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Wheeler Peak Trail #90

Difficult
 4.5 (6)

A spectacular long distance hike to the summit of Wheeler Peak, elev. 13,161 ft., the highest point in New Mexico!


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Map Key

7.4

Miles

11.9

KM

Point to Point

13,147' 4,007 m

High

9,491' 2,893 m

Low

3,980' 1,213 m

Up

324' 99 m

Down

11%

Avg Grade (6°)

25%

Max Grade (14°)

Dogs Leashed

Features Commonly Backpacked · Fall Colors · River/Creek · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife

WARNING: There is typically daily lightning and thunderstorm activity during summer months. Check the weather forecast. If you plan to climb Wheeler Peak (13,161 ft.), summiting before noon is recommended.

If you have two vehicles, park one at the Williams Lake trailhead which will eliminate the last two-mile hike to the base area.

Need to Know

Wheeler Peak trailhead is within walking distance to numerous shops, eateries and a small market. The BootDoctors or Taos Sports have great selections of outdoor gear and items you might need if you've forgotten anything.

Description

The Wheeler Peak Trail (#90) (sometimes called Bull of the Woods Trail) trailhead is accessed from the Twining Campground in the Village of Taos Ski Valley. Parking is available below the campground, at the upper end of the ski resort parking lot. There are restroom facilities at the trailhead and in the village just off the plaza at the base of Lift 1.

The trail follows the East Fork of the Rio Hondo for approx. 2 miles to Bull of the Woods Pasture. At approximately .6 miles the junction with Long Canyon Trail (#63) is on the left. Not far from this point the trail becomes wide enough for 4x4 vehicle use as this section is a seldom used USFS access road.

Approx. 2 miles up, the trail turns right and crosses the head of the Hondo Creek at Bull of the Woods Pasture. From here to Frazer Mountain the trail passes through private land. Please be courteous, do not camp, and do not stray off the trail/road. Half a mile past the creek lies a beautiful overlook. The road portion of the trail ends at a saddle below Bull of the Woods Mountain summit, at approx. 3.2 miles. This section offers beautiful views looking west and down on the ski valley and the Taos Mesa.

USFS trail signs are at the saddle. This is not yet halfway to Wheeler Peak. This area has some stunning views and is a good place to turn around if you need too. The trail is very well-defined heading south from the saddle. At Frazer Mountain, the trail enters Wheeler Peak Wilderness and descends into La Cal Basin, which offers camping and an opportunity to rest before starting the final ascent to Wheeler Peak. The Peak is the highest point in New Mexico, elev. 13,161 ft. No technical climbing gear is needed. The summit of Wheeler Peak is "the top of the world" and on a clear day the view in all directions is spectacular.

For a loop hike, descend the Wheeler Peak Summit Trail (#67) to Williams Lake Trail (#62) which is 4.2 miles. From the Phoenix Grill at Chair 4, descend along Rubezahl return ski trail to the base area which is 2 miles. Total trip distance for this loop is 13.5 miles. Allow at least 9 hours.

The Bavarian is located here and a great place for a post-hike refuel of authentic German food and beer. The deck scene at the "Bav" is legendary!

In the base area is the Stray Dog Cantina. Another great place for a post-hike refuel. Serving delicious Northern New Mexican specialties, burgers and strong margaritas.

Flora & Fauna

Generally, by mid-June, the tundra flowers will bloom and provide a spectacular show for the rest of the summer. The forest wildflowers will not disappoint either. The area is home to small mammals like marmots, pikas, and squirrels. Larger animals are Mule Deer and Elk. From Bull of the Woods Mountain and higher, there is a good chance of spotting the resident herd of Big Horn Sheep.

Contacts

Shared By:

Chamber TSV

Trail Ratings

  4.5 from 6 votes

#2

in Red River

#7242

Overall
  4.5 from 6 votes
5 Star
67%
4 Star
17%
3 Star
17%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%
Trail Rankings

#2

in Red River

#96

in New Mexico

#7,242

Overall
21 Views Last Month
2,471 Since Apr 19, 2019
Difficult

0%
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67%
33%

Photos

Great views of Gold Hill and Long Canyon from the Wheeler Peak Trail.
Apr 30, 2019 near Taos Sk…, NM
These hikers are heading down the Wheeler Peak Summit Trail from the Wheeler Peak Trail junction.
Apr 30, 2019 near Taos Sk…, NM
Horseshoe Lake as seen from the Wheeler Peak Trail.
Apr 30, 2019 near Taos Sk…, NM
Wheeler Peak at 13,161 feet!
Oct 26, 2019 near Taos Sk…, NM
Just past the Wheeler Peak Wilderness sign, this view of Wheeler Peak and La Cal Basin come into view.
Apr 30, 2019 near Taos Sk…, NM
The commemorative plaque at the summit of Wheeler Peak (13,161 ft.).
Apr 30, 2019 near Taos Sk…, NM

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Check-Ins

Aug 19, 2022
Brandon Ade
4.8mi — 9h 14m
Aug 30, 2020
Carter Gehman
Jul 7, 2020
Nick Bustamante
3h 00m
Aug 30, 2019
Alison Winnard
15mi
Aug 16, 2019
Lawton Jung
Snowed a little but still good.
Jul 19, 2019
Heather Culbertson
Jul 16, 2019
Valerie Norton
Out to Old Mike (on official trails, maybe should add?) and the way down off Wheeler: https://valhikes.blogspot.com/2019/07/wheeler-peak.html
Jul 11, 2019
Valerie Norton
The start for going up Gold Hill: https://valhikes.blogspot.com/2019/07/gold-hill.html