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The Best Hikes in Carson National Forest

87 Triplog Reviews in the Carson National Forest
Most recent of 33 deeper Triplog Reviews
14 mi • 4,046 ft aeg
Didn't have a shuttle so I road walked from Lake Williams Trailhead to Bull of the Woods Trailhead on Twinning Road. That added about 2 miles to the hike. It was foggy, cold, and windy all along the ridge and on the summit so I couldn't see the views. Coming down towards Lake Williams it finally started to clear. The area is very beautiful and I wish I had more than a day to spend there. There were a lot of people and a lot of dogs on this hike.
16.11 mi • 5,243 ft aeg
Wheeler Peak Wilderness was the last stop for the pups and myself on our five day tour of north central New Mexico. We started the trip off with a backpack into the Pecos Wilderness, we followed that up with a filler hike in the Columbine Hondo Wilderness and then finished with this over night trip into Wheeler. The miles were intentionally low and the itinerary light in the interests of my aging pups.

The plan called for starting at the upper Williams Lake trailhead and the Williams Lake Trail and then taking the Wheeler Peak Summit Trail to its intersection with trail #90 and then the summit. From there, we were to drop off the backside of Wheeler and head for Horseshoe Lake and camp.

We got a relatively early start on what was a very cold morning, but I wanted a relatively early start to beat the crowds. Turns out, I only saw four hikers all day, two pairs that started at about the same time as me. Williams Lake has an amazing backdrop, but the lake itself is rather unspectacular. From the lake, it was the summit trail climb to Wheeler's distinct ridgeline. I will admit, the climb was a bit of a slog for me at times, as this was the first time I had carried a heavy pack up to 13K since Forester Pass and the John Muir Trail I believe. Nevertheless, I completed the full pack summit with the pups and we moved on down the ridge towards the Lost Lake Trail. Here I got a little indecisive and after mulling it over in my head and staring at it for five straight minutes, decided to turn around and head back to the ridgeline to bag Old Mike Peak. Simpson was on the way, so I naturally crossed that one off the list as well. Although, it was nice to snag a couple of extra peaks, my real motive was catching a glimpse of Blue Lake. A sacred lake that the local tribe wrestled back from the control of the federal government and now restricts access to only tribal members. The views of the lake were alright, but overall it was the views of the surrounding area not seen from Wheeler that made Old Mike Peak worth the waffling and detour.

After our ridgeline walking peak extravaganza, we headed down to Horseshoe Lake, a barren little lake that sits just above the treeline and directly below the backside of Wheeler. On the way to the lake we saw a large herd of bighorn, which we watched for awhile before letting them go back to their business, which was just laying around for about half of them. It was immediately evident from the start that the wind would be a little too much and too cold to camp near the lake, so we opted for a site just within the trees and a little downhill on the Lost Lake Trail. At camp it was the usual chores, the usual food and the usual one way conversations with Cup and Blanco. I was a little restless and did not sleep well, perhaps it was from camping at nearly 12k or perhaps it was from the hounding wind and freezing temperatures. Needless to say, I had no problem getting out of that tent near first light the next morning and setting off for the trailhead around 6:30 a.m. The hike back was pretty standard. We cherry picked another peak (Mount Walter) and had another bighorn herd sighting. There were more people on the trail than I thought there would be on a Tuesday, which is further evidence of this areas popularity. Hit it early to beat the crowds and avoid the weekends if possible.
6.8 mi • 2,648 ft aeg
I did this little filler hike in between backpacking in the Pecos Wilderness and the Wheeler Peak Wilderness. I found the trail to be a very pleasant trail and the trail was well maintained. There is a nice little waterfall about a mile in, but the highlight of the trail was the upper mile where there are some nice meadows and big views. I took a little break at the top with the pups and then walked along the Lobo Peak trail a little to catch some better views, before returning the same way I came. I wanted to see the waterfalls later in the day with better light, but walked past the turn off on the way down and did have to do a little backtracking. The bottom two-thirds of the trail is a bit of a green tunnel, but I found the forest to be scenic and vibrant.
21.7 mi • 6,682 ft aeg
Wheeler Peak-Horseshoe and Lost Lake
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.
12.55 mi • 3,554 ft aeg
Gold Hill Long Canyon Loop
Spent the long weekend hiking the Sangre De Cristo Mountains in New Mexico. We planned to hike Wheeler Peak but wanted a warm up hike the day before. We planned to hike Gold Hill loop which is similar to hiking Humphreys in AEG and distance. The loop started from the Taos Ski Valley up Bull of the Woods trail climbing about 1300 feet to the Gold Hill trail junction. Before heading up Gold Hill Trail we checked out the Bull of the Woods pasture and noticed a yurt on one side of the meadow so we checked it out. Very nice yurt with room for at least 4 and large deck out front. After the side trip we headed up Gold Hill Trail which like Bull of the Woods was in excellent shape. Nice switchbacks and gradual gradient made the AEG up to the summit at 12,711 feel easier than the actual elevation gain.

