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blueBlack Wheeler Peak Summit Trail #67

Trail

2.2 mile 3.5 kilometer point to point
Intermediate/Difficult

Elevation

Ascent: 1,914' 583 m
Descent: -7' -2 m
High: 13,036' 3,973 m
Low: 11,129' 3,392 m

Grade

Avg Grade: 17% (10°)
Max Grade: 32% (18°)

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Trail shared by J. Bella

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This beautiful alpine trail through mixed conifer forests and open tundra leads to the highest point in New Mexico.

J. Bella

Features Birding · Fall Colors · Lake · Spring · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife · Commonly Backpacked

Wilderness area, no mechanized equipment, drones, etc.

Description

This is a fairly new trail built by the Rocky Mountain Youth Corp and Carson National Forest in 2010 and 2011. It is entirely singletrack and replaced the old, steep, and eroded route that climbed the avalanche path below the Wheeler-Walter Saddle.

At approximately Mile 1.9 along the Williams Lake Trail #62, watch for a sign for Wheeler Peak. The trail begins here on the saddle above the lake, heading southeast then climbing east up Wheeler Peak's northwest slopes. The route meanders through mixed-conifer forests then steepens as it begins climbing switchbacks. From here, the route crosses through a steep gully and across a series of avalanche chutes on the approach to treeline. There are several open vistas and good views of Williams Lake and the rugged, high peaks across the basin.

After the fifth switchback, the trail ascends above treeline and levels out into a large glacial basin. Evidence of glaciers receding is apparent in the large boulder fields and moraines strewn across the terrain. There are some great spots to find a good view and hang out or enjoy a snack before making the summit push. Continuing to the south, through a couple scree fields, the tread is narrow and uneven but not technical. There are ten switchbacks before the trail reaches the ridge and joins with the Wheeler Peak Trail #90 near the Mount Walter-Wheeler Saddle. From here, the summit is a short climb to the south (right). At the top, explore a monument explaining why the mountain is so named, a registry paper if you wish to sign and document your summit experience, and plenty of spots to enjoy the 360-degree views of the Sangre de Cristos and the Rio Grande Valley beyond.

There are several alpine routes that can be connected from the summit, linking up with the East Fork Trail #56 and Lost Lake Trail #91, and the Wheeler Peak Trail #90 leading to Frazer and Bull-of-the-Woods mountains. There is a primitive route traversing the ridge around the Williams Lake Basin that allows summits of Simpson Peak, West Simpson, Sin Nombre, Lake Fork, and Kachina Peaks before descending into Twining and the Village of Taos Ski Valley. This route can be accomplished during a long day, it requires Class 3 climbing as well as experience navigating unmarked terrain.

During winter and spring most years expect to encounter deep snow and significant avalanche potential along this route, understanding and utilizing standard protocol for traveling within avalanche terrain is recommended.

Flora & Fauna

Various wildflowers, groundcovers, subalpine conifers, and firs native to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains can all be enjoyed along this route. Common animal sightings include bighorn sheep, marmots, pika, chipmunks, and squirrels. Deer, elk, bears, mountain lions, bobcats, and pine martens are present and may be observed occasionally.

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Check-Ins

Jul 4, 2019
Miranda Kersten
Oct 1, 2018
Katie Cummins
2.2mi
Sep 16, 2018
Julia DeVito
This app marks the false summit. The trail continues last that. I stopped for lunch on the way down as well and spent 20 min at top taking photos
Sep 9, 2018
Spencer Mathews
Aug 30, 2018
Rachel Jagielski
10mi — 4h 18m
Jul 28, 2018
Alyxandrah White
from taos ski valley to wheeler peak through williams lake trail connecting to the peak trail 7.9mi
Jan 19, 2018
Matt Hage
6h 00m
Oct 24, 2017
Tenzin Chuteng
We started the hike around 1230, took us 2.5 hrs to summit, spent a little over an hour at the top and made it back to the trailhead in 1.5hrs 8mi

Trail Ratings

  4.4 from 7 votes

#4558

Overall
  4.4 from 7 votes
5 Star
71%
4 Star
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3 Star
29%
2 Star
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1 Star
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Trail Rankings

#77

in New Mexico

#4,558

Overall
597 Views Last Month
4,225 Since Aug 26, 2017
Intermediate/Difficult Intermediate/Difficult

0%
14%
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43%
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