I am always torn whenever someone recommends the Williams Lake Trail: I like to get “off the beaten path” and this trail is one of the most popular in the Wheeler Peak Wilderness. Still, there’s no denying that this is a gorgeous destination.
My brother John, who now lives in Houston, picked this hike on the grounds that it would be a “nice, gentle” trek for his wife Karen. I am not sure she agreed: It is a climb, albeit a short one from the parking lot below the Bavarian to the lake.
It threatened to rain on the way up, however, it cleared off once we got up to the lake. We had time to eat lunch, wander over to the waterfall, hike down, then enjoy baked pretzels, apple strudel, brews and cappuccinos on the deck at the Bavarian before the skies let loose.
All in all, a great day!
From the USDA Forest Service website:
The trail is 2 miles from Kachina Chairlift, Phoenix Restaurant and 4 miles from Twining Campground.
Travel approximately 4 miles north on U.S. Hwy. 64 from Taos to the junction of NM State Highway 150, then east on NM State Highway 150 to Taos Ski Valley. Continue through the ski area parking lot to the Twining Campground. Turn right onto Twining Road. You will switchback twice onto Kachina Rd. The hiker’s parking lot is near the Kachina chairlift and the Bavarian lodge (approximately 3 miles).
From the parking lot the trail passes the Bavarian Lodge at the bottom of the Kachina Chairlift, Lift No. 4, and follows the east side of Lake Fork Creek for approximately ¼ mile. Follow the old road along the east side of the creek. You are on private land for approximately another ¼ mile, please stay on the trail.
The Wilderness boundary is within half a mile. The trail begins in Engelmann spruce stands and near the upper end opens up into meadowland and scattered rock fields. Williams Lake is a natural lake which does not have fish because it freezes in winter.
Camping and campfires are not permitted along the lake shore to prevent damage to soil and water quality. Please select a campsite at least 300 feet from streams, springs, or lakes.
Wheeler Peak is on the ridge line east of the lake and can be reached by climbing the talus slope. Technical rock climbing gear is not needed, but the slope is very steep and very rocky and the trail is unmaintained.