Wheeler Peak Trail System In Nevada

Here is everything you need to know about the Wheeler Peak Trail System:

  • Trail System: National Recreation Trail
  • State: Nevada
  • Length: 10 miles.
  • Type: Hiking
  • Surface: dirt
  • Managed By: Carson National Forest
  • Permit Required?: Yes.
  • Website: https://www.nps.gov/grba/planyourvisit/wheeler-peak-trail-system.htm

The Wheeler Peak Trail System, located in Great Basin National Park, Nevada, holds a rich historical significance. The area has been inhabited by Native American tribes for thousands of years, with evidence of their presence dating back to at least 10,000 years ago. These tribes, including the Shoshone and Paiute, utilized the region’s abundant natural resources for sustenance and cultural practices.

During the mid-19th century, European settlers began to explore and settle in the Great Basin area. In 1855, Captain John W. Gunnison led an expedition through the region, mapping the area and documenting its natural features. However, it was not until the late 19th century that the Wheeler Peak Trail System gained prominence.

In 1885, Lieutenant George M. Wheeler, a topographical engineer, led the Wheeler Survey, a government-funded expedition to map the western United States. The survey aimed to provide accurate maps for future settlement and development. As part of this survey, Wheeler and his team explored the Great Basin region, including the area around Wheeler Peak. The team documented the trails and natural features, providing valuable information for future travelers and settlers.

The Wheeler Peak Trail System became increasingly important during the early 20th century as the area gained recognition for its natural beauty and recreational opportunities. In 1922, Great Basin National Park was established, encompassing the Wheeler Peak area. The park’s creation aimed to preserve the unique natural and cultural resources found in the region, including the trail system.

Today, the Wheeler Peak Trail System continues to attract visitors from around the world, offering breathtaking views, diverse ecosystems, and a glimpse into the rich history of the area. The trails serve as a reminder of the Native American presence, the explorations of early settlers, and the efforts to preserve and appreciate the natural wonders of the Great Basin.

While On The Trail

Access Points

1. Williams Lake Trailhead: This is the most popular access point for the Wheeler Peak Trail System. It starts at the Taos Ski Valley and leads to Williams Lake, from where hikers can continue on to Wheeler Peak.

2. Bull-of-the-Woods Trailhead: Located near the Taos Ski Valley, this trailhead provides access to the Bull-of-the-Woods and Gold Hill trails, which eventually connect to the Wheeler Peak Trail.

3. East Fork Trailhead: Situated in the Carson National Forest, this trailhead offers access to the East Fork Trail, which connects to the Wheeler Peak Trail near Horseshoe Lake.

4. Middle Fork Trailhead: Located in the Carson National Forest, this trailhead provides access to the Middle Fork Trail, which connects to the Wheeler Peak Trail near Horseshoe Lake.

5. Lost Lake Trailhead: Situated in the Carson National Forest, this trailhead leads to Lost Lake, from where hikers can continue on to the Wheeler Peak Trail.

6. Horseshoe Lake Trailhead: This trailhead is located near the Taos Ski Valley and provides access to the Horseshoe Lake Trail, which connects to the Wheeler Peak Trail.

7. Twining Campground Trailhead: Situated near the Taos Ski Valley, this trailhead offers access to the Twining Campground Trail, which connects to the Wheeler Peak Trail.

8. Long Canyon Trailhead: Located in the Carson National Forest, this trailhead provides access to the Long Canyon Trail, which connects to the Wheeler Peak Trail near Horseshoe Lake.

These are some of the major access points or trailheads along the Wheeler Peak Trail System. There may be additional smaller access points or trailheads in the surrounding area.

Transportation Available

1. Wheeler Peak Shuttle – Shuttle service providing transportation to and from the Wheeler Peak Trail System.
2. Taos Ski Valley Shuttle – Shuttle service offering transportation to the Wheeler Peak Trail System from Taos Ski Valley.
3. Taos Transportation – Transportation service providing shuttle options to various hiking trails, including the Wheeler Peak Trail System.
4. Taos Adventure Shuttle – Shuttle service specializing in outdoor adventure transportation, including access to the Wheeler Peak Trail System.
5. Taos Hiking Shuttle – Shuttle service dedicated to providing transportation for hikers, including drop-off and pick-up at the Wheeler Peak Trail System.


