxing if you broke it into a two day hike to enjoy the long hike. It is possible to climb this route in winter with some snowshoes and an ice axe(just in case) and knowledge about winter climbing. Some years this area can get over 300 inches of snow and then some years they get just over 100. It is extremely varied so just check to see how much snow Taos Ski Valley has gotten and the Wheeler Mountain area will get around but slightly more than that amount.
16 miles round trip to Wheeler Peak
18 miles round trip to Old Mike Peak