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Williams Lake Trail #62

Easy/Intermediate
  4.0 ( 16 ) Favorite

Trail

4.0 mile 6.4 kilometer out and back
Easy/Intermediate

Elevation

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

Grade

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.

Overview

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

Description

July 2019 - the new entrance to the trail is now open!

From the hiker parking lot at the trailhead on Kachina Road follow the signs leading to the trail, hiking past the Bavarian Restaurant, Lift 4 and the Phoenix Lodge. Continue to follow the signage uphill to the new re-routed trail which follows Lake Fork Creek. The new route crosses the bottom of the El Funko ski run and merges with the old trail after crossing into the Wheeler Peak Wilderness just beyond the Peace Chute avalanche path.

The route begins in Engelmann spruce stands, crosses a series of open avalanche path runouts and near the upper end opens up into meadows 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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Check-Ins

Aug 3, 2019
Scott Johnson
Alex, Chris, Danielle, Marie, Ellen, Jake, Gus, Mia, Bean 4mi — 4h 00m
Jul 20, 2019
Phillip Ferrier
Jul 18, 2019
Marc Corbin
2.1mi
Jul 4, 2019
Miranda Kersten
Jun 16, 2019
Mark M
4mi — 4h 00m
May 25, 2019
mi ke
May 25, 2019
Jeff S
Avalanche debris present
Apr 28, 2019
Jacob Best
3.8mi — 2h 00m

Trail Ratings

  4.0 from 16 votes

#1806

Overall
  4.0 from 16 votes
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Featured Hike Rankings

#20

in New Mexico

#1,806

Overall
351 Views Last Month
5,847 Since Oct 25, 2016
Easy/Intermediate

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Photos

Williams Lake 10/2016
Oct 25, 2016 near Taos Sk…, NM
Williams Lake late October 2018.
Oct 21, 2018 near Taos Sk…, NM
Steeper section of trail covered in snow on a nice afternoon.
Oct 21, 2018 near Taos Sk…, NM
Williams Lake
Jul 4, 2018 near Taos Sk…, NM
Looking south on a muddy/snowy Williams Lake Trail in October.
Oct 21, 2018 near Taos Sk…, NM

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