Williams Lake

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 36.55670°N / 105.4164°W
Additional Information GPX File: Download GPX » View Route on Map
Additional Information Route Type: Steep Hike -or- Basic Snow (Winter/Early Season)
Additional Information Time Required: Half a day
Additional Information Difficulty: Class 2
Sign the Climber's Log


Although not very scenic, this route is a quick way to get to the summit of Wheeler Peak. 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 Wheeler Peak ridge.


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.

Route Description

From the Phoenix (or Bavarian), 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 nearing Williams Lake. The trail splits before reaching the lake and there is a sign at the intersection. (If you reach the lake, you've gone too far.)

Follow the trail left towards Wheeler Peak as it rapidly climbs through a series of switchbacks. The trail flattens out a bit in a small, rocky meadow just above treeline. The Forest Service built a new section of switchbacks in 2011 that leads up the final ridge, over the talus field, and to the saddle between Wheeler Peak and Mt Walter.

It's almost a 2000 ft climb from Williams Lake to the ridge. Once on the ridge, go right (south) for a short hike to the summit of Wheeler Peak. Descend the same route.

Online map:
Williams Lake Trail

Essential Gear

Standard day hike gear. Snow shoes for winter or early season climbs.

Additions and CorrectionsPost an Addition or Correction

Viewing: 1-4 of 4

mbjakusz - Sep 21, 2011 9:51 am - Hasn't voted

New Trail off Williams Lake Trail

Overview Sometime at the end of July, the forest service opened a new trail up to Wheeler Peak starting at the ridge just before you start the decent to Williams Lake. Getting There As stated in other post, the hard part is getting to the Hikers Parking Lot by "The Bavarian". I found a map online (after our trip of course....) and showed a few different was to make it to the parking lot. I was not able to add it to this page so I just added it as a picture. The red line is probably the standard route (we came out this way) and the blue line is the route we took in with our Civic that I was following off of the Williams Lake Trail 62 map that is on this site. Route Description The first 2 or so miles of the trail is the same as the Standard Williams Lake approch. From the parking area follow the road down the hill and around the building. You will see a Williams Lake Trail sign in the tree pointing up the hill. Stay on the left side of the stream and follow the road until you reach the next sign for Williams Lake Trail where you will take a left. Follow the trail on up towards Williams Lake. When you reach the ridge that drops you into Williams Lake there is a brand new trail the cuts back to your left. This new trail will take you to the saddle between Mount Walter and Wheeler Peak. I contacted the Questa Ranger Station when we got home and they have not assigned the trail a number or a name as of yet. Apparently they finished this trail about a week ago. From the trail intersection it is 1.7 miles to the saddle between Wheeler Peak and Mount Walter. The trail starts out friendly enough through the woods and then turns into a steep climb with a few flat spots and even the occasional down hill after you clear the treeline. Once you reach the saddle, take a right on the ridge trail and climb for a few hundred yards to reach Wheeler Peak.


Alpinist - Sep 21, 2011 9:33 pm - Voted 10/10

Re: New Trail off Williams Lake Trail

Thanks for the update! I also loaded a GPX file to the route page which shows the new trail.

Alan Ellis

Alan Ellis - Sep 22, 2011 8:53 am - Hasn't voted

Re: New Trail off Williams Lake Trail

Hey George, I added his photo to the approach section, but couldn't figure out how to insert it as a thumb and link. Can you fix it? :)


Alpinist - Sep 22, 2011 9:55 am - Voted 10/10

Re: New Trail off Williams Lake Trail


Viewing: 1-4 of 4



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