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greenBlue Williams Lake Trail #62

  3.9 ( 12 ) Favorite


4.0 mile 6.4 kilometer out and back


Ascent: 951' 290 m
Descent: -951' -290 m
High: 11,111' 3,387 m
Low: 10,202' 3,110 m


Avg Grade: 9% (5°)
Max Grade: 35% (19°)


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A short and popular trail that has significant elevation gain. It is great for a quick out and back!

Bob Mosher

Features Birding · Fall Colors · Lake · River/Creek · Spring · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Family Friendly Easy access and moderate terrain, plus the views are amazing.

Most of this trail is within the Wheeler Peak Wilderness—no mechanized equipment, drones etc.


This trail takes you from the upper base of Taos Ski Valley to a popular scenic lake, about half way to the summit of Wheeler Peak. Although a relatively easy hike, there is almost 1,000 ft. of elevation gain along the 2 miles

Need to Know

Although it's graded, the road to the trailhead is steep and often snowpacked during winter; 4 wheel drive is recommended

Winter travelers should be aware of the avalanche hazards along the trail, debris may be present during Spring and early Summer. As of 2018 there is no official avalanche forecasting center for this area, the Northern New Mexico Avalanche Exchange is a public forum where useful information can be found and shared:NNMAE.org


***As of August 2018 ~ a new private subdivision is being built where the historic public access route for the Williams Lake Trail crosses private land. The Carson National Forest has rerouted the Williams Lake Trail across the Lake Fork of the Rio Hondo so it will be on Public Land instead of the privately held property. The trail follows the approximate historic route, there are signs and barriers directing hikers through the development area to where the trail crosses back onto Public Lands by the Wheeler Peak Wilderness boundary.***

From the parking lot for Williams Lake Trail, follow the signs leading to the trail, walking past the Bavarian and by Lift 4 and the Phoenix. Continue to follow the signage to the new re-routed trail which follows Lake Fork Creek. The new route will merge with the existing trail in the Wheeler Peak Wilderness near the Peace Chute avalanche path.

The route begins in Engelmann spruce stands, crosses a series of open avalanche paths and near the upper end opens up into meadowland and scattered rock fields before reaching a saddle above the lake at the junction with the Wheeler Peak Summit Trail #67.

Williams Lake is a natural glacial lake which does not have fish because it freezes during winter. Camping and campfires are not permitted along the lake's shore to prevent damage to soil and water quality, per Wilderness Area protocol select a campsite at least 300 feet from streams, springs, and lakes. There are some good sites along the forest on the southwest side of the lake, and a primitive trail leading to a waterfall.

History & Background

During the late 1800's prospectors discovered gold and copper in this area, William Frazer began mining in Twining which produced modest amounts of sulfide ores into the early 1900's. A small mine is found on the east side of the lake, longtime locals say that Frazer worked this mine by hand until the gold was played out. Although there is no documentation of this prospect site, the earliest references to Williams Lake were from this time. There is debate among local historians about whether the lake is named for Frazer, or for Bill Williams who was most likely a fictional character attributed to stories throughout the Rocky Mountains of an early 1800's trapper.


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May 25, 2019
mi ke
May 25, 2019
Jeff S
Avalanche debris present
Apr 28, 2019
Jacob Best
3.8mi — 2h 00m
Nov 10, 2018
Jacq Marie
Oct 20, 2018
Keith Conway
4mi — 2h 00m
Oct 1, 2018
Katie Cummins
Sep 16, 2018
Julia DeVito
This part of the trail took about an hour to go to the junction of the wheeler peak hike. On the way back down I stopped at the lake. 3.8mi
Sep 11, 2018
Tarah Nelson

Trail Ratings

  3.9 from 12 votes


  3.9 from 12 votes
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