Wheeler Peak (New Mexico)


By: Al Campbell


On my way back east, I stopped by Taos to climb Wheeler Peak. (Maps available at "Base Camp" on E. San Francisco St. in downtown Santa Fe) I was following Frank Ashley's write up. Arrived late evening 9/25 at Taos Ski Valley only to see the sign "Wilderness Permits Required". Permits are supposed to be available at the Post Office in the ski area. Found out later that the P. O. was closed and they didn't have any. Next morning I went back to Taos Ranger Sta. They would not issue a permit to go in by Williams Lake. This is private property and the owner has closed it off. There are 3 alternatives:

1). There is a trail from The Ski Area to Bull-of-the Woods Pasture. A mine road goes from here to B-o-the-W mtn. and then Twining Blue Lake Trail goes along the ridge to Wheeler Peak.

The Ranger suggested the northern approach as nicer so I went to Cuesta Ranger Sta. They have a nice Wilderness map which shows a new trail. (This can take the place of the topo.)

2). Middle Fork Trail but they recommended -

3). East Fork Trail. The new trails #56

From Cuesta, drive thru Red River to the edge of town. The rd. forks. left or straight ahead. Go ahead on pavement for about 7-1/2 mi. following the East Fork of the Red River to a "Tee". Left on Rd. 58A (right goes to 2)-Middle Fork) heading for Ditch Cabin.(site) You pass by many private cabins but stay on gravel/dirt/chuck hole rd. Pass thu 2 wire gates (please close) for about 1-1/2 mi. to a broad area near stream. Sign ahead says (4. wheel rd ahead). Not worth while going on as it is only a 10 min. walk with less parking space. Excellent trail to Horseshoe Lake. Bridges at stream crossings. From Horseshoe an evident trail to ridge at about 12,850' just so. of the peak. Turn Right (No.) and pass under Wheeler. When you see the cross on Mt. Walter, turn left and go uphill to Wheeler summit. Nice summit marker. Go over to Mt. Walter for a bonus and then down the ridge to Horseshoe Lake (easy and grassy). About 18 mi. rt. and 3,500'gain. On this new trail it all goes so easy and it is very gradual thru nice trees etc. A little longer drive but I think it is worth it.

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