Looking for an alpine experience, but not looking forward to 12 to 14 hours on the road? One of our neighboring states has just the thing you need.
Red River, N.M., is probably one of those places you’ve skied, mostly because it’s so close. But the town is also close to the Wheeler Peak Wilderness Area. Trust me, this place is worth seeing if you’re into natural alpine settings.
Red River is about eight to nine hours from Oklahoma City. Once there, find a place to bunk down and get ready for your trip into the woods. You come into Red River via Bobcat Pass. Go back that way, but instead of going straight back up the pass, hang a right at a Y intersection in town and follow that road until it ends. From here, you can start walking to a traihead to the East Fork Trail or continue driving up a dirt road to the Middle Fork Trailhead.
The East Fork Trail is long — 10 miles from trailhead to the summit of Wheeler Peak, New Mexico’s highest mountain at 13,161 feet. It’s probably the least traveled of the three trails to the summit and is spectacular in terms of natural beauty. You’ll walk through pine and aspen forests right up to treeline. Wildlife abounds. Not a lot of campsites along the trail, however.
The Middle Fork trail is more traveled, and for good reason. Low on the trail is a series of waterfalls and a lake that is a popular campground. Keep moving past that and the traffic thins out considerably. Somewhere between 10,000 and 11,000 feet you’ll find Lost Lake and some good campsites that aren’t too heavily used. My last visit there produced lots of scenery and sightings of bighorn sheep. Two walked right through my campground when I was making breakfast. The trail is eight miles from trailhead to summit.
These two trails merge just past Lost Lake and lead to Horseshoe Lake at about 11,500 feet, which is at timberline. Again, great scenery.
The third trail is from the Taos side of the mountain. It is the shortest, but steepest of the three. It’s one I haven’t done. It’s also the most heavily trafficked and from what I’ve read, the least scenic.
What this means is you have a couple of opportunities. One, get away in a place that is officially classified as a wilderness area. Two, if you summit the peak, you can proudly claim to have stood on New Mexico’s highest point.
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