Wondering, “where can I hike in Taos?” The short answer? Lots of places. Whether you are looking for easy hikes in Taos or to hike to the top of mountain peaks, Taos has plenty of amazing day hikes for you to explore and conquer. The town of Taos is a hikers haven. Sitting pretty at around 7,000 ft with the Sangre de Cristo Mountains waiting for you in the distance, the majority of the hiking in Taos can be found in the Taos Ski Valley, located about 30 minutes from the town of Taos itself.
It’s here, in the Taos Ski Valley, where you’ll find some of the best day hikes Taos has to offer. However, not all hikes are just in the Taos Ski Valley. Oh, no, no! Check out our list of the 5 can’t miss Taos hikes just below. Happy hiking!
Taos Hiking Trails
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1. Hike to The Summit of Wheeler Peak
Kicking this Taos hiking guide off with what we consider to be the ultimate and best hike in Taos, Wheeler Peak. Located in the Taos Ski Valley, Wheeler Peak is a doozy of a hike, but so worth it! After you summit the top, you can officially say that you hiked the tallest peak in New Mexico. Yup, you read that correctly, Wheeler Peak is the tallest point in New Mexico.
Standing big and beautiful at 13,161ft, you have two options on how to get to Wheeler Peak. 1) Bull of the Woods Trailhead or 2) Williams Lake Trailhead. We recommend the Willams Lake Trailhead – it’s gorgeous!
If you choose to start from William Lake Trail, you’ll wind through conifer forests until eventually, the trail opens up to the gorgeous Williams Lake. At the lake, you’ll be at a little over 11,000 ft in elevation. Feel free to take a break at the lake or even camp here for the night! Regardless, what you choose, you’re next step is to go up. And we do mean up!
For the next few hours, you’ll switchback up the side of Mount Wheeler, passing boulder fields and marmots along the way. Oh, and don’t forget to look behind you, the views are insane! The entire valley seems to just open up before you and the peaks in the distance add to the already amazing view. Once you reach the summit, you’ll be rewarded with 360-degree views of New Mexico. If you’re in physical shape to do so, this hike is one to not be missed!
Miles: 8.5 | Difficulty: Hard to Strenous | Elevation Gain: 2,972 ft
Be sure to check out: The Best Things To Do In Taos New Mexico to experience the best of Taos!
2. Relax at Williams Lake
If you are planning to hike to Wheeler Peak, and choose to start at William Lake Trail, you’ll kill two birds with one stone on your Taos day hike. Williams Lake is a lovely little alpine lake situated in a bowl of the Taos Ski Valley and surrounded by the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
The Williams Lake Trailhead is within the Taos Ski Valley and is really easy to find, just put it into your GPS. The trail winds through the forest and eventually opens up into vast fields where you can see large boulders from previous landslides. After 2-ish miles, you’ll arrive at Williams Lake.
This hike is great for families and those looking to enjoy the day. Plan to pack a picnic, dip your little toes in the water and enjoy the lake. Fair warning, the water is cold! This trail is also dog friendly so Fido can come along, just make she they are on a leash.
Miles: 4.2 | Difficulty: Moderate | Elevation Gain: 1,030 ft
3. Trek Up The Gavilan Trail
Gavilan Trail is another Taos day hike located within the Taos Ski Valley. We love Gavilan for many reasons. 1) It’s challenging (steep), but worth it 2) It’s less popular than Wheeler Peak or Williams Lake 3) You can connect to the Columbine Trail and continue along the ridge for some amazing views or carry onto Lobo Peak.
The trail begins right off State Road 150/Ski Valley Road. Park along the road and get ready, you are about to get some elevation gain (someone told us 1,000 ft per mile). The trail immediately hits as you begin your ascent through the woods as you trek the switchbacks that run along the creek. Eventually, you reach a sprawling meadow (lower meadow). You’ll keep going through the next set of trees till you reach the upper meadow. It’s here where you can make your decision to keep going to the Gavilan / Columbine trail junction or turn back.
If you are up for it and are prepared (food and water), we highly suggest you keep going. You’ll climb a set of switchbacks to the top of the Gavilan Trail where you reach 11,205 feet and see the trail junction. You’ll be rewarded with great views. From here, you can continue west to Lobo Peak or trek east along the ridgeline towards Gold Hill.
