Taos | Hiking to Lake Williams

by Melanie and Jim

If you’ve been following our posts for the last few days, you know we’ve been vacationing in the Taos, New Mexico area. On our way here, we stopped at the Capulin Volcano. Once in Taos, our sunset hike along the Rio Grande River Gorge helped us acclimate to the elevation. We’ve hiked the Devisadero Peak Loop. And we’ve enjoyed our casita accommodations, some amazing food, and the San Francisco de Asis Catholic Church.

Sunday broke with a forecast for more mixed weather, including the possibility of rain. We wanted to take in one more significant trail before heading east into Oklahoma again. The trail we chose was the Lake Williams trail. As with the Devisadero trail from last week, the Lake Williams trail resides within the vast Carson National Forest.

The trailhead elevation is at approximately 10,200 feet in the Taos Ski Valley, north of the city of Taos. It is an out and back trail of 1.9 miles each direction, or a total of just under 4 miles. The highest elevation is just before the lake itself, at 11,142 feet. The footing was difficult in some places with jagged rocks and exposed roots. In other areas it was reasonably smooth. The elevation was the most difficult aspect, and we didn’t have much trouble with that. Taking breaks as needed, going at our own pace, got us to the lake very comfortably.
Click on any individual picture in the gallery to see them larger. Then, below each is a view full-size button.

One bird caught our attention as we headed up. It is a Gray Jay, known for being a curious bird, and aggressively omnivorous. They hoard food for the winter. Several followed us a ways up the trail, perhaps wondering if we would leave anything for them. One sat on a branch directly above Jim’s head, turning its face side to side, to see the creature below.

Alternately brisk and breezy, calm and sunny, and clouded over with sprinkles, the weather was changeable as predicted. We were comfortable with our layers but saw hikers with a wide range of attire, including t-shirts and shorts. That seemed a tad chilly to us, given the temperatures in the 50s!
Click on any individual picture in the gallery to see them larger. Then, below each is a view full-size button. The panoramas are best when embiggened.


We’ve known for several months we would attempt to hike in higher elevations. Living in Iowa doesn’t give one any practice at that. To prepare, we have been dedicated to frequent and longer hikes near home and at local state parks. It paid off for us. It took a couple of days to acclimate to the 7000 ft elevation of Taos. We discovered we were strong and able to make the hikes without distress. In fact, as Melanie said later ‘I could have gone quite a lot farther.’ It is a good feeling to reach a goal and in such a beautiful setting.


22 thoughts on “Taos | Hiking to Lake Williams

  1. farmquilter

    What a brilliant hike to end your time in Taos with! So glad you had no troubles with altitude – altitude sickness is no fun at all. Thanks for taking me on a hike that my asthma will never allow me to take – over 10,000 feet I can’t get enough oxygen and start turning blue. I love hiking though and spent many vacations backpacking in the Sierra Nevada Mountains with my family as a child.

  2. shoreacres

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen a gray jay. It’s a beautiful bird. I know blue jays, of course, and also scrub jays, green jays, and the Stellar’s jay, but I wouldn’t have identified this one as a jay. I probably would have assumed it was a catbird.

    Lakes are nice, especially in the mountains, but there’s something just slightly claustrophobic in them — at least for me. I suppose it’s the lack of an outlet. I prefer a bayou that leads to a bay that leads to the Gulf that leads to an ocean. For a hiking destination, though? Perfection.

  3. Mrs. P

    Beautiful country! I have enjoyed sharing this trip with you guys. Great imaging and the videos were awesome too. What did you use to video? I really enjoyed hearing Melanie’s voice in this one, too.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      I’m not sure you can be prepared for the higher elevations other than being in pretty good shape. And yes, we’ve had an awesome time. It’s really spectacular in that region.

  4. Jim Wheeler

    I’m enjoying the vicarious insights into your hiking vacation, Jim. I especially found the information on the gray jay interesting. That’s a bird I’d not studied before. It’s also called the Canada Jay. My Peterson’s guide to Eastern Birds shows its territory to be around Lake Superior and most of Canada, so either your little friend got lost or things are a’changing. I’m guessing the latter.

    I recall reading, somewhere, that a researcher found something non-intuitive about birds in general. When they find a source of food, they decline to eat it all, but save it and return repeatedly through the season. Isn’t nature amazing?

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Thoroughly amazing! And if you take a look at the Cornell Ornithology site, linked above, you’ll see the range map for the Gray Jay. Looks like they are normally in the high mountains down through the Rockies and into northern NM. I don’t think they were lost as much as at the south end of their range.

  5. Alex Autin

    You guys SO make me want to go on a hike! And really, if there are no roots and rocks to navigate, it’s a stroll, not a hike. 😉
    I agree that there’s nothing quite like successfully reaching a goal. I’m reminded of a particular hike I had in Australia where it took me three attempts to reach the summit. I turned back once because I got terribly lost, and a second time because I saw a snake which I convinced myself was an eastern brown. (I did manage to get a picture of it and I’m still kinda convinced I was right.) But the third attempt = success, and oh, what a feeling! I even did a victory dance, cus, you know, no one was around to see. 😀
    Great pics and videos here….and I’m envious of the food you guys mentioned!


We love comments! Tell us what you think.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s