The Wheeler Peak Trail System, located in Great Basin National Park, offers several amenities for visitors. Some of the amenities available at the trail system include:

1. Restrooms: There are restroom facilities available at the trailhead and various points along the trails for visitors’ convenience.

2. Parking: The trail system provides parking areas for visitors to park their vehicles while accessing the trails. These parking areas are usually located near the trailheads.

3. Camping Sites: Great Basin National Park offers camping opportunities, including developed campgrounds and backcountry camping. While not directly part of the trail system, camping sites are available within the park for visitors who wish to stay overnight.

4. Picnic Areas: There are designated picnic areas within the park, including some near the trailheads. These areas provide tables, benches, and sometimes grills for visitors to enjoy a meal or snack amidst the natural surroundings.

5. Interpretive Signage: Along the trails, visitors can find interpretive signage that provides information about the natural and cultural history of the area. These signs offer educational opportunities and enhance the overall experience of exploring the trail system.

6. Trail Maps and Information: At the trailhead or visitor center, visitors can find trail maps and informational brochures about the Wheeler Peak Trail System. These resources help visitors navigate the trails and learn more about the area.

7. Benches and Rest Areas: Throughout the trail system, there are benches and rest areas where visitors can take a break, enjoy the scenery, or have a picnic. These spots provide opportunities for relaxation and taking in the natural beauty of the surroundings.

Please note that amenities may vary, and it is always recommended to check with the park authorities or visitor center for the most up-to-date information on amenities available at the Wheeler Peak Trail System.

Nearby Services

1. Wheeler Peak Campground – A campground located near the trail system offering basic amenities.
2. Taos Ski Valley – A nearby ski resort with lodging options and dining facilities.
3. Bavarian Lodge & Restaurant – A mountain lodge with a restaurant serving German cuisine.
4. Taos Mountain Lodge – A rustic lodge offering comfortable accommodations.
5. Taos Inn – A historic inn in downtown Taos with a restaurant and bar.
6. El Monte Sagrado – A luxury resort with spa services and fine dining options.
7. Holy Cross Hospital – A medical facility providing emergency services in Taos.
8. Taos Urgent Care – A walk-in clinic offering urgent medical care.
9. Taos County Sheriff’s Office – Local law enforcement agency providing emergency services.
10. Taos Fire Department – Fire and rescue services for the area.

Wheeler Peak Trail System Difficulty Notes

The Wheeler Peak Trail System presents a moderate to challenging difficulty level for hikers. With an elevation gain of over 2,900 feet, the trail demands a certain level of physical fitness and endurance. The steep and rocky terrain can be strenuous, especially for those who are not accustomed to hiking at high altitudes. Additionally, the trail can be exposed to harsh weather conditions, including strong winds and sudden temperature changes. However, the breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and valleys, as well as the opportunity to summit Wheeler Peak, the highest peak in New Mexico, make the challenging nature of the trail well worth the effort for experienced hikers seeking a rewarding adventure.

Features And Attractions

1. Wheeler Peak: The highest peak in New Mexico, offering breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.

2. Williams Lake: A picturesque alpine lake located near the base of Wheeler Peak, surrounded by lush meadows and wildflowers.

3. Bull-of-the-Woods Pasture: A historic site where early settlers used to graze their cattle, now a serene meadow with stunning views of the surrounding peaks.

4. Lost Lake: A hidden gem nestled in a high alpine basin, surrounded by towering cliffs and dense forests.

5. Horseshoe Lake: A small, secluded lake with crystal-clear waters, perfect for a refreshing dip or a picnic by the shore.

6. Columbine Canyon: A scenic canyon with a cascading waterfall and vibrant wildflowers, offering a peaceful and serene hiking experience.

