Lake Katherine

Pecos, New Mexico 87552

Lake Katherine

Lake Katherine Professional Review and Guide

"A long day hike or overnight trip to a high alpine lake at the base of Santa Fe Baldy. Lake Katherine is a popular destination for hikers in the Santa Fe area. The large, crystal-clear lake nestles in the bottom of a valley at the eastern foot of Santa Fe Baldy. The glacial valley, or cirque, was carved out of the bedrock by glaciers during the ice ages.

If you camp at Lake Katherine, be sure to set up on slopes below the lake, outside of the drainage basin, and at least 200 feet from any water. Use care in sanitation. The vegetation at that altitude is very fragile, so try to camp and walk only on bare areas. Be sure to bring warm clothes and sleeping bags. Contrary to what some old maps show, Winsor Creek is no longer a campground, it is only a trailhead."

Lake Katherine Reviews

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Beautiful high mountain lake hike which is totally worth the pain and strain as a pretty long and intense day hike, or I like to take a few days and enjoy this gorgeous place. Hike up to the saddle below Baldy, go over the saddle and down several switchbacks to Lake Katherine. Spirit Lake is a great place to camp, and then Lake Katherine is perfect for the second night. The lake is amazing, clear, and in a gorgeous setting.
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To Lake Katherine from Cowles. At the stream crossing, there is a path that continues on the right side and doesn't cross the stream. This is apparently a fishing path -- don't take it. Cross stream. Come to intersection of 261 and 254 which is marked. 254 actually takes you away from Lake Katherine for more than a mile so it is over 2 miles farther than 261. 254 is a fine trail, and there is a beautiful vista just after turning back in the right direction to Lake Katherine. 261 is not maintained by the forest service. It is a fine trail, but there are 12 downed trees to straddle and get over. (2008-08-30). My wife is 5’ 5” and didn’t have much trouble. On the other hand, there are a few downed trees across 254 that will only get cleared away when volunteers get to it. (Actually, a couple of volunteers were working on it the day we were there.) 261 is much steeper, and 254 is much longer. There are a lot of grouse along 261. Most trail intersections in the Pecos wilderness are marked quite well, but at the top of 261, where it merges with 254, there are NO trail numbers marked: The only sign says that this trail (which is 261) is no longer maintained. Thus, if you are walking along 254, you have no idea what the other trail is and you can mistake it for another trail on a map. Speaking of maps, older topo maps don’t show 254, and some of the newer maps don’t show 261. The last couple of miles to Lake Katherine are steep with lots of switchbacks. I tried dry and wet flies, a spinner, and power bait at Katherine without even a nibble.
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Breathtaking scenery, with water most of the way up. Windsor Creek is lovely, and follows the trail most of the way up to Katherine. I took a walk down to Holy Ghost Creek on the way up, but was discouraged from staying by a fairly big kittie, so it was time to press on the the lake. It is worth every bit if effort, of which there is some. The last 1000 feet into the lake are somewhat strenuous. Fourteen inch cutthroat swim the shore of the crystal clear water, and the crowds weren't too bad, and I was there over a holiday weekend. I will be back.
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A beautiful hike with plenty of elevation gain to get the heart pumping. A month after moving to New Mexico I hiked up to Lake Katherine for a long weekend. The lake is amazing with steep scree slopes meeting the edges of the lake around 230 degrees. You can even climb to Santa Fe Baldy up the steep slope if your up for the extra hour hike!

Lake Katherine Photos

Trail Information

Nearby City
3,302 feet
Elevation Gain
Trail Type
Skill Level
10-12 hours or overnight
June through October
8,460 feet
Trailhead Elevation
11,742 feet
Top Elevation
Additional Use
Santa Fe National Forest, PO Drawer 429, Pecos, NM 87552; (505) 757-6121;
Local Contacts
Cowles and Aspen Basin 7.5-minute USGS quads
Local Maps

Activity Feed

Oct 2018