We had lunch on the summit and enjoyed the views. To the north we could see the goal for the next day Wheeler Peak. A few people arrived as we were leaving and talked to them before moving on. Coming back down from the summit we wanted to make a loop out of it so we took Long Canyon Trail down which was also in very good shape. Plenty of water in the canyon and camp spots for an overnighter. Ran into some hunters camping half way down canyon so apparently hunting season has started. Eventually Long Canyon intersects with Bull of the Woods Trail and took it back to the ski valley.
8.5 mi • 3,222 ft aeg
Ah... Windy Wheeler Peak. First time in Santa Fe and first time on this trail.
This is the shorter approach vs. Bull in the Woods, supposedly less scenic of the two.
Trail starts out easy until Williams Lake, you turn to the trail on the left and the ascent starts.
Well marked and well maintained trail all the way up the summit. I do not recall any steep sections, just an easy walk up the top. There were very short boulder crossings, I missed the sound of big slabs of solid rock under my feet. There was forest fire (?) the day we hiked so it was a bit smoky as we were nearing the ridge. The winds were projected to be in the 30s however it seemed like we were getting 30mph even before we got to the ridge.
My partner had to wait behind because he was ill dressed for that kind of weather. I decided to go as far as I could (I had a fleece zip under a windstopper jacket, had some gloves too). Temps for the hike were 50-70F.
It got interesting by the time I reached the ridge, a fellow hiker pointed me to the summit (he turned back too) on the right. There was another peak closeby to the left, I believe it is called Mount Walter.
The terrain itself was easy to negotiate but that wind... it must have been in the 50mph winds by the time I got to the summit? It was hard for me to plant my pole on the ground but I still managed to take a short video :lol: : ... nenk.
There was a cannon on the summit which I later found out has the summit log, so if you go do not forget to look in the cannon.
Overall an enjoyable hike and not overly long walk up to the summit. Views were of course amazing. :y:
Will definitely come back to do this next time (when the forecast calls for winds of 10mph) and tag Mount Walter too.
11.01 mi • 3,985 ft aeg
@toddak said this hike was awesome and he was not kidding!

parked at manzanita trailhead and walked the road up to italianos canyon. steep canyon ascent killed me but the pain was mitigated by wonderful running creek lined with pines, flowers and aspen! also little meadows up high and mushrooms galore!

the views from Lobo peak are simply outstanding

steep leg down manzanita canyon with numerous water crossings and tons of shade.

very worthwhile hike in the taos area :y:
15.06 mi • 4,627 ft aeg
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
5.69 mi • 1,379 ft aeg
got into Taos a little later than planned and the weather was sketchy so i opted for this local loop rather than driving up higher into the mountains (i had certainly seen enough rain today).

excellent little loop to somewhat wooded summit affording very nice views of Taos and also looking up towards the bigger peaks. weather held, temps were lovely and the trees and views gave me just what i needed after a long drive.

located about 5 minutes from town, this hike is an excellent quick getaway and no doubt highly popular with the locals looking to get a good quick work out in
15 mi • 4,302 ft aeg
The plan was originally to backpack from the trailhead via Bull of the Woods trail aka Wheeler Summit trail up to La Cal Basin where we were supposed to camp. Last minute we decided that due to the long drive from/to Phoenix we will day hike on Saturday so we have more time on Sunday drive leisurely back.

The drive took 9 hours on Friday afternoon/night. Arrived to the trailhead at 2am and went to sleep. At 6am we were up and started hiking via Bull of the Woods trail. The hike was very nice, lots of fall colors, great weather. All of us felt the altitude so we were moving quite slow uphill and taking lots of breaks, drinking water and eating snacks. Around 1pm we reached the second highest peak - Mt. Walter (13,141 ft) and in a little bit the highest peak - Mt. Wheeler (13,161 ft).
We had nice lunch at the summit, the weather was nice, warm, no wind. After about one hour later we started heading down Mt. Wheeler - Williams Lake trail which is shorter (but steeper).

We got back to the car around 5pm and headed to Taos for nice mexican dinner :)

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