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This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

Wheeler Peak via Bull of the Woods Trail, NM

no permit
228 13 0
Guide 13 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List NM > North Central
4.5 of 5 by 4
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Difficulty 4 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Round Trip 15 miles
Trailhead Elevation 9,417 feet
Elevation Gain 3,755 feet
Accumulated Gain 4,302 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 7-10 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 36.51
Interest Off Trail Hiking, Seasonal Creek, Perennial Creek & Peak
Backpack Yes & Connecting
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
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16  2019-09-10 DixieFlyer
34  2017-09-03
Wheeler Peak-Horseshoe and Lost Lake
15  2016-09-08 fricknaley
65  2015-09-26 Lucyan
6  2015-07-17 toddak
6  2012-09-11 PatrickL
13  2012-09-02 Booneman
40  2012-06-27 Stoic
Page 1,  2
Author imike
author avatar Guides 253
Routes 0
Photos 6,930
Trips 2,467 map ( 21,513 miles )
Age 69 Male Gender
Location Cloudcroft, NM
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Jul, Jun, Aug, Sep → 5 AM
Seasons   Late Spring to Early Autumn
Sun  5:45am - 6:06pm
Official Route
1 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
New Mexico's Tallest!
by imike

Likely In-Season!
After a most scenic drive from Taos, the trailhead is reached in one of the upper parking areas for the ski resort. There is a very large sign, and just up the hill, a toilet.

The trail climbs steeply with numerous offshoots. Simply stay on the widest path and do not go off on any of the trails marked for horses. You move up drainage adjacent to a stream that may be simply a trickle or a nice torrent. In the first miles you will do your one and only stream crossing. On the trail there may be some nice logs to walk across, if needed, but usually 20yds upstream there may be an easier log crossing if your balancing skills are not so great.

Eventually, the trail crests and Bull of the Woods Meadow is reached. At this high meadow there are numerous road options angling off and away. The proper trail is the Wheeler Peak/Bull of the Woods trail...reached by turning right and crossing the meadow and then heading on uphill... not the Bull of the Woods road (which heads down hill) or Trail 64 to Gold Hill, but trail 90 (an old mining road) heading off and up across the meadow area. There is also a private track continuing on up hill (posted). Do not enter that, it is private property, as is much of the area in the first few miles. Stay on the trails.

You will move up and up until finally cresting on the ridge, which you will follow for the remainder of the hike.

If there is no snow obscuring the trail, the path is simple and well worn. If there is snow, then depending on the amount, the path may well be yours to choose. If you are properly outfitted, traversing the snow covered areas will not present any major problem. Or, if you do the hike like we did, taking no snow equipment whatsoever, then you are in for a potentially too interesting day.

Skis or snowshoes are in order, even as late as through May. Without those aids it is easy to spend the day trudging through knee to crotch high snow, with a number of deeper plunges to make the trek an ever higher quality exercise experience. In mid May 2009 we found ourselves in snow from the first mile up until the final high miles (where we could finally avoid most of the snow covered ground by walking the edge of the sunny-side ridges).

Eventually, the trail moves through a high, broad basin as it begins the soft switchbacks to the ridge and the approach to Mount Walker. You do get to summit two very high peaks, in fact Mt Walker (13,141') is the second highest named peak in New Mexico, but because it only has about 100 feet of prominence it is not really considered an independent peak by most. Once at Walker, you descend a bit, then walk the ridge the final distance over to Wheeler.

Expect anything at this elevation. Count on wind. Come prepared. If the trail is snow covered, plan on 8 to 10 hours of effort for the up/down hike if you are in good shape. Some people use that much time without snow. It is not uncommon to backpack in and split the effort in half. There are a number of great csmping options to consider, the ridge area beyond and above Bull of the Woods meadow being what might be the nicest. Above that you begin to leave the tree line and enter very exposed sections.

Wheeler Peak: named after George M. Wheeler... Army Major noted for survey of area.

There is a shorter route for reaching the peak: via Williams Lake, which includes a final approach strait up the side of the mountain over loose talus... not fun, but challenging. Too much snow prevented our engaging that route this trip; saved for another day.

In the summer months, when the likelihood of not having to address too much snow is better, you become subject to the monsoon patterns... best to get a very early start and be off the mountain midday, to avoid the potential for thunderstorms in the afternoon. Lightening is a very real danger up there.

Lots more that could be said, but...

