Wheeler Peak


Mountain Range


Hike Miles

Elevation Gain

Hike Days

New Mexico
Sangre de Cristo
13,167 ft

“If you don’t climb the mountain you can’t see the view.” – Anonymous

Why This Mountain?

Tami has selected mountains that would represent different ranges and states in order to see as much as she can in a short time. She picked Wheeler Peak because it is the highest point in New Mexico. The hike date also fell over a weekend and Tami’s brothers and sister-in-law will be able to join her for the hike.

Mountain & Route Facts

Wheeler Peak is the highest natural point in the U.S. state of New Mexico. It is located northeast of Taos and south of Red River in the northern part of the state, and just 2 miles (3.2 km) southeast of the ski slopes of Taos Ski Valley. It lies in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the southernmost subrange of the Rocky Mountains. The peak’s elevation is 13,161 feet (4,011 m) which is the 8th highest state high point. Wheeler Peak is the focus of the 19,661-acre Wheeler Peak Wilderness area in the Carson National Forest.

The long route on Wheeler Peak is along the north ridge. The route starts at the parking lot for Taos Ski Valley, and proceeds east along an old road to a broad saddle at Bull-of-the-Woods Meadow. It then turns south and winds its way among minor peaks and small valleys to gain Wheeler Peak from the north, going over the summit of Mount Walter along the way. This is a practical route, even in winter, due to low (but nonzero) avalanche exposure.

An alternate route is to hike south from Taos Ski Valley to Williams Lake, then take a newly constructed switchback trail to the top. This trail was completed in 2011 by a Forest Service trail crew from the Gallatin National Forest, 8 people working 12 hours per day, building 4 miles of new trail with hand tools to the top in 14 days.

Another alternate route is to begin from the nearby ski resort of Red River. From the town of Red River drive 6.4 miles south on NM 578, then 1.3 miles on FR 58 to the trailhead parking area. From the parking area Wheeler peak is about 7 miles on Forest Trail 91. This route passes two alpine lakes, Lost Lake and Horseshoe Lake.

Tami and family chose the second option. They hiked 2 miles on the Williams Lake Trail then took the Wheeler Peak Summit #60 Trail and followed the switchbacks up the mountain. At the end of the switchbacks, it is about a quarter of a mile over the ridge to the summit which has a summit marker. The terrain was pretty good and well marked. Only a few spots with loose rocks. The total distance out and back was 8.8 miles and the elevation gain was 3,566′.


Historical and Cultural Information

Formerly named Taos Peak, after the nearby town of Taos, New Mexico, it was renamed Wheeler Peak in 1950. A plaque at the summit states that the mountain was: Named in honor of Major George Montague Wheeler (1842–1905) who for ten years led a party of surveyors and naturalists collecting geologic, biologic, planimetric and topographic data in New Mexico and six other southwestern states. It is not known who made the first ascent of Mt. Wheeler.

New Mexico is a state located in the southwestern region of the United States of America. It was admitted to the union as the 47th state on January 6, 1912. It is usually considered one of the Mountain States. New Mexico is fifth by area, the 36th-most populous, and the sixth-least densely populated of the 50 United States.

Inhabited by indigenous peoples for thousands of years before European exploration, New Mexico was claimed in the colonial era as part of the Imperial Spanish viceroyalty of New Spain. Later, it was part of independent Mexico before becoming a U.S. territory and eventually a U.S. state. Among U.S. states, New Mexico has the highest percentage of Hispanics, including descendants of Spanish colonists who have lived in the area for more than 400 years. It has the second-highest percentage of Native Americans as a proportion of the population after Alaska, and the fourth-highest total number of Native Americans after California, Oklahoma, and Arizona. The major Native American nations in the state are Navajo, Pueblo, and Apache peoples. The demography and culture of the state are shaped by these strong Hispanic and Native American influences and expressed in the state flag. Its scarlet and gold colors are taken from the royal standards of Spain, along with the ancient sun symbol of the Zia, a Pueblo-related tribe.

New Mexico, or Nuevo México in Spanish, is often incorrectly believed to have taken its name from the nation of Mexico. However, Spanish explorers recorded this region as New Mexico in 1563, and again in 1581. They believed it contained wealthy Indian cultures similar to those of the Aztec Empire, and the names of both regions are derived from its dominant people, the Mexica. Mexico, formerly a part of New Spain, adopted its name centuries later in 1821, after winning independence from Spanish rule. New Mexico was a part of the independent Mexican Empire and Federal Republic of Mexico for 27 years, 1821 through 1848. During the colonial period, the two had developed as neighboring Spanish-speaking communities under Spanish rule and with relatively independent histories.




Summit: Oct 29th, 2016

Book Club Read

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

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