Wheeler Peak Wilderness Area Trails

Various • 37 mi • 0 ft

Today, hikers and recreationists in ever-increasing numbers converge on the Wheeler Peak Wilderness. Most seek to stand atop New Mexico’s highest mountain. It’s a worthy goal, for while summiting Wheeler Peak requires no mountaineering skills, it does require commitment and stamina. There are three primary approaches to Wheeler Peak and to the Wheeler Peak Wilderness. The shortest and fastest route to the top is from Williams Lake at the peak’s west base. Here an unmarked and unmaintained but fairly clear route climbs very steeply up the western slopes, then runs south along the summit ridge to the top. (The Forest Service may soon put in a real trail to curtail erosion.) This route allows day hikers to make the climb and return before late summer afternoon thundershowers strike. Numerous marked and maintained trails connect the major summits, lakes, and other features of the Wheeler Peak Wilderness. During the summer, the trails often receive heavy use. Hikes range from day excursions to backpack trips.
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Activity Type: Hiking
Nearby City: Taos
Length: 37 total miles
Elevation Gain: Minimal
Trail Type: Several options
Skill Level: Strenuous
Season: Summer, early fall
Trailhead Elevation: 8,000 feet
Top Elevation: 13,161 feet
Other Uses: Skiing
Local Contacts: Carson National Forest—Questa Ranger District
Local Maps: Carson National Forest—Latir Peak and Wheeler Peak Wildernesses
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Recent Trail Reviews


We hiked Trail 56 (Red River side) to Horseshoe Lake and then Trail 91 to Wheeler Peak. The road to the trailhead has many deep potholes-4x4. This was my first overnight hiking experience and I would definitely recommend it to prepared beginners. Trail 56 has a gentle grade, there are plenty of stream crossings to filter water, and there are several scenic views. The only "tough" spot was at a small portion of Tr91 above Horseshoe which was rocky. Despite the rain we made it to Wheeler and the clouds broke~ Beautiful! Bring your camera! Good Luck and Good Hiking!


This is a nice overview. Hiked the Lost Lake and Horseshoe Lake route up to Wheeler Peak. Very beautiful route. Tent camping is available in 6 pre-determined sites at Lost Lake and at Horseshoe Lake. Lakes are stocked.

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