Williams Lake (Wheeler Peak Wilderness, NM) 25-Jun-2018

Williams Lake Wheeler Peak Wilderness New Mexico

After she’d had a day of art appreciation with other family members, I was able to persuade The LovedOne to join me for a short hike to Williams Lake, south of Taos Ski Valley, at the base of the highest peak in New Mexico (Wheeler Peak). Every area we’ve ever visited seems to have at least one short, easily accessible, and not too steep (and hence wildly popular) hike to big scenery. Judging from the size of its trailhead parking lot, the number of cars there on a weekday, and the width of its tread, the trail to Williams Lake, in the Wheeler Peak Wilderness, is that hike in Northern New Mexico. We had last hiked it in 1993 during a fierce thunder and lightning and hail storm that caught on the way back from an ascent of Wheeler Peak. We were looking forward to not having an experience like that again (we didn’t).

From the trailhead to the wilderness boundary, the trail is an old, rocky, two-track road,

Williams Lake Wheeler Peak Wilderness New Mexico
Along the old road part of the trail

which was, fortunately, lined with clumps of blue columbines.

Williams Lake Wheeler Peak Wilderness New Mexico
A blue columbine along the old road

The old road devolved into a trail past the wilderness boundary, one that continued to climb up the valley past extensive boulder fields,

Williams Lake Wheeler Peak Wilderness New Mexico
Boulder fields below Lake Fork Peak

to, at 1.6 miles from the trailhead, a divide (the lake actually sits in a depression), which we crossed and started descending toward the lake. By this time we had encountered about 30 other hikers coming and going along the trail.

Williams Lake Wheeler Peak Wilderness New Mexico
Descending from the divide

The lake was very pretty, despite the “bathtub ring” caused by the prolonged drought in this region.

Williams Lake Wheeler Peak Wilderness New Mexico
Williams Lake, below Simpson Peak (L) and Point 12819 (R)
Williams Lake Wheeler Peak Wilderness New Mexico
Williams Lake, below Point 12819
Williams Lake Wheeler Peak Wilderness New Mexico
Williams Lake, below Simpson Peak

It had been a pretty short hike, so we added to it by finding a geocache hidden in a boulder field on the southwest side of the lake.

Williams Lake Wheeler Peak Wilderness New Mexico
Bouldering for a cache

And then, as yet more people descended from the divide, we headed back over it,

Williams Lake Wheeler Peak Wilderness New Mexico
Climbing back over the divide

caught a glimpse of Lobo Peak from the trail,

Williams Lake Wheeler Peak Wilderness New Mexico
Lobo Peak (center)

and scurried on back – past yet more hikers – to the trailhead. It was a nice short (4.2 miles round-trip; 1,400 feet of elevation gain) hike to a pretty sub-alpine lake but we’re not sure we’d want to be on this trail on a busy summer weekend!

Williams Lake Wheeler Peak Wilderness New Mexico
On back to the trailhead

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