7. Taos Valley Overlook: A viewpoint that offers a sweeping vista of the Taos Valley, with the town of Taos and the Rio Grande Gorge in the distance.

8. Gold Hill: A historic mining site with remnants of old mining structures, showcasing the region’s rich mining history.

9. Wheeler Peak Glacier: A small glacier nestled in a cirque below Wheeler Peak, a rare sight in the arid Southwest.

10. Bull-of-the-Woods Mountain: A prominent peak with a unique rock formation resembling a bull’s head, providing a distinctive landmark along the trail.

11. Columbine-Hondo Wilderness: A designated wilderness area encompassing the Wheeler Peak Trail System, offering pristine landscapes, diverse wildlife, and untouched natural beauty.

12. Wild Rivers Recreation Area: Located nearby, this area features the confluence of the Rio Grande and Red River, with deep canyons and dramatic cliffs, providing stunning views and excellent hiking opportunities.

These are just a few of the many scenic views, historical sites, and natural landmarks that can be found along the Wheeler Peak Trail System. Exploring this area will undoubtedly offer a memorable and enriching experience for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.

Usage Guidelines

1. Pets must be kept on a leash at all times.
2. Clean up after your pet and dispose of waste properly.
3. Respect wildlife and do not disturb or feed them.
4. Stay on designated trails and do not create new paths.
5. Bicycles are not allowed on the Wheeler Peak Trail System.
6. Camping is only permitted in designated camping areas.
7. Open fires are prohibited; use designated fire pits or stoves.
8. Do not litter and carry out all trash.
9. Hunting or trapping is not allowed within the trail system.
10. Respect seasonal restrictions, such as closures during winter months or specific times of the year.
11. Follow any additional rules or guidelines posted at trailheads or along the trails.

Seasonal Information

The Wheeler Peak Trail System, located in Great Basin National Park, offers breathtaking views and a variety of hiking opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts. The best times of the year to visit this trail system largely depend on personal preferences and the activities you wish to engage in.

During the summer months, from June to August, the Wheeler Peak Trail System is at its busiest. The weather is generally pleasant, with warm temperatures and clear skies. This is an ideal time for hiking, as most of the trails are accessible and the alpine meadows are in full bloom, showcasing a vibrant display of wildflowers. However, it is important to note that summer is also the peak season for visitors, so the trails can be crowded, and it is advisable to make reservations in advance for camping or lodging.

In the fall, from September to October, the Wheeler Peak Trail System offers a unique experience with the changing colors of the aspen trees. The crisp air and cooler temperatures make hiking more comfortable, and the trails are less crowded compared to the summer months. Fall is also a great time for wildlife viewing, as animals prepare for winter and engage in mating rituals. However, it is important to check for any seasonal closures or restrictions, as some trails may close due to weather conditions or maintenance work.

During the winter months, from November to March, the Wheeler Peak Trail System experiences heavy snowfall, making it a popular destination for winter sports enthusiasts. Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are popular activities during this time, offering a unique perspective of the park’s stunning landscapes. However, it is important to note that some trails may be closed or inaccessible due to snow accumulation, and visitors should check with the park authorities for current trail conditions and closures.

Overall, the Wheeler Peak Trail System offers something for every season. Whether you prefer the vibrant colors of summer, the tranquility of fall, or the winter wonderland of snow-covered trails, there is a perfect time to visit and explore this stunning trail system in Great Basin National Park.


