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Wheeler Peak-Horseshoe and Lost Lake, NM
mini location map2017-09-03
34 by photographer avatarBiFrost
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Wheeler Peak-Horseshoe and Lost Lake, NM 
Wheeler Peak-Horseshoe and Lost Lake, NM
Hiking avatar Sep 03 2017
Hiking21.70 Miles 6,682 AEG
Hiking21.70 Miles   11 Hrs   53 Mns   2.04 mph
6,682 ft AEG   1 Hour   14 Mns Break
1st trip
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The main goal of the weekend in the Sangre De Cristo range was to summit Wheeler Peak and check out some of the alpine lakes on the backside of the summit. Since it’s the highpoint of New Mexico it can be very popular summit and often crowded like Humphreys. So hoping to miss some of the crowd we started relatively early about 630am from the ski valley area which we followed up one of the ski runs towards the Williams Lake TH. This added about 1.6 miles to the hike but a nice warm up for the steeper climb later. The ski run eventually connects with Williams Lake Trail and about 2 miles in comes out at Williams Lake. From there it’s up the Wheeler Peak summit trail which is an excellent trail like the ones we did the day before on Gold Hill. There are many switchbacks from the lake up and it gains about 1900 feet in 2miles. However, the well constructed switchbacks make the grade easier to manage. Eventually the trail hits saddle at 13,000 in between Mount Walter and Wheeler Peak. Mount Walter is pretty much right on the trail so we hit that summit first at 13,141 before heading over to Wheeler. Getting the earlier start helped but we still had company on Wheeler. Regardless it was relaxing and we enjoyed a good break and early lunch on New Mexico’s highpoint at 13,161.

After lunch next up we wanted to check out Horseshoe Lake and Lost Lake on the back side of Wheeler Peak. The trail to the lakes runs below the summit and drops about 1200 feet to Horseshoe Lake which is just above tree line. We stopped briefly before heading to Lost Lake about another 1.5 miles further and another 500 feet drop. Took a longer break at Lost Lake that is just below tree line and underneath some impressive cliffs. With the scenic location it wasn’t a surprise to find several backpackers camped especially being holiday weekend.

At this point we had decision to make on the route back. Since the backside trail does not loop around we either had to go back the way we came or try an off trail route to connect with the main trail. We had several different options mapped out but in the end it looked like more adventure than we wanted. However, with backtracking we had to go back up on the summit ridgeline which was a concern with afternoon thunderstorms. And sure enough around 130 a large storm came over Wheeler Peak. Since we were not yet on the ridgeline but still above tree line we decided to try and wait out the storm. It was intense with nearly golf ball size hail so much that we put our packs over the head to protect from the impact. Fortunately the worst of the hail only lasted for about 15 to 20 minutes. After that we headed straight for the ridgeline cutting off some trail to hopefully save time in case another storm rolled through. Luckily there was nothing coming from the other side and we continued down the ridgeline.

Since we came up from Williams Lake side and wanting to make a loop the choice was to descend Bull of the Woods Trail. Again excellent trail on the descent dropping gradually with awesome views for several miles on the way down. About 5 miles from the summit it reaches Bull of the Woods Pasture and a main trail junction for the area. From there it’s just under 2 miles back to the ski valley where we started. Great day hike with some weather adventure mixed in. Also we were really impressed with the trail quality which made the higher elevation and AEG seem much less daunting than the actual stats.
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