WHEELER PEAK TRAIL (a.k.a. Bull of the Woods Trail) TR 90.
The Wheeler Peak Trail is a trail running from the Taos Ski Valley parking lot to the Wheeler Peak -- the highest peak in New Mexico. Locals refer to the first part of the trail as the Bull of the Woods Trail since both Bull of the Woods pasture and Bull of the Woods Mountain are near the trail. The entire trail is approximately eight miles and climbs to 13,161 feet. A convenient stop is the Bull of the Woods Pasture which is at a distance of approximately 1.8 miles. The trail to the pasture is steep and challenging, climbing from 9,439 feet of elevation to 10,866 feet of elevation -- a rate of 680 feet per mile. At the Pasture, the trail meets the Gold Hill Trail, the Goose Lake Trail, and Forest Trail 175 (FT 175) from Red River and continues to Wheeler Peak Trail. It has only one water crossing however depending on the season the trail may have short muddy spots and have small amounts of water running down it in places so you should hike in boots with waterproof soles. Because of this and the occasionally rocky nature of the trail do not hike this trail in trainers or other soft shoes. The trail may be used by hikers or on horseback. Bikes are not allowed.
We have only hiked the first 3.6 miles at this time for the data products only cover that distance.
A portable gpx file of the track and the waypoints is here. Load this in Google Earth for a really interesting view of the trail.
A Google Earth kml file is here.
All commentary is based on hiking up the trail towards Bull of the Woods Pasture.
Start at the Taos Ski Valley parking lot near the picnic area off of the upper lot. Note that existing GPS databases are notoriously inaccurate in this area. Location: N36 35.7971 W105 26.9916
Proceed through the picnic area and cross the road to the trail head (N36 35.8192 W105 26.9369).
Hike .8 miles to the water crossing (N36 36.1794 W105 26.4469). This is a major tributary of the Rio Hondo and depending on the season the stream will be running over the logs that form the crossing. Hint: there is an easier crossing approximatley 100 feet upstream with many more logs and the water not really running over any of them.
|Shortly after you cross the stream you will reach the junction of this trail with the Long Canyon trail (N36 36.2047 W105 26.4013). There is a clearing to the right that might appear to be a trail but it isn't. The Long Canyon Trail runs to the left and will be an interesting hike for another day.|
|Shortly after that the trail joins a road. On your return hike you will see this sign, reminding you to leave the road and join the trail. While the road will take you down the mountain, it does not terminate where your car is parked. (N36 36.3193 W105 26.3705).|
A short time after this, you will see an trail leading to the right and away from the road. While I'm sure that this leads to a pleasant picnic or camping spot, it is not part of the Bull of the Woods Trail and dead ends after a quarter mile or so.(N36 36.3572 W105 26.0547)
|While you're hiking up this long, relatively straight stretch look back to the Taos Ski Valley and the primary chair lift.|
The trail continues on the road until the beginning of a large mountain meadow where the trail splits to the right. (N36 36.4993 W105 25.8254). You may take either the road or the trail but the trail is much more scenic and I think a little less challenging. It is certainly less rocky!
The trail rejoins the road after a nice walk. (N36 36.5964 W105 25.7600).
It is then a short distance to the Bull of the Woods Pasture and the junction of the Gold Hill Trail, and FT175. Off to the right is a scenic little pond and a beautiful high altitude meadow. The Bull of the Woods Trail cotinues to the right and heads towards Bull of the Woods Mountain and the Wheeler Peak Trail (TR 90).
Relax in the shade and enjoy the view before starting back down the trail or continuing towards Wheeler Peak. Time to this point was approximately 1 hour, 10 minutes.
So far we've only hiked a mile beyond the pasture, but there are certainly some great views along that mile.
|This view overlooks the Red River Valley. You can actually hike from this valley to the Bull of the Woods Pasture. Larger image here. Giant image here.|
|This shows the Taos Ski Valley, the canyon leading up to it, and in the distance the northern parts of the Taos area. Larger image here. Giant image here.|