1. Accessible Parking: Designated parking spaces close to the trailhead for individuals with disabilities.
2. Accessible Restrooms: Wheelchair-accessible restrooms available near the trailhead.
3. Paved Pathways: Smooth and level paved pathways leading to the trailhead for easy wheelchair access.
4. Trailhead Signage: Clear and visible signage at the trailhead with information on accessible features and trail difficulty.
5. Wheelchair-Accessible Trail: A designated trail within the Wheeler Peak Trail System that is specifically designed to accommodate wheelchair users.
6. Rest Areas: Benches or designated areas along the trail for individuals to rest and take breaks.
7. Handrails: Sturdy handrails installed in certain sections of the trail to assist individuals with balance and stability.
8. Trail Surface: The trail surface is well-maintained and suitable for wheelchair use, with minimal obstacles or rough terrain.
9. Assistance Animals: Service animals are allowed on the trail to provide assistance to individuals with disabilities.
10. Accessibility Information: Detailed accessibility information available on the official website or at the trailhead, providing additional guidance for individuals with disabilities.

Safety Information

1. Trail Difficulty: The Wheeler Peak Trail System offers trails of varying difficulty levels, ranging from easy to strenuous, so choose according to your fitness and experience level.
2. Weather Awareness: Be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions, as the high elevation of Wheeler Peak can bring sudden storms and temperature drops.
3. Proper Footwear: Wear sturdy hiking boots or shoes with good traction to navigate the rocky and uneven terrain of the trail system.
4. Hydration: Carry an adequate supply of water to stay hydrated throughout your hike, as there are limited water sources along the trail.
5. Sun Protection: Apply sunscreen, wear a hat, and bring sunglasses to protect yourself from the intense sun at higher elevations.
6. Wildlife Encounter: Be aware of the potential for wildlife encounters, including bears and mountain lions, and know how to react if you encounter them.
7. Trail Markings: Pay attention to trail markers and signs to stay on the designated path and avoid getting lost.
8. Emergency Communication: Carry a fully charged cell phone or a satellite communication device in case of emergencies, as cell service may be limited.
9. Hiking in Groups: It is recommended to hike with a partner or in a group for safety and assistance in case of any unforeseen circumstances.
10. Leave No Trace: Practice Leave No Trace principles by packing out all trash, staying on designated trails, and respecting the natural environment.
11. Trail Conditions: Check for trail conditions and closures before your hike, as weather events or maintenance work may affect accessibility.
12. Physical Fitness: Ensure you are in good physical condition before attempting the more challenging trails, as they require stamina and endurance.
13. Emergency Preparedness: Carry a basic first aid kit, a map of the trail system, and know basic wilderness survival skills in case of emergencies.
14. Time Management: Plan your hike according to daylight hours and allow enough time to complete the trail before darkness falls.
15. Trail Etiquette: Yield to uphill hikers, be respectful of other trail users, and follow any specific rules or regulations of the Wheeler Peak Trail System.

Conservation Notes

The Wheeler Peak Trail System, located in Great Basin National Park, is a significant natural resource that requires conservation efforts to ensure its long-term sustainability. The conservation status of this trail system is considered to be well-maintained and protected. The park management, in collaboration with various conservation organizations, has implemented measures to preserve the ecological integrity and recreational value of the trails.

Efforts to conserve the Wheeler Peak Trail System primarily focus on minimizing human impact and preserving the delicate ecosystem. The park has established strict regulations to prevent damage to the trails and surrounding vegetation. These regulations include designated areas for camping and restrictions on off-trail hiking to prevent soil erosion and disturbance to wildlife habitats. Additionally, the park actively promotes Leave No Trace principles, encouraging visitors to pack out their trash, stay on designated trails, and respect the natural environment.

To ensure the conservation of the trail system, regular monitoring and maintenance activities are conducted. Park rangers regularly inspect the trails for signs of erosion, fallen trees, or other hazards that may require immediate attention. They also work to control invasive plant species that could threaten the native vegetation along the trails. By actively managing and maintaining the trail system, the park aims to provide a safe and enjoyable experience for visitors while preserving the natural integrity of the area.

Overall, the conservation status of the Wheeler Peak Trail System is considered to be in good condition. The park’s commitment to preserving the trails, coupled with visitor education and responsible recreational practices, contributes to the long-term sustainability of this valuable natural resource. Continued efforts in conservation and maintenance will ensure that future generations can enjoy the beauty and ecological significance of the Wheeler Peak Trail System.

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