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

This is a moderately difficult hike.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2009-05-09 imike
    WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

    Most recent Triplog Reviews
    Wheeler Peak via Bull of the Woods Trail
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    I have been eyeing Wheeler Peak for a while, and after hiking in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado for a few days, on my way back to the VOS I decided to swing by Taos Ski Valley and bag the New Mexico High Point.

    I did an out-and-back hike starting at the Bull of the Woods Trail #90. The first part of the hike was through forests that were nice but didn't have any views. Once I got near 12,000' I was above the treeline and hiked a few miles in alpine meadows, which had some really nice views. There were 3-4 false summits, and I didn't actually see Wheeler Peak until I was almost there. The trail took me right over Mount Walter, which is only about 25 feet lower than Wheeler Peak.

    This was a nice but strenuous hike -- the distance and elevation gain are similar to hiking Humphreys Peak from the Inner Basin.
    Wheeler Peak via Bull of the Woods Trail
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    wonderful hike to the high point of New Mexico

    got an early start at dusk to play it safe. luckily it had cleared up overnight and throughout the day i had wonderful weather. it's a pretty big climb up but never really feels horrible and once you break through the trees just past bull of the woods peak, the expansive views are outstanding!

    i didn't see anyone until i was nearly at the summit of Mt. Walter, where i chatted with a very nice father/daughter backpacking combo. There were 3 people on the summit for a few minutes, then i had it to myself. sensational views and temps up there. in the span of 15 minutes i watched tiny storm clouds form and decided it was time to go. up in pants and long sleeve, down in zip off shorts and tee - love that.

    extremely pleasant hike down. saw a few more people. lot of flowers and a marmot or two

    this one is pretty high on my list. really enjoyed it. if and when i come back, for variety, i'd like to do it again the short way from williams lake and also hit Old Mike Peak which looked really cool. thought about it today, but watching the clouds materialze told me otherwise
    Wheeler Peak via Bull of the Woods Trail
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Arrived at my campsite at Chuchilla Campground at dusk the night before and hunkered down for a cool night. In typical fashion, I snoozed until the last minute and made the drive up to the trailhead. On the trail at 7, but who knows what timezone that was for.

    I followed one of the switchbacks at first and then took the straight, center trail. The road was okay, with your generic forest scenery. Above treeline was my favorite though. Right off the bat I saw three deer. I was happy to have the gradual approach. It made for a good workout. Plus, you gotta' love that 9 miles above treeline. The winds were constantly howling. They were blocked out when I hit the switchbacks above La Cal Basin, but up on the ridge they were still going at it with full force. It wouldn't have been as fun if it were calm.

    Just south of Mt. Walter I found the azimuth mark for Wheeler and then it was onto the final push to the peak where I could see for miles. These mountains are awesome! I sat down for a few minutes and had a snack before retreating. Just in time, too, as the storm clouds came rolling in right on cue. Near the basin I got to see my first marmot. Soon after another hiker who was headed for Wheeler as well. I wonder how the weather turned out for him, being so late in the day.

    Trees are turning a little bit along the road. More colors are visible along the various mountainsides in the area above the TH parking area.
    Wheeler Peak via Bull of the Woods Trail
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    wow... that was an interesting day. You know, when the guide books say that winter snow conditions can exist through the end of May up on this peak it might be a great idea to take heed. And, when they additionally note that snowshoes or skis are needed to traverse the snow covered trails... well, they might well be onto something.

    I initially was happy to have un-winter like weather, and just plowed ahead on up the trail... and encountered snow within the first mile and steadily on up until breaking out of the tree line above 11,000'. From there it could often be avoided, but if encountered managed to provide many interesting crash throughs, chest deep... with an occasional section that was just all that for many yards... 20's of many yards.

    A trail that should have been trekked up in around 3+ hours ended up taking nearly 5. And, the two hour pleasant stroll back down was transformed into over 3 hours of hard effort. The snow did provide a dramatic extra bit of exercise that would otherwise have been missing.

    It also forced us off the trail for extra elevation gain... and helped us lose the trail for a bit of extra mileage and elevation... so, I can not really be too critical of that extra augmenting factor: snow.

    Suggestion: if the trail is snow covered... take some proper footwear (snow shoes? skis? Neos overshoes?) and poles, and other reasonable high country gear.

    Great day!

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    Paved - Car Okay

    To hike
    From Taos, NM... drive 4 miles north on NM 522 to the junction of NM 150 and NM64. Turn right onto NM150 and drive 15 miles up to the Taos Ski village. After the large welcoming sign on the left, turn into the large upper parking lot and follow it around to the large Trailhead sign on the left (slightly above the parking lot)
    page created by imike on May 09 2009 7:33 pm
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