Gavilan is a big hike and one of the steepest hikes in all of Taos, so hikers should come prepared and start early. Given the extensions one can do on this hike, the below-hiking stats are just for the Gavilan Trail itself. It does not take into consideration any added distance for hiking along the ridge to Lobo Peak or Gold Hil.
Miles: 6.6 | Difficulty: Strenuous | Elevation Gain: 2,432 ft
4. See Taos from Devisadero Loop Trail
Time to leave the Taos Ski Valley and head back into the town of Taos. Located in Carson National Forest, and just outside the main center of town, you’ll find the Devisadero Loop Trail. The trailhead is located off US Highway 64, about 3 miles east of historic downtown Taos. You can park along the highway at the El Nogal Picnic Area.
When you begin your hike, you start with a fairly decent incline and hike among arid mountainside terrains like cactuses and juniper. Now, you have two starting routes to choose from on this trail, the eastern route or the western route. The eastern route is steeper but does provide a more direct route to the summit. The western route is longer and a little less rugged. Whichever route you choose to go up, you’ll go down the other.
Devisadero Loop Trail takes on average around 2-2.5 hours to complete and along the way, you’ll have great views of Taos and the mesa it sits on below.
Miles: 5.6 | Difficulty: Moderate | Elevation Gain: 1,335 ft
TIP: When hiking Devisadero, it’s best to start early in the morning. This hike has little to no shade and is exposed to the sun, so starting early is recommended.
5. Explore The West Rim Trail – Taos Rio Grande Gorge
Without a doubt, the West Rim Trail has to be one of, if not the easiest hiking trails in Taos. Another great hike for families or those just looking for a beautiful and easy hike, the west rim trail is located alongside one of the popular tourist sites, the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. Walk along with sagebrush fields and take in the plummeting views of the Rio Grande River that flows 650 feet below.
The trail runs along the gorge and is beautiful at sunrise or sunset. You get to see the colors of the southeast light up the sky and along the vast flat expanse and mountains in the distance.
Miles: 3.7 | Difficulty: Easy | Elevation Gain: 236 ft
Hiking In Taos Ski Valley
Besides being insanely gorgeous, Taos Ski Valley is home to handfuls of amazing Taos hiking trails. Our favorites are listed above, but we couldn’t leave the below out!
- Yerba Canyon Trail | 4 miles (acess to Lobo Peak from this trail)
- Italianos Canyon Trail | 3.5 miles
- Lobo Peak | 10.7 miles
- Gold Hill | 10.5 miles
Also, check out the map below to locate any hiking in Taos trailheads.
Essential Gear For Hiking in Taos
Before you hit the Taos hiking trails, having the proper gear is important, especially when hiking at high altitudes in the Taos Ski Valley. Below is a shortlist of essential hiking gear so you can make sure you are prepped and prepared for some amazing hiking in Taos.
- Jacket: When hiking in the mountains, the weather can change at a split second so it’s best to be prepared with an outer shell jacket that will protect you from the elements like wind, rain or snow.
- Base Layer: You want moisture wicking, quick dry materials against your body to block and repel sweat. The last thing you want is a sweat drenched shirt against your body for the entire hike – it’s the worst. Not to mention, if it’s cold out, that wet shirt won’t help your body warm up at all.
- Socks: Wool socks are amazing to hike in. They’ll keep your feet dry and at a comfortable temperature. Our favorite brand Darn Tough, uses a merino wool blend and guarantees their socks for life, check them out, you won’t regret it!
- Boots: If you’ll be traversing over rocky terrain, make sure your boots have the appropriate tread and ankle support. The last thing you want is to slip or roll an ankle. Our boots are Vasque’s and Lowa’s and we love them.
- Hiking Poles/Sticks: Great for extra ankle and knee support, Hiking sticks are great support pieces to help you get up switchbacks and down steep grades.
Hiking Misc. Items
A few other items that you can consider for your Taos hikes (depending on the weather) are a buff and a fleece. Also, having a proper daypack with padding is essential for carrying your water bottle, snacks, and other items you require comfortably.
Some things we never leave at home for a hike are chapstick, tissues, sunglasses, and a first aid kit. Also, be sure to apply plenty of sunscreen on your face and the tops of your ears. The sun is more intense at higher altitudes and getting sun blisters is zero fun.
TIP: Before any high evaluation hike, it’s important to hydrate. Drink plenty of water the night before to help with altitude sickness, muscle cramping, and fatigue.
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– Lauren & Jesse Stuart (The Stüs)