Wheeler Peak via Williams Lake

Taos

The most direct route to New Mexico's 13,161-foot high point.

Alpine Climbing Easy

Distance
13 km
Ascent
908 m
Descent
908 m
Low Point
3.1 km
High Point
4 km
Gradient
14˚
VIEW ON MAP
Wheeler Peak via Williams Lake Map

Description

Wheeler Peak is the crown of New Mexico, soaring to a height of 13,161 feet above sea level. As the state's highpoint, and since it is a non-technical climb, Wheeler receives a significant amount of peak climbing traffic. To score a spot in the parking lot (and to get off the mountain before the afternoon thunderstorms begin), it's advisable to get to the trailhead before dawn, even during the middle of the week.

There are several different routes to the top of Wheeler Peak, but the route mapped here, via the Williams Lake trail, is the shortest and most popular option. Even still, it covers 8.4 miles round-trip and climbs about 3,000 vertical feet, according to FATMAP.

The route begins on the mellow climb toward Williams Lake. You can either choose to do the short spur to the lake, or carry on straight toward the summit of Wheeler.

This route to the summit ranks as a class 2 climb. The final 1,000 feet of ascending consists of scree field scrambling, but during the summer, no special equipment is required. The trail is well-trod and the climb is fairly straight forward, but climbers should still take all normal precautions for weather, exposure, and other dangers.

During the winter, the climb gets trickier. Several avalanche chutes cross the summer trail and could prove very dangerous during winter months. A winter summit of Wheeler is only recommended for experienced backcountry winter travelers.

Sources: https://www.summitpost.org/wheeler-peak-nm/150429 https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/carson/recreation/hiking/recarea/?recid=44350&actid=50).

Difficulty

Easy

The ascent involves simple glacier hiking and/or short, straightforward rock scrambles. Equivalent to Alpine F, F+

Medium Exposure

2 out of 4

The route features some exposed and/or difficult to protect sections.

Remoteness

3 out of 4

Little chance of being seen or helped in case of an accident.

Best time to visit

June, July, August, September, October

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area