Tallest Mountain in New Mexico

Tallest Mountain in New Mexico

December 30, 2018 0 By Ciara Groesbeck

Hiking Lists are commonly created to help challenge people to get out and explore nature’s beauty. Within these lists is the achievement of ascending All the state’s highest points (this article will be covering the U.S. only). My favorite part about these challenges? –You explore on your own terms as you are the sole decider on whether you even want to complete them.

As we traveled the U.S. last year, Erik and I thought about how we could make each state we visited memorable. The idea quickly popped into our minds to try to find and climb all the high points of the states we traveled in. This proved to be an excellent alternate version of the game “Where’s Waldo?”– as some of these points were not your “typical” mountain, but perhaps a tower (Like Alabama’s Cheaha Tower). To this day, the most memorable high point for me was Wheeler Peak in Taos, NM.

Standing at a proud 13,161ft. (give or a take a few), Wheeler Peak is a beauty of a mountain, a b*tch of a climb and even better a butt slide. Would you believe what took us 2.5 hours to summit, we were able to descend in mere minutes? At the base of the peak you will be able to spend some time hanging around William’s Lake and then enjoy a leisurely walk out.

Join me on the adventure recap!

Historically Speaking

Wheeler Peak sits among the Sangre De Cristo Mountain Range within Carson National Forest– little side note, National Forests are usually very ideal for free camping spots and much more liberating for those who hike with their pups! 

The Peak is named after Major George M. Wheeler who surveyed the land over many years in the late 1800s. There is a plaque on the top with his name on it as well! That’s all the history I’ve got for you, on to the “trail report”.

Let’s Set The Scene

On the drive up, we passed by many townhouses that catered to the snow bunnies of the area. Quaint little houses and a big, beautiful rustic restaurant sat among the parking lot. We exited to find many people returning to their cars– it wasn’t our earliest start, but it was still before 9AM.

A few of those people came over to admire the boys and told us it was just too icy for them as they did not have spikes. They assured us that we would be fine, they just didn’t want to risk it being as old as they were (they were too adorable!). We set on and passed many wearing shorts, brr.. it was May, but there was snow everywhere and as I can’t recall the exact temperature, I know I had many layers on!

Yes, Boone..finally, snack time (it’s only been 2 miles)

As we made our way to William’s Lake (via William’s Lake Trail), marmots sounded off left and right. I think this was our first experience with the marmots (but certainly not our last). Crockett was beyond confused with excitement and Boone– well, he was just ready for a snack.

Up The Mountain We Go

As we headed up the trail to start the official climb, many people were struggling with the amount of snow they had to trek through. Most people decided here that they would not make it to the top that day. We would positively say– ‘the mountain will always be here, just be safe’.

It didn’t take long for my breaths to shorten along with some of my patience, as Crockett was afraid of the wind (pulling me to the side), mad that I made him wear goggles (stopping every few feet to see that they were in fact still on his head), and remaining confused as to what was whistling at him (marmots, again). Boone was just along for the ride.

The mountains look so grand!

Ascending up the side; look at those mountains in the background!

It didn’t take long for Erik to break away and head up the mountain. He was able to score some epic shots of us making our way up too, slowly yet surely.

Look at that beautiful ridge!

Once on the ridge, we were on a different planet. I had never been so high before. At this moment, my whole body was filled with so much glee– even Crockett gazed out at the view ahead of us. It was magical. Boone, still wondering how he has not earned any treats yet.

Atop Wheeler Peak, trying not to get blown off!

After a few pictures (more mental pictures, than none) we made our way down. Once we came to the snow, I told Erik, “I’ve got to butt slide this!”. There was no designated trail up as the wind created snow drifts everywhere, so it felt safe! Erik ran down the snow with grace as I zoomed incredibly fast on my butt–so fast, that at times I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to stop. Crockett loves when I butt slide because he can run all out, and his chances of finding those marmots was now much greater. Boone, well he wondered when this hike would be over.

There were tents surrounding the lake, people gathered taking pictures and just enjoying nature. We were able to chat with a few families– some local, some not. They offered us places to visit when we got to their home state and even a place to pitch our tent if we so chose.

There were so many incredible people who offered us to stay with them or a relative in another state. While we never took any of them up on their offers, it touched our hearts to know how incredibly kind and giving can be.

The restaurant was tempting, but we were tired and ready to find a place to call home.

Camping Nearby

Departing from the parking lot, we barely drove a few miles before we saw two men flagging us to stop.

They saw us driving slow and offered for us to take the camping spot next to theirs! We assumed they were all taken, but so relieved to be wrong (that’s a first!). We gobbled down some ‘everything we own’ burritos, journaled by the rushing river and soon found our way to the tent after a very successful day in the mountains.

After Wheeler– Visit Taos

Picture every building, every home– yes, even Walmart covered in Adobe. Taos was one of the prettiest and unique cities we had the pleasure of visiting. We were able to walk around the unique shops and I definitely scored some great stickers. The highlight for us? –Going to the Welcome Center and charging all of our technology and connecting with the world after many weeks of minimal communication.

We had success getting watermelons at Walmart and then we drove around just admiring all the surrounding beauty. I highly suggest getting a little lost in Taos.

New Mexico: Check– Where To Next?

After all the Glory of Wheeler Peak, we were so destined to find another high point. We couldn’t tackle Colorado because of weather and lack of gear. We cut through Utah quickly because it was just too dang hot for the pups, but Arizona was just the next best place for us to visit. Next up: Humphrey’s Peak, Flagstaff, AZ.

The moral of this story isn’t that we peak bagged or did something just to check it off the list…rather we experienced something so great, beyond what my words can explain. You can’t replace that feeling of accomplishment, that adrenaline. You can only keep challenging yourself to find it again. That’s just what we did.

Challenge yourself, never take the mountains for granted and wear a smile for the whole world to see.

Happy Trails and With Love,

Ciara