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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